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Rachel Vists Gate, Zardana Settles In

Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra went to the head of her gate-schooling class Thursday during training hours at Fair Grounds when she familiarized herself with the starting gate for a second time this month shortly after 7 a.m.

That’s according to a verbal report offered by Glen Miller and “Shaver” Naylor – two members of Fair Grounds starter Frank Comberrel Jr.’s gate crew.

“We never have any trouble with that man’s horses,” said Naylor, speaking of Steve Asmussen, defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer and conditioner of Rachel Alexandra. “That’s because he schools them so well before they get to us. We never have a problem with any of his horses.”

After standing placidly in the gate for a couple of minutes, the Horse of the Year was backed out and galloped once around the oval with regular exercise rider Dominic Terry in the irons. Because the racecourse was enveloped in dense fog at that time of the morning, there were few witnesses to her gate performance other than those in the immediate vicinity.

“We brought her in there with the pads on and took them off when she got in there,” said Miller. “She just acted like a little lady in there, staring straight ahead. She was all bright-eyed and attentive like she always is.”

Rachel Alexandra will school in the Fair Grounds paddock Friday from about 2:20-2:45 p.m., before and during the fourth race. Friday’s 10-race program gets underway with its first post time of 1:10 p.m. – one day prior to Rachel Alexandra’s first start of the year in Fair Grounds’ $200,000 New Orleans Ladies.

Zardana in Residence at Fair Grounds
Brazilian-bred Zardana, owned by Arnold Zetcher and trained by John Shirreffs – also the conditioner of Zenyatta – arrived at Fair Grounds at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, in advance of her upcoming engagement in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies, where she will face Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and three other older fillies and mares at 1 1/16-miles over the main track..

Zardana was accompanied on her journey by Shirreffs’ stable foreman Frankie Leal.

“We had a real good trip,” said Leal, who has never before been to Fair Grounds but has worked for Shirreffs since 1993. “No problems at all on the flight (from the West Coast) and no problems getting from the airport to the racetrack. She settled right in once we got here and we galloped her once around the racetrack this morning (Thursday).

“Tomorrow (Friday, exactly five and a half years after Zardana’s foal date), we will school her in the paddock,” Leal said, speaking of Zardana’s preparations for her engagement in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies.