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Rachel Alexandra Times-Picayune's Headline Attraction Friday

As Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra nears her first start of the year in Fair Grounds’ inaugural running of the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies – now just about a fortnight away on March 13 – the “buzz” she is creating in the more general sports world increases by the day.

Peter Finney, longtime columnist for The Times-Picayune and a charter member of Fair Grounds’ Press Box Hall of Fame, wrote an excellent lead column that appeared on the front page of the sports section in Friday’s morning paper profiling this magnificent filly who has called Fair Grounds home all winter as she continues to cross over from the world of Thoroughbred racing into the general public consciousness.

Read the column online at nola.com by clicking here.

The opportunity to witness history is knocking again for residents of the Crescent City who missed watching her win last season’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on her way to Horse of the Year honors, and assuming she performs as expected locally, what Finney says “shapes up as the biggest race of the year” awaits her in Arkansas on April 9 when she is scheduled to face her undefeated arch-rival Zenyatta in Oaklawn Park’s Grade I Apple Blossom – a race that will offer a purse of $5 million if both rivals face off.

“Rachel,” who is conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, came out on the track about 6:40 a.m. during training hours Friday, according to Fair Grounds clocker Billy Pettingill.

“She had a good gallop,” said Pettingill. “She went nice and easy – just a routine gallop once around the race track. She was very happy, and she looks just great.”

The Horse of the Year, who worked three-quarters of a mile Wednesday in 1:14, is scheduled to have her next serious work this coming Tuesday.

Among the fillies and mares now considered possible to face “Rachel” in the New Orleans Ladies, according to stakes coordinator Scott Jones, are Coteau Grove’s Clear Sailing, winner of Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Pelleteri Feb. 13; Jim Tafel’s Fighter Wing, second by a neck in that same test; Steve Asmussen’s Pleasantly Blessed, second in Sam Houston’s $50,000 Jersey Lilly Jan. 30; Robert Adams’ Unforgotton, second in Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff  on Dec. 19; and the Brazilian-bred Zardana, owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by John Shirreffs, the conditioner of Zenyatta. 

Zardana finished fourth in Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Maria Handicap in her last start Feb. 13 but won Hollywood Park’s Grade II Bayakoa in her previous effort Dec. 5.

Mike Burgess-Trained Twosome Ready to Face Tizaqueena
Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena may be the highweight and the public choice in Saturday’s $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds, but the 4-1 second choice in the morning line is Lucas Downs’ Love to Tell and the third choice at 5-1 is Good Tyme Racing and Richard Ringo’s Dancin Perfect. Both of those are trained by Mike Burgess, so the affable conditioner was asked Friday morning which one he preferred.

“I can’t split them,” said Burgess. “There’s no way to separate the two of them. Dancin Perfect is a horse on her way up right now and Love to Tell is a horse we claimed for $16,000 and she has won almost $300,000 for us. One (Love to Tell) has done more, but the other one (Dancin Perfect) is a year younger.”

Love to Tell captured Sam Houston Park’s $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes in her last start Jan. 30, and Dancin Perfect won her last start at Fair Grounds in $62,000 optional claiming company Feb.8 and was second by a head in this season’s $60,000 Pago Hop Stakes Dec. 5.

Euroears, Blame on Friday Work Tab
James and Marilyn Helzer’s Euroears, who swept Fair Grounds’ $100,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial, $100,000 Colonel Power and $200,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes in 2008 and came back to capture this season’s $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 Friday morning.

Also on Friday’s Fair Grounds tab: Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame, who won last November’s Grade II Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs after capturing Keeneland’s Grade II Fayette Handicap before that. Blame, posting his second work of the season, breezed a half mile in 49.80.