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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not Yet

I figure it's not a great sign that they can't get Rachel Alexandra ready for a race on April 3, a full seven months after her last race. Steve Asmussen says she's on track for a prep on March 13. "And I don't think three weeks are sufficient after her first race in six months........ We don't want to run her if she's less than 100 percent." [Star Telegram]

Zenyatta is also aiming for a prep on that date, so the Apple Blossom would also be three weeks after her first race of the year.

Well, that sounds like a fair fight to me. I don't buy this notion that they both have to be "at the top of their game" for this race....assuming, of course, that it would be intended as a preliminary encounter rather than an ultimate showdown. Horses can't be at the peak of their form for the entire year. The Breeders' Cup Classic is the ultimate goal (and Saratoga would make for a wonderful middle match). The RA camp seems so afraid of losing, like doing so would permanently sully her reputation and devastate her value. Nonsense. Someone has to lose, and what's the shame of that. Jeez, it's just a game, after all. Indeed, there are horses throughout history whose reputations were actually enhanced and cemented by races that they lost. And this particular race would have been just be part of the narrative, setting up the story lines for the rematch(es).

Unfortunately, I think Oaklawn waited a week or two too long to announce the $5 million purse. With more warning, just maybe the Rachel team would have had the incentive to start the process of her comeback earlier, with making that race in mind. At this point, with just that one workout on her tab, it does seem like a stretch. On the other hand though, maybe she's had such a tough time bouncing back from last year's campaign that it wouldn't have been possible under any circumstance or for any amount of money.

Jackson says he wants the two to meet three times; "a racing series to rival the Triple Crown.”. But apparently, Jerry Moss didn't get cc'd on the memo.

"It's a shame they are not going to show up for that race," Moss said in a telephone interview with the AP. "In the meantime, there's some plan here, to run in three races, to which we're supposed to respond to, and we haven't even been consulted about it. So, I don't know what I'm supposed to say." [The Canadian Press]
Yeah, he doesn't sound too happy, does he?


DiscreetPicks said...

Really. Rachel has has plenty of time to get ready for whatever race they wanted. Unless, of course, there's more here than meets the eye.

Bottom line, Zenyatta showed up for the BC Classic, and she's reportedly showing up for the Apple Blossom as well (even without the bloated purse). And you know what, she's beaten the reigning filly champion before. At Oaklawn. Rachel wouldn't be the first.

Go Zenyatta. It should pain me to say that after she ruined my 25/1 future ticket on Gio Ponti, but i still love her. She's the best.

Anonymous said...

Dicreet, I bet GP that day at much lesser odds and felt he should have been seriously considered for HOY.

Jess Jackson pulled this crap all of last year, never committing in advance to a race all year, scouting out the potential opposition until the very last moment, always waiting until the final workout to take the podium himself and announce in which race we would be priviledged to witness Rachel run.

This is why I never bought into the hype on this filly that she had "taken on all comers and face older mares and boys". Pure spin.

Every spot was carefully calculated, always using the "too little time between races" excuse.

The Woodward was simply an easier spot than the Travers, thats why they ran there.

After the Woodward I commented here that if they wanted to win HOY they needed to announce to the world that day that they were running in the Beldame and give Z's connections the chance to come east. They did not and they won it anyway, but it doesnt make it right.

Now they are starting off 2010 the same way, dodging Z. Three weeks is the perfect amount of time for a prep, not like she will be all out to defeat the two mares that show up to face her. It will be a glorified workout.

Excuses, expect to see them fast and furious as Jess carefully constructs a campaign that makes it impossible for them to meet.

After three or four easy wins vs. overmatched mares expect Jess will announce that "She's proven enough" and off to retirement she will go, her record unblemished but never truly tested.

steve in nc said...

They need to slash the number of graded races for each division a lot, to force top horses to face each other if they want fame and $$$. The problem is even worse for older males. The mega stables siphon off a lot of those inflated purses. The sport would be better off putting that money into allowance races.

DiscreetPicks said...

