Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta is off, for now
Rachel Alexandra won’t be going to Arkansas next month to face
Zenyatta in their highly anticipated $5 million showdown, leaving
racing’s other female superstar to take on all comers.
Rachel Alexandra’s owner, Jess Jackson, said Sunday that his
2009 Horse of the Year is not in top form after her defeat in the
New Orleans Ladies at the Fair Grounds. So the scheduled meeting
between racing’s most talked about horses is off, leaving the
spotlight to Zenyatta on April 9 in the Apple Blossom Invitational
at Oaklawn Park.
“Yesterday’s race, while a disappointment, helped us define
Rachel Alexandra’s racing condition,” Jackson said in a statement.
“While she is healthy, just as I had anticipated, she is not in
top form. Therefore, I decided today she will not be going” to
Oaklawn for the race.
Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were making their first starts of
the year Saturday in what were supposed to be prep races for next
month’s event, which saw its purse raised to $5 million from
$500,000 only if both horses started.
“Money is no object for Mr. Jackson. He wants the best for the
horse,” Rachel Alexandra’s jockey Calvin Borel told The Associated
Press by phone Sunday night. “It would’ve been the best thing to
ever happen to Oaklawn, but if you have no horse, you have
Zenyatta’s co-owner Jerry Moss said his 6-year-old mare will
keep her schedule.
“We’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to face
each other in the Apple Blossom,” he said Sunday from his
California home. “Hopefully, we can meet down the line. We respect
both Steve (Asmussen) and Mr. Jackson as horsemen and they’re going
to do what’s right for their horse. That’s all anybody could ask
Borel said he hopes Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta meet in the
Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs this fall.
“That would be wonderful,” he said. “My filly loves Churchill
and I think Zenyatta would run well there. I think that’s where
you’ll see them.”
Oaklawn Park had been heavily advertising the race. The
convention and visitor’s bureau in Hot Springs said 50,000 trading
cards featuring the horses were being printed, and hotel rooms in
the resort area have been booked solid for weeks.
“Naturally, we are disappointed that Rachel Alexandra will not
be here for the Apple Blossom Invitational,” the track said in a
statement. “We wish her the best of luck on the rest of her 2010
racing campaign. We look forward to welcoming Zenyatta back to
Arkansas as she attempts to equal Cigar and Citation’s modern-day
record of 16 consecutive unrestricted victories.”
While Zenyatta did her part in winning the Santa Margarita
Handicap at Santa Anita for her 15th straight win, Rachel Alexandra
was not as fortunate in her 4-year-old debut. The filly was beaten
by Zenyatta’s stablemate, Zardana. Both mares are trained by John
Rachel Alexandra, trained by Asmussen, had seven timed workouts
leading to Saturday’s race, but weather problems may have
compromised her training schedule.
“Steve and I discussed this fully and we now regret we tried to
accelerate her training in order to meet the Apple Blossom
schedule,” Jackson said. “We have a whole season before us to
help define her greatness. She will tell us when her next race will
Borel said Asmussen was rushed in preparing Rachel Alexandra for
the Apple Blossom, and she got tired in her race Saturday.
“Steve said, ‘Calvin, I got 80 percent. If she can win
hands-down, go ahead and do it, but I don’t want you to gun her,”’
Borel said. “I wasn’t going to beat on her. She’s too good of a
filly to ruin something for the year.”
Zenyatta came into the Santa Margarita off a four-month rest.
Jerry and Ann Moss had intended for her to retire and begin a
breeding career after she became the first female to beat the boys
and win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
But they changed their minds in January and put her back into
Asked if she is better now than she was last year, Shirreffs
said, “How can you be better than perfect?”