Filly Rachel Alexandra early Preakness favourite

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Champion filly Rachel Alexandra was installed the early 8-5 favourite for Saturday's Preakness Stakes after drawing the far outside 13 post.

The Steve Asmussen-trained filly has won five straight races, including a stunning 20 1/2-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 1.

"I think the race will sort itself out before the first turn," assistant trainer Scott Blasi told reporters after Wednesday's draw ceremony.

"We know that she does have good tactical speed and she should be able to get a good position going into the first turn."

Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile is the second choice in the early line at 5-1 and will break from the ninth post, while Derby winner Mine That Bird will open at 6-1 from the two hole.

Mine That Bird's rider will be Hall of Famer Mike Smith, selected by the gelding's connections after regular jockey Calvin Borel jumped ship to ride Rachel Alexandra.

Borel rode Mine That Bird to a stunning upset victory in the May 2 Derby, guiding the 50-1 longshot along the rail to a 6 3/4-length triumph in America's most famous race.

Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley likes his position for the mile-and-three-sixteenths Preakness, with Big Drama on the inside and Musket Man just to his outside.

"We've got speed on both sides of us, speed on the inside and outside of us," he said. "That should clear away from us and leave us in a nice spot to coast down the front side and into the back stretch. It's a good spot."

Friesan Fire, the Derby favourite who finished a disappointing 18th, joins Mine That Bird as an early 6-1 choice, breaking from the fifth post.

"They (Big Drama and Rachel Alexandra) will have to go, so we should be able to get behind them and go," said trainer Larry Jones.

(Writing by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Ian Ransom;

Article Published: 14/05/2009