Rachel hung on for dear life vs. Macho Again and Mine That Bird. True she was setting solid fractions in those races and had a right to get tired, but if anything thinks she could've held off Zenyatta in eitrher one of those two spots, i think they're sorely mistaken. Rachel is a great filly, i've always liked her, but honestly i think she was overrated last year because of her appearance in the Triple Crown races vs. males, and the novelty that the best 3yo in the country was a girl. I hesitate to say anything bad about her, she really doesn't deserve any criticism, but i've always felt Zenyatta was superior. I think she's done more than enough to prove any doubters wrong, but even as late as the BC Classic last year, i was listening to "experts" who claimed that she had no chance to win. Those are probably a lot of the same people who voted Rachel HOTY and called it "no contest", even after Zenyatta won the Classic while Rachel stayed in the barn. I honestly have no idea what Zenyatta did to offend so many people. I guess perhaps running on synthetic is all that it takes these days to tarnish your reputation (as if the horse has any choice in the matter).

Anonymous said...

Rachel is not overrated. That's completely ridiculous. Everyone looks at the Woodward, a fairly impressive race given how hard she ran the entire way, and they forget about the earlier races, several of which were spectacular. And Alan, I can't believe you'd call out their owners for waiting until the filly is 100%. Makes perfect sense to me. You gonna run against Zenyatta, better make sure your girl is in good shape. -JP

alan said...

>>And Alan, I can't believe you'd call out their owners for waiting until the filly is 100%.

JP - I took Asmussen's comment to be referring to the status of her form mean "in peak form." Of course I wouldn't expect them to run her if she's not 100% physically sound. I wouldn't expect that Zenyatta would be "100%" in the former sense either second off the layoff. Yet, they were still willing to run her.

Susan said...

I too believe Rachel could be as ready as Zenyatta for the Apple Blossom. After all the speculation last November that the Apple Blossom would be the perfect venue for a match up, then speculating a Jan/Feb race prior to Zenyatta departing for Ky, and the 7 figure purse requirement, this is a major disappointment for the fans.

Why in the world would Rachel not be ready by Apple Blossom time? Was there absolutely no consideration of the possibility she might face Zenyatta in late winter or early spring? How can RA be fit enough to run in a nongraded race, against inferior company, on Mar 13, but can't face Zenyatta 3 weeks later? It sounds to me like there is a plan to avoid Z, not meet up with her. Rachel is a Champion not a cheap horse that needs an easy spot to come back in. TMK, she didn't suffer a serious injury or any other legit reason to look for easy company. Running her in that type of race is a disgrace. What about the purse, are we talking 7 figures here or is this race an exception?

Zenyatta is not more advanced in her training. Her last work was in 102 and change. That's little more than an extended gallop for grade 1 quality horses. Want proof, look at her works going 6f prior to the BC. Those works in 111 and 112 are when she was fit, not 102.

We can't get a matchup on the ideal surface with a $5mm purse and now we're postulating 3 races culminating in November? It's not going to happen. First, there's where. Sherriff's stated last year he did not desire to run Z in NY because of the detention barn's potential to adversely impact performance on a mare that is unfamiliar with the detention procedure. So, NY is out as well as tracks with synthetic surfaces. Speed favoring Momouth, unfair to a closer. Calder has a bias towards horses accustomed to their surface, so it would be unfair to both. So where, CD, DEL,Texas?

Secondly, unless it is the BC, Zenyatta's connections are unlikely to run her on an off track. Rachel has won on some bad track conditions, but Zenyatta has no history of same, so an off track would not be reasonable.

Third is the purse money. Where is it going to come from? Charlie Cella of OP, is really the only one that is capable of putting up $5 million dollars without raiding the previously allocated purse accounts. The Breeders Cup was already into their reserve account last year, and it's unlikely they would be willing to risk the wrath of nominators when they are facing reduced nominations in 2010.

Fourth, why would anyone in this business want an event to rival the triple crown (except for personal monitary gain)? The TC is the lifeblood of our industry. It gets more public attention for horseracing over an extended period of time than anything else. Aside from bringing in new fans, it brings in a whole new group of people who are interested in becoming racehorse owners whether that be buying racehorses or breeding stock to grow and develop their own. Why would we want to dilute that interest?

