Valadorna, Farrell Standouts in Rachel Alexandra
By Jordan Sigmon
Valadorna was three-quarters of a length shy of an Eclipse Award last year while Farrell has been untouchable in her last two starts. Both fillies will look to add to their Kentucky Oaks (GI) credentials Saturday when they face off for the first time in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds.
For owners Stonestreet Stables LLC, a win in the Rachel Alexandra with the Mark Casse-trained Valadorna would be quite special. The namesake of the race graced the racing world with supreme talent in the famed burgundy and gold silks for the majority of her career, and Valadorna is a homebred by their two-time Horse of the Year-turned-elite sire Curlin. While Valadorna has yet to achieve the star status of those two, her last three races are evidence that she may be well on her way to doing so.
After finishing second in her debut, Valadorna came back to break her maiden by six lengths going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. The win left her trainer feeling so confident that he entered her into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ (GI) with no prior stakes experience and just two races under her belt. The bullish move came with great reward as the filly unleashed an eye-catching rally from the back and came up just three-quarters of a length short of the winner Champagne Room. Using her “non-winners of two lifetime” status to his advantage, Casse ran her in an allowance at Fair Grounds under that condition for her sophomore debut. As per usual she raced at the back of the pack early and swept past the field under confident handling by Julien Leparoux to win by a half-length without being asked.
Farrell may have taken a little longer to tap into her talent, but the Coffeepot Stables LLC homebred has blossomed into a dominant force for trainer Wayne Catalano. Looking at her pedigree, it’s no surprise the daughter of Malibu Moon has shown so much ability. She’s out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams, making her a half-sister to the two-time grade one winner Carpe Diem.
After a five-length maiden score in September, Farrell was an even third in her stakes debut in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs. Everything came together in her next start, a powerful six-length victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (GII), also at Churchill Downs. She made her Fair Grounds and 3-year-old debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes, which was run over a muddy, sealed track. Sent off as the heavy favorite, Farrell did not disappoint, coasting home 2 ¾-lengths clear of second-place finisher Wicked Lick.
Both Casse (Valadorna) and Catalano (Farrell) have emanated great respect for their opposition while still being very confident in their respective fillies.
The main threats to the top two are likely to come at the hands of Untapped and Shane’s Girlfriend. Untapped is a full sister to 2014 Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable for Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and trainer Steve Asmussen. She looked well on her way to stardom amidst a two-race win streak, but faltered and faded to fifth against Farrell in the Silverbulletday. Whether or not the off track hindered her performance remains to be answered, making Saturday’s race a key stepping stone to her future. Shane’s Girlfriend, on the other hand, was undefeated in her first two starts, with a combined winning margin of 19 lengths that included a 13 ¼ length romp in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (GIII). Owned by ERJ Racing LLC, W. C. Racing, and Dennis O’Neill, the Adios Charlie filly was a very distant third in her most recent outing for trainer Doug O’Neill.
Allowance winner Gris Gris, maiden winner Wicked Lick, and the still-winless Southern California shipper Majestic Quality round out the field of seven.
Carded as the 9th race on the program, the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra has an approximate post time of 3:06 pm CT.