Travel Column, Clairiere rematch in Rachel Alexandra

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Clairiere evinced high quality overcoming a difficult trip to win her career debut last fall, showing her connections enough to earn a start in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes in November at Churchill Downs. There, Clairiere cleaned up the relatively minor mistakes she’d made first time out, moving smoothly into contention around the far turn, and as heavily favored Simply Ravishing began laboring along the rail, Clairiere eased toward the lead and on to an apparent victory.

And then Travel Column snatched the Golden Rod away from her. Travel Column had broken slowly and been stymied in traffic much of the race, and when Florent Geroux went for an inside move at the three-sixteenths pole the hole closed and Travel Column looked beat. Geroux, undaunted, took a hard right, steering Travel Column just off the heels of the horses in front of her. Outside, finally in the clear, the filly straightened out, gathered herself, and with a powerful burst ran down Clairiere to win by a length.

These same two 3-year-old fillies are rematched Saturday at Fair Grounds in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. Both have considerable talent; maybe Travel Column just is better.

The 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra is the 12th of 13 races on the Saturday Fair Grounds card and drew nine entrants. Silverbulletday Stakes winner Charlie’s Penny is injured and out of training and will be scratched. Trainer Tom Amoss entered the trio of Littlestitious, Off We Go, and Zoom Up and said all three are expected to start.

The Rachel Alexandra not only offers 85 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, distributed 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers, it has been a key Oaks prep.

Half the last 14 Oaks winners started in the Rachel Alexandra, which was called the Silverbulletday until 2011, including Serengeti Empress in 2019 and Monomoy Girl in 2018. Brad Cox, Monomoy Girl’s trainer, also trains Travel Column. Steve Asmussen, Clairiere’s trainer, trained Summerly and Untapable, who both won renewals of this race before capturing the Oaks.

Clairiere, a daughter of champion Curlin and Grade 1 winner Cavorting bred and owned by Stonestreet Stables, debuted in a route and lacks early speed. She’s had a good winter preparing for her first start at age 3 and has trained well into Saturday’s start, Asmussen said. The Rachel Alexandra’s distance might be on the short side of ideal for Clairiere, who could be even better in longer routes. Joe Talamo rides rail-drawn Clairiere for the first time.

Travel Column, by Frosted out of Swingit, by Victory Gallop, raced right up on a hot pace winning her sprint debut and has far more speed than Clairiere. Yet it was Travel Column coming from behind Clairiere in the Golden Rod, where, for the second race in a row, Travel Column broke flat-footed and wound up well off the lead.

“Even from last summer she was never super-fast from the gate,” Cox said. “I guess just play the break Saturday and see where she winds up.”

Travel Column went from the debut win into the Grade 1 Alcibiades, where she had a somewhat claustrophobic inside trip and never came close to runaway pacesetting winner Simply Ravishing.

“I thought she’d win that race. The winner got away from her and maybe she was a little short on fitness,” Cox said.

Travel Column has been turning heads each Sunday morning at Fair Grounds in recent weeks, working head and head with Essential Quality, champion 2-year-old male of 2020. She breaks from post 8 under Geroux and should be ready to roll first time after her winter break.

Souper Sensational finished second, beaten 3 1/2 lengths, in the Silverbulletday, her dirt and two-turn debut. A rival came over on her into the first turn and to avoid peril jockey Declan Carroll had to ease back, Souper Sensational winding up much farther behind a slow pace than desirable. She showed decent energy from the quarter pole to the wire, and the 87 Beyer Speed Figure she earned winning the Glorious Song going seven furlongs on Woodbine’s synthetic surface tops this field.

Moon Swag, third in the Silverbulletday, and Littlestitious, who faded off the slow pace to finish fifth, return in the Rachel Alexandra. Zoom Up was a nice allowance race winner making her first two-turn start in a Jan. 18 Fair Grounds allowance – but “nice” is not going to get it done against the likes of Clairiere and Travel Column.