Finally, if these 3 races culminate in November, that would have to be after the Breeders Cup. Historically, the quantity of top horses are way down from the summer months due to injury. And the great majority who ran in the BC were long prepped to peak specifically at the BC. Most of the most successful mares will head to retirement, or the KEE and FT Breeding stock sales, immediately after the BC. Therefore any race after the BC is highly unlikely to draw from a deep pool of the best horses.

El Angelo said...

I think the assumption everyone's making is that RA was 100% ready to start training much earlier than a couple of weeks ago. This just may not be true.

steve in nc said...

A series would be great for racing. Anyone who's been to the races more than twice knows one race settles nothing.

Good rundown of the all the obstacles. If there were at the most 5 or 6 opportunities this year for older F/M for a purse above $150,000 and GRI status, do you have any doubt those obstacles would seem smaller? (Hell, every track should have a detention barn.)

And why just talk about a series for these two? I'd like to see any older males that want to get a GR I in the near future have to face Quality Road. Cheap claimers ship from NY to FL and back routinely, so why is it unreasonable to demand that Grade I animals ship for the big money?

This should be NTRA's cue to construct and lobby for a very restricted national GR I schedule. But NTRA is gelded, blinkered and running for (its own) purse money only.

Anyway, even a series would probably only make the arguing over RA vs. Zen hotter and sillier. Who would beat whom, Lure, Cigar, or Midnight Lute? Depends upon the distance and surface. And at what point in their campaigns and careers.

So argue on. I'll be waiting for the time when, as almost all of them do, those champion gals look ready for their first thud so I can be there when the toteboard lights up.

Anonymous said...

I knew this race would never happen. Seriously Zenyatta has been in training since winning the BC in Nov, while Rachel hadn't recorded an official work. Now she has two works. It would be crazy to rush her into that spot. They are not machines people. Let's just hope they both stay healthy and do meet more than once in the BC at Churchill.

Dirtyshirt said...

DC - from yesterday.... You want 5 horses I thought had a better year than Rachel. Zenyatta, Life is sweet, gio, summer bird, and several sprinters. Rachel is nice, but the connections are a pathetic group.

SaratogaSpa said...


Rachel dusted Summer Bird in the Haskell last year.

El Angelo said...

And what sprinters? That was one of the weakest sprint crops we've seen in years.

Anonymous said...

Steve is wearing his dunce cap.

steve in nc said...

Anon, I guess that qualifies me for the Oval Office, right? Our hero Sarah Palin told everyone the last thing we need is a law professor as President. We need someone ready to act with no background and less brains. I accept your nomination!

Dirtyshirt said...

The race has been pushed. Rachel an zenyatta could still meet. Im just trying to get a rise with much of the stuff I say anyways for those who don't know me well.

DiscreetPicks said...

When I said Rachel was overrated last year, I didn't mean to imply she's anything but a great filly. But come one, people were calling her the greatest 3yo filly ever. She may not have been the greatest 3yo in even the previous 12 months (see Zarkava, or even Goldikova). I love Rachel, she's an incredible talent, but I still think her acheivments were somewhat overblown last year. Her Kentucky Oaks win was giant, but who was she beating that day? Gabby's Golden Gal? The best horse Rachel has ever beaten is probably Summer Bird, who is quite nice but frankly Zenyatta blasted him also. I fail to see how Rachel had the better year. Turn the tables, and let Zenyatta be the horse who had Rachel's season last year (winning a Triple crown race, then some other major stakes on the East Coast), and I think their respective status (not to mention some of their Beyer Figures) would be reversed in many people's eyes. I just feel Zenyatta's accomplishments were largely overlooked because she didn't face males until the Classic, and because many people hold some type of grudge against synthetic wins. That mare has unbeaten for her career while racking up a couple of impressive Breeders Cup wins in the process. Frankly, she probably could've won the Classic the year before as well, had they chosen to run her in it. And yet, according to some people she's not in Rachel's league? I just hope people keep thinking that when it's time to actually bet on a race that they run together. Assuming that ever happens...

ballyfager said...

Okay, one more time. Rachel ran all over the country, she never scratched.

Zenyatta ran an outstanding race in the Classic (I had Gio Ponti too but I also had him underneath Zenyatta multiple times so I did well on the race). Outside of that Zenyatta won four allowance races with names, against ho hum competition. She also scratched once.

