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Rachel Alexandra Arrives at Fair Grounds

Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s Rachel Alexandra arrived at her winter base, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, without incident late Friday afternoon. The possible Horse of the Year traveled from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to New Orleans aboard a Sallee Horse Vans trailer along with four of her stablemates.

“She’s okay,” trainer Steve Asmussen said outside his Fair Grounds barn shortly after Rachel Alexandra was settled in a stall. “She just found her a spot [in the trailer] and stayed there, very comfortable.”

Rachel Alexandra was the first to walk off the trailer, led by Asmussen. The trainer walked her into his barn before passing the filly to groom Juan Gonzalez, who led Rachel Alexandra around the shed row several times. As she passed the barn door, Rachel Alexandra repeatedly cocked her head and obliged appreciative photographers from the local media gathered outside.

“She’ll walk [Saturday],” Asmussen said of his immediate plans for Rachel Alexandra. “She’ll tack-walk at least a day, and if she drops her head and walks around the barn good we’ll start again taking her and jogging her.”

Rachel Alexandra was jogging at Churchill Downs earlier this week, her first light exercise on the track since winning the Grade I Woodward against older horses at Saratoga on Sept. 5.

“I was going to wait until we got here to jog her, but I just thought with her being at Churchill quite a bit it would be better just to take her out and jog her on the track there,” Asmussen said. “We did that maybe three days, knowing we were coming [Friday]. Once we decided what day we were going to leave there on, the weather’s been nice and everything, we just decided to jog her up there. We took her on the track with the pony, went one the wrong way with her, she jogged, and that was it.”

What about the next race?
Asked about a time frame for Rachel Alexandra’s return to the races, Asmussen responded: “For a time-frame I would say no sooner than March, April. At this time of year you’re talking about weather and holidays and all that.”

For now Asmussen is more concerned about how Rachel Alexandra is progressing on a daily basis.

“Everything will be about her physical condition from one day to the next and will culminate with racing, but it’s going to be about what she’s up to today. You don’t want her to be stale or disinterested and you don’t want her doing too much.”

Rachel Alexandra established herself as one of the all-time great fillies this year with historic wins in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks and Grade I Preakness Stakes, as well as six other stakes races, including the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks. Her three Grade I victories against male horses, especially, made her the mid-season favorite to be crowned Horse of the Year, but now Rachel Alexandra finds herself pitted against Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta in a debate for the ages over who deserves the title in a year when two legendary females produced unprecedented campaigns.