Belmont decision not set

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BALTIMORE --- Rachel Alexandra joined an impressive list when she became the first filly in 85 years to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Now her next step will be closely watched.

By showing she could beat the boys, Rachel Alexandra might have earned an extended break. Or her one-length victory Saturday could set the stage for a rematch with Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

"The Belmont will be determined by her and how she rebounds from this race," co-owner Jess Jackson said. "That said, she'll run against the boys again somewhere."

Mine That Bird's runner-up Preakness finish means there will be no Triple Crown this year, but getting him and the filly together in New York could prove to be an attractive alternative.

"She's welcome to come to the Belmont and tie into us again," said Chip Woolley Jr., Mine That Bird's trainer.

Rachel Alexandra's victory moved her alongside such famous fillies as Derby winners Genuine Risk and Winning Colors, undefeated Personal Ensign and the doomed Ruffian and Go For Wand.

"It puts her right up there with some special company," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "She's a tremendous machine."

Rachel Alexandra was led out of Pimlico's stakes barn in the pre-dawn darkness Sunday and into a van headed for the airport and a return trip to Louisville, Ky. She'll stay at Churchill Downs while Jackson and co-owner Harold McCormick decide whether to run her in the Belmont.

The filly is set to return to the track Wednesday and is scheduled to breeze on Memorial Day.

"She'll tell us how she's feeling," Asmussen said. "You want her to continue to be relaxed and loose. We're just going to tell her how great she is for a while and see where it leads us."

While not ruling out the Belmont, Asmussen seemed less inclined to run the filly in the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races.

"I don't feel the urgency to prove it that I did earlier," he said. "We're in a lot stronger position coming off the win."

The last filly to win the Belmont was Rags to Riches in 2007, ending a 102-year drought for females in the 11/2-mile race. The only other filly winners were Tanya in 1905 and Ruthless in 1867.

The Belmont has factors that can trip up any horse. It's almost the only time a horse will run that far in its career, and fresh horses who skipped the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or both often are waiting in the Belmont. The New York track's sweeping turns and deep, sandy surface make it different from Churchill Downs or Pimlico.

Rachel Alexandra had trouble gripping Pimlico's dirt track Saturday, and jockey Calvin Borel said he used the whip on her for the first time in her career.

"She's the greatest horse I've been on in my life," he said. "She struggled and still won. It's such a narrow track I had to give it to her. The more I did, the more she struggled."

COMCAST: ALERT WAS REQUIRED

A Comcast spokesman says the cable provider is required to carry Emergency Alert System messages like the one that disrupted coverage of the Preakness Stakes in the Augusta market Saturday.

"The EAS was activated. We are obligated to carry that," Bill Botham, the public relations director for Comcast in Augusta, said Sunday. "We do not activate it. It's activated by local authorities."

The alert was a warning for bad weather in Burke County just before the start of the race. Local authorities and the National Weather Service have the right to preempt programming to send the messages, Botham said.

-- From staff reports

TV RATINGS UP

Rachel Alexandra's win brought the Preakness Stakes its highest overnight TV ratings since 2004 and its second-highest rating since 1990.

NBC said Sunday that the race portion of Saturday's broadcast drew a 7.9 rating and an 18 share. That's up 27 percent over last year, when the much-hyped Big Brown won to take the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

-- Associated Press

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