Rachel clearly had the better year. They should meet once at a mile & and an eighth. If Zenyatta is the horse her supporters think she is, that will be her vindication.

From what we saw Saturday, Quality Road would probably beat both of them (at least at GP).

DiscreetPicks said...

Zenyatta clobbered Life is Sweet, who won the Ladie's Clasic by open lengths if i recall. I wouldn't really call her allowance-caliber. Sure her campaign wasn't as ambitious as Rachel's was earlier in the year, but i think she more than made up for that while running in the Breeders Cup Classic. I don't understand why everyone chose to overlook that, like it's some insignifigant detail. Give me a break. The Classic field exceeded that of the Preakness, Haskell, or Woodward. Obviously. The Churchill scratch (people are holding that against her?) was a disappointment, but the track was very muddy, and if they chose to err on the side of caution, i think that's understandable. I'm sure they didn't enjoy flying Zenyatta halfway across the contry just to scratch her on raceday.

Word has it the Apple Blossom is back on again, 6 days later than originally scheduled. Yeah, that extra 6 days will make all the difference, i'm sure. Love the quotes from Moss in Jay Privman's article, btw.

Dirtyshirt said...

Ballyfager - The four allowance races you mention zenyatta running in featured life is sweet. The second best filly in the states. The same life is sweet who would beat Rachel on many tracks, and certainly at 1 1/4 anywhere.

This is the best logic I can put to this - EVERY winning handicapper I know understands zenyatta is much better. EVERY entusiast, loudmouth, and degenerate gambler thinks Rachel is better. It's a simple fact, go ask ANY winning player who is a better animal. If you still think Rachel has a chance we know what category you fall in.

DiscreetPicks said...

Dirtyshirt lays it on a bit thick, lol.

Sure Rachel has a chance. I might even go so far as to make her a favorite if she happened to be the only speed in the race, although Zenyatta faced a similar situation vs. Hystericalady and beat her anyway. Hopefully the Apple Blossom will have an ample amount of speed in it to make things fair, and for that kind of money i'm guessing it probably will (though it clearly wouldn't come from Life is Sweet should the Moss' choose to enter her as well).

Btw, i sent this to Alan some time back but he never posted it; can't remember if i ever did. Lucky's race & sportsbook here in Vegas has posted a proposition bet on the first Rachel vs. Zenyatta meeting (wherever or whenever it takes place, restricted to 2010). Rachel is the -140 favorite to finish in front of Zenyatta. I'm sure Rachel would be the morning line favorite on raceday as well. Fine with me.

Rachel fans rule!!!! said...

I'm a really big Rachel Alexandra fan, but I'm only a fan not a bettor. I kinda just like her name better too, so that makes her a better horse IMO. Plus I like bandwagons, just being on them is fun, so go Rachel. Plus the Europeans think zenyatta is better and they don't know anything about horses. So gooooooo Rachel. And her connections seem really nice and reasonable... They don't seem like people who's egos would get so big they would have the date of a race changed. And that's important to me...

Anonymous said...

The Race is ON, if they show up.

But why in the world is it on a FRIDAY???????

Only racing would hold what is odds on to be the moment of the year on a Friday afternoon when most can not see it live.

I am sure the network of choice has an important game on instead, (actually probably the Masters) and god forbid we make the extra effort to find a network willing to televise it nationally on a Saturday.

Then again, maybe the Breeders Cup thinks it will promote Filly Fridays?


DiscreetPicks said...

It does seem strange. I hadn't even realized the neew date came on Friday; I guess i assumed the Apple Blossom was originally schedlued on a Sunday. Why they would place the new date on a Friday is anyone's guess, especially on the grounds that the race had to be pushed back in order to give Rachel more time between starts. Having it on a Saturday would give her one more extra day, while holding it on a Sunday would give her two extra days. So why Friday? You may be onto something with the television considerations, but anything aside from that would make it very odd.

Anonymous said...

