Rachel Alexandra Stakes 2022 Entries: Hidden Connection Returns for Bret Calhoun
Race 12: 1 1/16th (Dirt), Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2), Purse $300k, 3F
The Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes, named for that famed female of fancy from the Asmussen Barn who captured the imagination by beating the boys, is a highlight on the KY Oaks Trail. Fillies that route through this contest score “Points” that can be applied towards the first Friday in May (50-20-10-5). Since the race was renamed for “RA” in 2011, some celebrated females have come through the Fair Grounds, including I’m a Chatterbox, Monomoy Girl, Serengeti Empress, Finite, and last year’s winner, another Asmussen star, Clairiere. Clearly, a significant stop on the Oaks Trail, this will be another one for the ages.
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 La Crete (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):
Drawn to the inside post is this progressive runner for Steve Asmussen. The Stonestreet homebred is a perfect 2/2, and brings that record back to the MT at the Fair Grounds. She really stepped up in class in the Silverbulletday $150k, after she broke her maiden back at Churchill in November. With Joel Rosario in the saddle for both of those contests, she will have him aboard once again in this Grade 2. The biggest concern at this point is this filly’s level of fitness. She is going to be up against a much tougher field this time around, at a very short price. Still, this is a very talented filly.
#2 North County (Jky: A. Beschizza/Trn: B. Walsh):
Here is another alum from an FG prep (Untapable $100k), and this filly by Not This Time is looking better and better. Trainer Brendan Walsh might be sitting on a very nice KYOaks contender after 3 wins in-a-row. Starting her career at Indiana Grand on the turf, she then stepped up and scored in the slop at Keeneland. That was a surprise at odds of 12/1, and Walsh made the move to bring her to New Orleans. She was stellar in the hands of regular rider Adam Beschizza, winning by a neck at the wire. She must be considered a contender once again, even though the waters are getting much deeper.
#3 Miss Mattie B (Jky: M. Smith/Trn: B. Hess):
Trainer Bob Hess normally races in SoCal, but he is coming to the Deep South with a runner that tried to win the Santa Ynez (G2) back at her home track of Santa Anita. A filly by Tonalist, she went backwards in that race, despite being guided by HOF jockey Mike Smith. “Big Money” Mike is coming to the Fair Grounds to be involved yet again, but it may not make much of a difference. This is going to be a “big” test, for sure.
#4 Dream Lith (Jky: R. Vazquez/Trn: R. Diodoro):
To make things interesting in this Grade 2, here is a layoff runner from Robertino Diodoro’s midst that was awfully good in her last start. By Medaglia d’Oro, she won the Golden Rod (G2) back in late November as Churchill Downs was closing for the winter. That was an impressive score with Ramon Vazquez in the irons, and he will be aboard again as this 3-yr-old makes her ’22 debut. If she can harness some of that magic she displayed back then, it would be a tell-tale sign of good things to come. I wouldn’t say that her work tab offers many clues, but looks can be deceiving.
#5 Divine Huntress (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: G. Motion):
Here is another shipper that is coming to FG with high hopes, and the potential is there for some greatness. Both Aron Wellman and Graham Motion have come together in the past to send out some impressive fillies. This one, by Divining Rod, won impressively on 19 Jan. at Parx Racing in PA. In a mile+ contest, she romped home by an eye-catching 12-lengths. Her show is coming to LA in hopes of picking up another stakes score for Eclipse Thoroughbreds. Winning at Parx is one thing at the OC-level, but a G2 at the Fair Grounds is something else. The best news of all … Jose Ortiz gets the call, and you know he is going to give a game effort.
#6 Candy Raid (Jky: J. Riquelme/Trn: K. Desormeaux):
Local “LA Man” Keith Desormeaux has this filly by Candy Ride (IRE) looking to improve on a 4th place finish in the Silverbulletday $150k. Considering she was 63/1 that afternoon in late January, it is fair to say that she outran her odds. I do not know what kind of capability she has to really compete at this level, but what we do know is that Jose Riquelme is back aboard. If she finishes 4th again, it would probably qualify as a miracle.
#7 Turnerloose (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
To date, Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox does not have a leading candidate for the KYOaks. But let’s not forget who we are speaking of … in other words, that can change very quickly. This filly by Nyquist is promising, but the “Rachel” is going to be a watershed moment. She is trying dirt for the 1st time in her career, after running on the turf as a 2-yr-old. Cox has her ready, and with expert rider Florent Geroux in-town to take the mount once again, she could be very dangerous. Even though she has a smaller build, that doesn’t mean she isn’t full of heart. Nyquist is a solid producing sire, and it will be interesting to see how her ’22 debut unfolds.
#8 Goddess of Fire (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):
The folks at Red Oak Stable tried to make a Derby statement with Make It Big last weekend at Tampa in the Sam Davis. That one did not fire, but they are undeterred. Entering this filly by Mineshaft in this spot is an intriguing move. Trainer Todd Pletcher has brought her along steadily, and after she broke her maiden on debut last summer at Saratoga, she has yet to win again. In her defense, she has faced some tough competition at Churchill, Belmont, and in the Gasparilla $125k at Tampa. That last BT was pretty solid though, as she rallied up for 2nd. She gets a significant rider upgrade with Luis Saez, who comes to the Big Easy to help his boss. Some questions remain though, even with the training power of Pletcher.
#9 Awake At Midnyte (Jky: M. Gutierrez/Trn: D. O’Neill):
The team at Reddam Racing is at it again … shipping a solid runner across state lines. They have had a long relationship with trainer Doug O’Neill, and he is a highly-competitive conditioner on the road. This Nyquist filly showed excellent promise running 2nd in the Santa Ynez (G2) at Santa Anita. She was turned back in her bid for the wire, but it was still a nice effort. Mario Gutierrez, and his distinctive purple and white garb of the stable are also making the trip. If she is sharp, then this one could be a player. Her rating ability, tracking, and late kick in the stretch are all weapons at her disposal.
#10 California Angel (Jky: D. Parker/Trn: G. Leonard):
This filly by California Chrome garnered major attention after a celebrated score in the Jessamine S. (G2) at Keeneland back in October. The story of trainer George Leonard was told by a number of turfwriting outlets. Although she failed to fire in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), it was impressive to just compete on such a stage. The connections then tried her on the dirt once again in the Untapable $100k @FG. That was not the kind of effort that was expected, especially if you were watching the tote—5/1. Maybe this time around, she can do better than 6th. The riding ability of Deshawn Parker might make a difference. He is having a solid Meet.
#11 Hidden Connection (Jky: R. Gutierrez/Trn: B. Calhoun):
This Bret Calhoun-trained filly by Connect is one of those that we have patiently been waiting for to make her 2022 debut. She rolled into Del Mar with high hopes after scoring big in the Pocahontas S. (G3) at Churchill Downs in mid-September. That was a huge win not only for Calhoun, but also Reylu Gutierrez. The score … 9+ lengths. Though she clearly was overmatched in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), there was no chance she was going to best Echo Zulu. Bettors did think highly of her, as her odds were 3/1. Now, after the break, we expect her to be able to take a step forward. With Gutierrez riding better than ever, she is a major player, in my mind. Calhoun exudes solid horsemanship, and a keen eye when it comes to preparation. Probably my top pick …
Join us Saturday for all of our Risen Star Day selections! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!