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Filly’s easy victory shows she may be the ‘next Secretariat’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dolphus Morrison is a racing purist: The Kentucky Derby is for the boys; the Kentucky Oaks is for the girls.

You won’t hear any of the Derby owners complaining.

Morrison’s spectacular filly Rachel Alexandra crushed the field by a record 20 lengths in the $500,000 Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs, perhaps stamping herself as the best 3-year-old horse in the world, boy or girl.

“If she stays sound, she’ll be the next Secretariat,” jockey Calvin Borel said.

She certainly put on a performance that harkened back to the legendary Triple Crown winner.

Rachel Alexandra eased past Gabby’s Golden Gal on the far turn then poured it on as she entered the stretch, extending the lead as 100,000 spectators roared with every stride of her eye-popping victory in the filly version of the Kentucky Derby.

Borel blew a kiss and tapped her on the neck as they crossed the finish line for her fifth straight win, all by convincing margins.

“I’ve never been on a horse that good, to tell you the truth,” said Borel, who won the 2007 Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense.

Stone Legacy was a distant second, with Flying Spur third.

Phelps to pay visit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Michael Phelps, who knows how to make a splash, will be at soggy Churchill Downs on Saturday for the Kentucky Derby.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will be stopping by to visit trainer Bob Baffert, a University of Arizona graduate who has one of the favorites in Pioneerof the Nile.

With forecasters calling for a very wet day in Louisville, Phelps should feel right at home. And he might have some pointers for the jockey.

“If it’s raining and sloppy, I’m going to have him talk to Garrett Gomez about it,” Baffert said.

Phelps and swimming coach Bob Bowman, who is also a thoroughbred horseman from Maryland, are flying in Saturday morning.

Baffert is hoping another Olympic buddy, skier Bode Miller, will make the race if he can escape from a “Superstars” competition in the Bahamas.

“He called me up and said he wanted to be here if I won it,” said Baffert, who named his 4 1/2-year-old son Bode.

“We want “old” Bode to give him his first skiing lessons,” Baffert said.

Derby name game

The art of naming Derby contenders is occasionally predictable. Mine That Bird, for example, came from the stallion Birdstone and the mare Mining My Own.

But more often, there are stories – sometimes convoluted ones – behind why an owner decides on a name.

Co-owner Rick Porter says his horse, Friesan Fire, was named by the Simon family, which bred him. Often the family would visit the Friesian Islands near Germany. One evening they discussed opening a bar and calling it Friesan Fire, Porter said, although he couldn’t explain why the horse’s name is spelled differently.

“West Side Story” is a hit again on Broadway, and West Side Bernie punched his Derby ticket in New York with an impressive second-place performance at the Wood Memorial. What’s more, the composer of the musical is Leonard Bernstein, just like the horse’s sire, hence the name.

Ahmed Zayat says he named Pioneerof the Nile because he hails from Egypt and has been a pioneer of sorts in several business ventures.

Perhaps the most ironic name in the field is Chocolate Candy. While the colt is named for a high-calorie sweet, its owner, Jenny Craig, is famous for her weight-loss programs.

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