BALTIMORE — Moments after Rachel Alexandra crossed the finish line to win the Preakness Stakes, the obvious question arose:
Will this very special filly compete in the Belmont Stakes?
"Would we love to run? Yes. Could she win? We think so," said co-owner Jess Jackson, whose Stonestreet Stables bought the horse May 7. "We've already shown she can run with colts. It's a question now of her best interests."
Oh, Rachel Alexandra certainly proved Saturday she could run with the colts. She broke from the No. 13 gate, quickly moved in front and never let the lead get away in defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by a length.
Many in the horse racing industry wondered if it was wise to put Rachel Alexandra up against 10 colts and two geldings. By late Saturday evening, all doubts were erased.
"She just wants to run. Gender doesn't matter. A thoroughbred wants to run, and if a filly is as good as a colt, they ought to compete," Jackson said. "That was my position and that's why we came. She showed the heart and skill of a champion. I'm delighted that our decision was ... correct."
Trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Mr. Jackson's been rewarded for his faith in her and I hope he's as happy as everybody else. (We're) very blessed."
So is the struggling sport of horse racing, which got a much-needed boost from Rachel Alexandra, the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924.
"I think the thoroughbred racing industry needs better marketing," Jackson said. "We broadened the market (and) gave you guys something to write about."
Mine That Bird's trainer Chip Woolley said "the Belmont is next for us." Rachel Alexandra's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said he'll wait a few days before making a decision.
"Belmont looks like it could be a great matchup between those two, but I don't know who they'll get to run against them," said
Larry Jones, trainer of 10th-place finisher Friesan Fire. "Those two look really good."
Plenty of contenders are lining up. Potential Belmont starters include Charitable Man, Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk, Gitano Hernando, Miner's Escape, Mr. Hot Stuff and Summer Bird.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said his Preakness runners — Flying Private (fourth) and Luv Gov (eighth) — are Belmont possibilities.
THIRD AGAIN: Musket Man put on a good show Saturday. Unfortunately, he also paid to show for a second straight race.
The third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby did it again in the Preakness, following Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird across the wire. The 11-1 shot beat 10 horses, but the two that finished ahead of him were just too strong.
"My horse ran well, but we beat by a great one. She's a filly for the ages," trainer Derek Ryan said.
Jockey Eibar Coa had the horse in eighth place after a half-mile, but closed with a flourish and came in a half-lengthy behind Mine That Bird.
"No complaints at all," Coa said. "I had a good trip, except at one point I had to stop riding for three jumps. I think that cost me second place."
COOL-HAND LUKE: With two entries in the Preakness on Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has saddled 34 horses in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
The toteboard: Five winners, one second-place finisher and five who finished third.
Lukas' first entrant, Codex in 1980, won by 4 3/4 lengths. But Lukas finished 14th with Going Wild in 2005, didn't have an entry in 2006, was ninth in 2007 with Flying First Class and was shut out last year.
He couldn't complain about Flying Private finishing fourth Saturday.
"Flying Private really ran well. We went from 19th in the Derby to fourth in the Preakness," Lukas said. "I'm happy. He liked the track a little bit better and he came running.
Unfortunately for him, Luv Gov came in eighth. But before the race, Lukas said, "As you get older and get in these fights more and more, you get more realistic. I don't have any grandiose ideas that we're going to go out there and whip up on anybody."
It's the third time this decade he's had two horses in the race.
STUMBLING START: Big Drama provided some major suspense Saturday when he reared in the gate and unseated jockey John Velazquez before the start of the race.
The horse eventually settled down, then kept up with Rachel Alexandra before fading to fifth.
"We broke OK after he stumbled, but he never really relaxed," Velazquez said. "He ran a good race but had nothing left in the end."
Trainer David Fawkes gave all the credit to Rachel Alexandra, who pulled away from Big Drama in the stretch.
"John did the best he could. The filly was just super," Fawkes said. "I was just happy that we had a clean trip. We were simply beaten by a super filly."