Road to KY Oaks: Clairiere turns tables on Travel Column

Fair Grounds stakes recap (Hodges Photography photo)

New Orleans (February 13, 2020) – True rivalries in horse racing are few and far between, but there just might be a good one brewing in New Orleans between two very talented 3-year-old fillies on the road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).

In what was her 3-year-old debut, the Stonestreet Stables homebred Clairiere was last in the field-of-eight down the backstretch. She made a bold move inside on turn for home under jockey Joe Talamo, jumped off the heels of Travel Column in the deep stretch, and edged that rival by a neck to win what was a thrilling edition of the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The second choice in the wagering at 2.30-1, the daughter of Curlin out of the multiple grade 1-winner Cavorting prevailed in a final time of 1:45.34 for 1 1/16 miles and earned 50 points towards the Kentucky Oaks in the process, while Travel Column earned 20.  It was another 6 ½ lengths back to Moon Swag (10 Oaks points) in third. Littlestitious earned 5 Oaks points for finishing fourth.

“This is a really nice filly, very professional,” Talamo said. “Steve (trainer Asmussen) gave me all the confidence in the world in her. Going in he said to just ride your race. I just kind of pointed her in the right direction and down the lane when I eased her out, she was all racehorse. It’s fun to ride those kind (of horses). The sky is the limit, especially with that just being her third start.”

In winning the Rachel Alexandra, Clairiere turned the tables on Travel Column, who had defeated her previously in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs. It was the fifth win in the Rachel Alexandra for Asmussen, and two of those (Untapable in 2016 and Summerly in 2005) would go on to Kentucky Oaks glory. Since 1997, nine horses who competed in the Rachel Alexandra have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks. Sixth of those won both.

2/13/2021  –  Joe Talamo aboard Clairiere (left) outduels Travel Column to win the 41st running of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds.  Hodges Photography / Jan Brubaker

Stonestreet also campaigned the race’s namesake and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

“I’m extremely excited about who she is,” Asmussen said of Clairiere. “This filly, the third run of her life, is just getting better. Races going further look like they’ll be right in her wheelhouse. For her to win the Rachel Alexandra in the Stonestreet silks is extremely special. We’ll discuss her next start with the team and she how we’re doing. This filly has a very bright future.”

With the win, Clairiere now sports a record of 3-2-1-0 with career earnings of $270,492.

The even-money favorite off her visually impressive win in the Golden Rod, OXO Equine’s Travel Column enjoyed a seemingly advantageous trip under Florent Geroux. She sat second behind the front-running Off We Go through fractions of 23.73 and 47.99 before disposing of that tiring rival late on the backstretch. She took a clear advantage into the stretch, only to get nailed late.

“It was a little disappointing (not to win) but it was a good start to the year,” Geroux said. “We were chasing, and I was stuck in a bad position because I was chasing a longshot. I didn’t want to go after her because I’m doing the dirty work for the other guys. I just felt like, off a layoff, that wasn’t the ideal scenario.”

Trainer Brad Cox, who won the 2018 edition of the Rachel Alexandra en route to Kentucky Oaks, Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and Eclipse Award glory with Monomoy Girl, was proud of Travel Column’s performance.

It was a good effort,” Cox said. “We obviously would have liked to win but I think she’s going to get a lot out of it. She was a wide into the first turn but that’s OK, given the post. She broke better today. I liked the trip. She ran well down the lane and they really finished up solid. It’s her first race of the year and it’s something we can build on.”

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Jennie Rees