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.

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

for.”

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

Shirreffs.

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

be.”

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

training.

Asked if she is better now than she was last year, Shirreffs

said, “How can you be better than perfect?”

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