Tarifa Terrific in Rachel Alexandra; Godolphin homebred earns 50 points on the road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks

New Orleans, La (Feb. 17, 2024) – Sitting third just off the early leaders, the Brad Cox-trained Tarifa, switched outside off the far turn, took command at the top of the stretch and held safe of the 1.70-1 favorite Intricate to take down Saturday’s $300,000 Rachel Alexandra presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) by a comfortable 2 ¾ lengths. It was the first stakes score for the 3-year-old daughter of Bernardini, who earned 50 points on the road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

When the expected pacesetter Pennick hopped at the start, Perfect Shot inherited the early lead. Untapable winner Alpine Princess, Cox’s other runner, sat a length behind tracking in second through opening fractions of 24.37 and 48.55 over the sloppy main track. Tarifa positioned herself in the pocket, while V V’s Dream and Intricate bided their time 2 ½ lengths off the lead while in front of the compromised trailer Pennick. Tarifa took over in the stretch and held off the late charge of the Golden Rod (G2) winner Intricate, who earned 25 points, raising her total to 35. Perfect Shot banked 15 points for third, upping her total to 25. Alpine Princess earned 10 (now has 20) for fourth and Alcibiades runner-up V V’s Dream added 5 (now has 23) for fifth. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.28.

“She jumped very well and showed some early speed,” winning jockey Flavien Prat said. “From there we got to the first turn and I was able to get myself to the pocket. She traveled well all the way around and kicked home.”

A dominant winner on debut at Keeneland in late October, Tarifa followed up with a disappointing fifth as the favorite four weeks later at Churchill. Tasked with her route debut in a Jan. 20 allowance at Fair Grounds, Tarifa took the blinkers off for the first time and responded with a hard-fought win.

“She acted like she could run before we debuted her at Keeneland,” Cox said. “I thought running her on the Beard Course (elongated seven furlongs) made sense for her. The second race at Churchill going a mile was a head scratcher. She responded well here in January. Today she jumped out well, got a good early position, tracked the leaders and really stretched out well. The Rachel Alexandra has been a great path to the Kentucky Oaks and we’ve had some success with that route. This is a good filly and we will keep marching forward.”

Tarifa rewarded with Cox his third win in the race. In 2018, Monomoy Girl parlayed a win in the Rachel Alexandra with a score in the Kentucky Oaks and in 2022, Turnerloose posted the upset.

Including last year, three of the last six, five of the last ten, and ten of the last 27 winners of the Longines Kentucky Oaks also participated in the Rachel Alexandra, yet the race remains a grade two.

2023 – Pretty Mischievous, won both
2019 – Serengeti Empress, won both
2018 – Monomoy Girl, won both
2015 – Lovely Maria, 2nd in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2014 – Untapable, won both
2012 – Believe You Can, 4th in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2008 – Proud Spell, 2nd in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2005 – Summerly, won both
1999 – Silverbulletday won both
1997 – Blushing K.D., won both

As the 2.50-1 second choice, Tarifa, who has now won three of four starts with earnings of $278,925, returned $7.00, $3.80 and $2.80. Intricate paid $3.20 and $2.40 and Perfect Shot returned $3.40 to show.

Rachel Alexandra Quotes

Tyler Gaffalione, jockey on Intricate (second-place) 

“She ran hard. I think she’s going to keep getting better this year. It was a good start for her campaign.”

Joel Rosario, jockey on Perfect Shot (third-place)

“She ran well. Definitely felt like she moved forward from her last race.”

Florent Geroux, jockey of Alpine Princess (fourth-place)

“She ran great. Great trip, nice and easy pace, just got run down turning home. Only thing I can think of is maybe she didn’t like the ground.”

Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey on V V’s Dream (fifth-place)

“She was traveling well. We had the same trip as the winner. Coming off the layoff. I think she is a better filly than this. I want to see her back on a fast racetrack. Her last two races have been over a wet sloppy sealed racetrack and she just doesn’t have the same turn of foot as she does on a fast track.”