Sunday's notable 2-year-old maidens: Rachel Alexandra's filly highlights 2nd at Saratoga
Given the anticipation surrounding the debut of Rachel's Valentina, the first starter produced by Rachel Alexandra, it's no surprise that she was installed as the 6-5 favorite.
But note that trainer Todd Pletcher is trying to keep a limit on the expectations: "She's not super quick away from the gate, it's probably not her ideal distance, but it's a good starting point to build on."
Note further that the Stonestreet Stables homebred is the offspring of two parents who both excelled at three. Sire Bernardini was unraced at two, and finished fourth on debut, before putting it all together. Rachel Alexandra herself improved over the course of her two-year-old campaign. Only sixth in her premiere, she won next time out, but didn't start to look like the "Rachel" we would know and love until her juvenile finale in the Golden Rod (G2).
Time, and added ground, were both important elements in the arc of Bernardini's and Rachel's careers. So it stands to reason that their daughter might tread a similar path, an idea only reinforced by Pletcher's comments. Rachel's Valentina is ready to start, as evidenced by her bullet work from the gate here July 11 (a half-mile in :47.04), but the price is very short for a filly who's bound to come on for the run.
It would be ironic if Rachel's trainer, Steve Asmussen, beats her first starter, and he sends out a logical type in Nickname. The $350,000 Keeneland September yearling is by Scat Daddy, a leading juvenile himself who has sired such outstanding two-year-olds as No Nay Never and recent Queen Mary (G2) conqueror Acapulco. She is the first registered foal from the multiple stakes-placed Borrego mare Nina Fever, and her third dam, Good Potential, won the Sorority (G3) and placed in the Spinaway (G1) and Arlington-Washington Lassie (G2) at two.
Tale for Ruby is another bred to win early, even if trainer Barclay Tagg isn't synonymous with debut winners. (But he did send out Realm to an 11-1 upset in his July 25 premiere here.) The Charles Fipke homebred is by Tale of Ekati and out of the Carson City mare Ruby City, who is responsible for six winners. Ruby City, herself a winner at two, is a full sister to Ballerina (G1) star Pearl City and a half-sister to Hopeful (G1) hero and influential sire Hennessy. This is the prolific family of champion juveniles Family Style and Hold That Tiger (in Europe) as well as Belmont (G1) winner Editor's Note.
Awesome Dame was best of the rest behind Pletcher's exciting Tonasah in her debut at 25-1, with better-fancied fellow debutante Big World a closing third at 7-2. Both are likely to improve off that experience. The Tom Albertrani-trained Awesome Dame is by Awesome of Course, best known for siring champion two-year-old filly Awesome Feather, and her dam is a half-sister to four stakes winners, most notably Grade 3 heroine Fantasy Angel. Big World, from the first crop of multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter Custom for Carlos, is out of a half-sister to multiple stakes scorer Tensas Yucatan. The Tony Dutrow pupil has been training forwardly, but lands on the rail here.
Wicked Fun is from the first crop of Bernardini's son Wilburn and out of an unraced Lemon Drop Kid mare. Inbred to both Seattle Slew and noted matriarch Lassie Dear, the Leah Gyarmati trainee is out of a half-sister to Grade 2-placed stakes scorers Dixie Pearl and Cornish Snow. Also in the family are Point Ashley (a Del Mar Debutante [G1] winner) and Raw Gold (a Grade 2 victress at two who continued to pad her resume at three and four).
It's axiomatic than any G. Watts Humphrey Jr. homebred is going to have a strong pedigree, and Renown is a case in point, as a Street Cry half-sister to stakes winners Raconteur and Katerbug. Their dam, the stakes-placed Storm Cat mare Miss Kate, is herself a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 star, millionaire, and successful producer Clear Mandate -- the dam of Strong Mandate, Newfoundland, etc. Renown's second and third dams (Dream Deal and Likely Exchange) are both Grade 1 queens, and the stellar family includes Japanese champion To the Victory and $4 million icon Creme Fraiche. Although Renown is entitled to be good, trainer Rusty Arnold wins with just 3% of his firsters. She's one to watch for the future.
Transact is a $170,000 Keeneland September yearling by Hard Spun. The Michelle Nevin filly is the first foal from the Speightstown mare Exchange Funds, herself a third straight generation of stakes winners in a California-themed maternal line.
Beautiful conformation shot, and calligraphy, courtesy of Stonestreet Farm's Twitter feed.