Even if it is due to TV concerns it makes no sense, would rather have it on some second rate cable channel on Saturday, or simply available on normal simulcast signal on Saturday than on national TV on Friday.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Dirtyshirt, we're all really impressed. Great job "proving" Zenyatta's superiority because if "pro's" (like you of course) and all your "pro" friends who win oodles of cash at the windows, think Zenyatta is better, then she must be better. Just sit back and let them settle it on the track. And please stop frothing at the mouth. Web know-it-alls like you make me sick. -JP

oso7 said...

It is still fun to see the diehard RA supporters continue to find fault for the connections of Zenyatta to scratch their mare at Churchill when, in fact, the track was not merely sloppy in the morning, it became muddy as well. It did dry out as the day progressed but there was no guarantee what condition the track would be in. They did the right think for their mare, they erred on the side of caution. Those who question this decision might want to ask the connections of George Washington what they feel in running him on the slop at Monmouth that ill-fated day.

What happened yesterday is pretty laughable. You have Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen putting the blame on Oaklawn for not pushing up the date of the Apple Blossom to the following weekend. As though one additional week for a filly who hasn't run since the 1st week of September would have made all the difference in her starting or not. Ridiculous. How do you project where their filly would be 8 weeks out and claim she wouldn't be ready and then say if they wait 6 days later she could be ready?

Little did they know that Mr. Cella would call their bluff and offer to move it up 6 days to 4/9. Now all systems are go. Yeah, right. What are the chances RA will be in the starting gate on 4/9? Slim and none.
BTW, Rachel Fans Rule, that was great satire in your post.

Anonymous said...

"What are the chances RA will be in the starting gate on 4/9? Slim and none."

Love the bravado, oso7. Why are you so sure Rachel won't be in the starting gate on 4/9? Is this your bizarre way of asserting Zenyatta's superiority? I don't really get it. Feel free to explain that one if you can.

BTW, I was at CD on Oaks day last year. I don't fault Zenyatta's connections for scratching her, but it did likely cost her horse of the year. Plenty of other horses braved the "elements" and ran just fine. Wait, a second...didn't Rachel run that day? Oh yeah, she won by 20 lengths.

oso7 said...

I'm saying RA won't run in the AB not to disparage her but because I feel Jess Jackson wants to prove his filly is the top distaffer in the country. To do that, she needs to beat Zenyatta and I don't think Jackson will face her until he knows she is at the top of her game. The fact he's entered her in a non-black type race for her return indicates to me he doesn't feel she's ready for a G1 and certainly not in a position to top Z at 1 1/8th.
Yes, I do hope they eventually meet but I would be fine with that date happening on a Saturday in October in the BC Classic.

El Angelo said...

There's two different issues in the RA/Z debate:

(1) Who's better? The answer: who knows?

(2) Who had a better 2009 and deserved HOTY? Well, one ran in 5 different states, beat males 3 times, and won 8 races. The other only ran 5 times in one state and only beat males once. That's why RA won HOTY.

That does NOT mean, however, she's the better horse, and while I think RA would win a race between the two, I think Zenyatta supporters are conflating the two questions.

oso7 said...

I believe Zenyatta is the better TB and will prove it this year. Whether the two meet in the Apple Blossom or not isn't overly important to me. In fact, I hold they're most likely meeting will be in the BC and if RA is entered in the Classic, then great. But if Zenyatta wins that race against her, QR and whoever else is entered, then I can't imagine anyone claiming she isn't the better horse. Or does anyone truly believe we will ever again witness one horse managing to win 3 straight Classics?

Anonymous said...

I supported RA as horse of the year last year. As far as who is better, I'm not sure. I do feel that if Zenyatta ever stared Rachel in the eye, Rachel would be in deep trouble. But if Rachel is allowed to get a half mile on a fair racing surface in 47+ seconds, I don't think Zenyatta would ever get to her at 9 panels. No way. I also think RA will run in this spot as long as her training goes smoothly. A nice allowance race and she should be ready to run extremely well. Second race off a layoff as a 4 year old, no excuses. Like I said, if they are both in top shape it will boil down to pace on a dirt track. Let's hope we get to see it. -JP

Dirtyshirt said...

