- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. | Rachel Alexandra is in the Preakness. Finally. Probably.

The superstar filly will get her chance to run with the boys during Saturday’s second jewel of the Triple Crown after a series of potential roadblocks were lifted over the weekend.

Pimlico vice president Mike Gathagan said Monday there are 13 horses, including Rachel Alexandra, expected to enter the 13/16-mile race. The field will be set by noon Wednesday with the draw at 5 p.m.

The almost-certain entry of the Kentucky Oaks winner saves the industry from a public relations nightmare after several owners - including Mine That Bird’s Mark Allen and Pioneerof the Nile’s Ahmed Zayat - considered taking steps to keep the 3-year-old filly from joining the field, which is capped at 14.

Allen said Monday he toyed with the idea of putting unheralded Indy Express into the Preakness to take up one of the starting spots from Rachel Alexandra. Zayat briefly weighed doing the same with one of the more than 20 horses he nominated for the Triple Crown.

Triple Crown rules give starting preference to horses prenominated to the series. Rachel Alexandra was not nominated by previous owner Dolphus Morrison, meaning new owner Jess Jackson will have to pay a $100,000 supplemental fee to put her up for consideration.

Normally that isn’t a problem. It briefly became one Sunday when it appeared 14 horses already prenominated to the race would make the field, leaving Rachel Alexandra on the outside looking in.

The potential replacements weren’t exactly world beaters, either.

Indy Express is winless in nine career starts with career earnings of $12,618. While Allen thinks the horse has talent, he chose to keep Indy Express out of the race because he simply didn’t have the same credentials as Rachel Alexandra.

“To do it with a maiden ain’t right,” Allen said.

Allen’s concerns were professional, not personal.

Derby Trial winner Hull also won’t race in the Preakness.

If Rachel Alexandra missed the Preakness, it would mean Mine That Bird could retain jockey Calvin Borel. The 42-year-old Borel made a riveting trip along the rail, riding the 50-1 long shot on a frantic last-to-first dash to win the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Borel already has agreed to ride Rachel Alexandra for the rest of the year. Together, they’re unbeaten in five starts since he took over as her jockey last fall, including a 20 1/4-length win in the Oaks on May 1.

Allen said Mike Smith, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo, will ride Mine That Bird if Borel is on Rachel Alexandra.

“That’s a pretty good backup plan,” he said with a laugh. “We’re not crying in our beer right now.”

Borel spent a little time on Mine That Bird on Monday morning, putting the gelding through a half-mile workout in a leisurely 49.20 seconds. The horse is expected to travel to Pimlico on Tuesday.

Rachel Alexandra will likely ship Wednesday, and she almost certainly will have a starting gate after Zayat decided against entering another of his Triple Crown-nominated horses.

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