JP - I'm not a web know-it-all, and I'm not sure where you qoute me as being a "pro," but if were gonna use names let's call you "fanboy" or "cheerleader" and get the pom- poms ready for Rachels Allowance race return. Rachel's will come around every few years - Zenyatta is a once in history of racing type horse. Please enjoy.

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying every few years a filly will come along who wins the Oaks by 20, and wins G1s against the boys three times in a given season. Okay big guy! Wipe that mustard off your shirt. -JP

PS: Rah rah rah. Sis Boom Bah! Rachel, Rachel, Yayyyyyy!

forego is my witness said...

Ya gotta love people... Do any of you realize: We don't KNOW who is "the better horse" (a ridiculous comment in and of itself), and we won't know who will beat whom UNTIL THEY ACTUALLY EFFIN' RACE TOGETHER??!! Yeeesh! C'mon already.

And this is just tripe: "Zenyatta is a once in history of racing type horse." Uhh, no she isn't, as horse racing history actually has a few other champions who were magical. Please stop with the inane hyperbole.

ballyfager said...

@Dirtyshirt, et al

Rachel was voted HOY, which she was. I don't know which one is the better horse and neither do you.

oso7 said...

ballyfager said...
@Dirtyshirt, et al

"Rachel was voted HOY, which she was. I don't know which one is the better horse and neither do you."

Yes, you're right, no one knows at this stage which one is the better horse but the fact remains one camp is avoiding a match up and my guess is their filly won't be in the starting gate on 4/3. But I know in all my life I have never seen a more accomplished TB, other than Secretariat, than Zenyatta. She will prove this year that HOY was a sham, the horses RA beat, with the exception of Summer Bird, were little more than allowance company. But I am all for an eventual match up and if that never happens, then I simply hope the great mare has an opportunity to demonstrate her superiority in the BC Classic this year. I would love nothing better than Z retires undefeated with her third straight BC Classic win and then wait for someone, anyone, say she isn't the greatest American distaffer of all time.

Dirtyshirt said...

Eight Belles RIP was probably better than Rachel, so yea, they come around guy.
And not to beat on a dead horse (pun intended), but...
If you don't understand which filly is better, you don't understand class, and most likely don't understand racing. I'm not trying to insult you, either. It's just that it's so easy to understand a caveman could do it.

ballyfager said...

@oso7 - "her third straight BC Classic"???

@Dirtyshirt - most Rachel supporters only say that she had the better year in 2009. That's a fact, and an obvious one to any fair minded, knowledgable person.

Zenyatta supporters,OTOH, insist that she is obviously the better horse. That's opinion, not fact. The more you insist Zenyatta is much better, the more you damage your own case. It isn't obvious yet....and it may never be.

Let's hope the race actually comes off. But, no matter which one wins, neither one of them is a patch on Ruffian's ass, just to name one.

See, I can deal in over the top hyperbole too. Try being more of an observer and less of an advocate.

oso7 said...

Ballyfager: "
@oso7 - "her third straight BC Classic"???"
Yes, if Zenyatta wins at CD this year, that would make 3 straight Classic wins or do you not count her initial win in the Ladies' Classic?
I would not compare RA's achievements last year to Ruffian, primarily because the fields RA destroyed were not top caliber horses other than SB. However, if Zenyatta remains undefeated this year and does triumph in the BC, she will eclipse Ruffian as the greatest distaffer in my lifetime. And, yes, Ballyfager, I saw Ruffian run as well.

Anonymous said...

On the sheets/tg, both Rachel and Zenyatta are several lengths faster than Ruffian was. Who is to say Ruffian beat up on better horses? Ruffian carries with her a certain mystique, but it's hard to compare her to these two girls. It's a different era.

Dirtyshirt, thanks for clarifying things. So I don't understand class and I don't understand racing, and even a caveman could see that Zenyatta is better. I'm just glad you're not trying to insult me. Peace. -JP

DS said...

Lol. Not what I meant. I'm sure you're a good guy. We'll both let our money do the talking when the race comes.

Cookie Jill said...

Both that race brought back some memories. Seattle Slew showed some wings on his hooves and a huge heart that day. Thanks for posting a link to it.

ballyfager said...

@oso7 - way to tap dance.

@Anon 10:06 - the sheets are only opinion too. They have no objective validity whatsoever.