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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rachel's Loss No Excuse

Joe Drape's lede in his story for the Times on Rachel Alexandra's defeat reads:

This was supposed to be an exhibition for Rachel Alexandra, an opportunity for the reigning Horse of the Year to take a lap before an adoring public. [NY Times]
Oh, I thought it was her first race in six months, intended primarily to help her get some conditioning, and to get ready for a more important race in four weeks. And if her connections do "reassess her schedule," as Steve Asmussen indicated (according to Drape) and decide to pass a meeting with the mighty Zenyatta on April 9, it will be simply because they want to, and nothing to do with the result of the New Orleans Ladies Stake. This filly needed a race, period.

Ridden in accordance with his instructions, Calvin Borel sat off a fairly quick pace, and Rachel continued under restraint as she took the lead turning for home at a time when, under other circumstances, she might have opened up lengths and discouraged the competition.
"I wanted to let her run her race early but they wanted me to wait. I wanted to go on past the speed horse early (Fighter Wing). I’d have got by her anytime and my filly could have gone on but they wanted me to wait and not get into her until the sixteenth pole. [Bloodhorse]
If you instruct your rider to take a horse out of its game, and ride a race as if it's just a prep, don't then come crying to me about the horse not being dead-solid perfect if she happens to get beat. There was nothing wrong with Rachel Alexandra's race; she showed her class by fighting to the end, and still earned a Beyer of 100; not bad for an off day. The winner had dominated in her prior three dirt races (all in Brazil), and might just be very good. It's a race that can only benefit the defending Horse of the Year. "The filly's lacking fitness," said Asmussen. But horses get fit with tighteners like this, and I bet she'll be fitter for the effort in a few days. If she's not, they might as well retire her now.


Anonymous said...

Love the blog Alan but I will disagree.
If Rachel's connections pass up on going for the 5 million it will be because of Todays results. The result today ( even off the layoff) has to concern them. I thought it was a bad race for RA. I think we are looking at another horse who had a monster 3yo campaign and will never be the same again.

Also, she was not held back. Most of her last races have her making her big move after about 3/4 of a mile and she did the same thing today. C'mon Alan she got beat by Zardana, really Zardana ?

Her connections won't show at Oaklawn because now they know Zenyatta will blow Rachels doors off at a mile and an eigth. It will be no contest

You don't like jess Jackson and Asmussen anyway, remember Alan ?

DiscreetPicks said...

Zardana is a nice horse, and it's not the biggest shock in the world that she was able to beat Rachel. Especially when Rachel was sorely in need of a comeback race. That being said however, Zardana is not not even in Zenyatta's ballpark. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

As far as making a case for Rachel in the upcoming Apple Blossom (assuming they do meet there), I still have concerns about their conflicting running styles. As we all saw today, Zenyatta was languishing at the back of the pack once again, some 10 or 12 lengths off the leaders. There's no denying that Rachel would have a huge early pace advantage on Zenyatta, especially if it turns out to be a small field with no other real speed in the race. That would be a giant obstacle for Zenyatta to overcome. She's overcome that same kind of situation before (see Hystericalady), but obviously, it's nowhere near ideal. I would think hope Shirreffs will throw Zardana in there in order to keep Rachel honest early, and after today's performance, there's no disputing that Zardana is deserving of a spot in the race on her own merit. I still think Zenyatta is better than Rachel, always have, but the pace issue is of major concern. It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out...

ballyfager said...

If Jackson and Asmussen were intent on winning this comeback race then FG was a very poor choice as a venue. It is not a speed favoring track and has the longest stretch in America.

Since these are savvy people who know what they're doing I have to assume their purpose was to leg the horse up for Apr. 9.

Rachel ran as fast as she did here last year. She got beat by a horse who's 4 for 4 on dirt. It was officially 11 & 1/2 lengths back to the third horse. She has nothing to be ashamed of.

I don't know who will win at OP. Both Rachel & Zenyatta have had very good races there. Hell, for all we know Zenyatta may be a better horse on dirt than she is on that disgraceful crap they run on in Cal.

But let Zenyatta supporters ponder this (and I'm talking now to people who are serious handicappers, not those who say childish things like, "Zenyatta would beat Rachel by 15 or 20 lengths"). What do you think Zenyatta's chances would be at GP or Mth just to name two speed favoring tracks. At SA, Del Mar & Hollywood Zenyatta might have been just another horse if she were running before the inmates took over the asylum. Horses for courses is one of the strongest elements in this game.

Finally, for the last time, Rachel was voted HOY for her truly remarkable year. Any fair minded person who knows a fetlock from a furlong should see that. Nothing that happened yesterday, or happens from here on out, can ever change that.

If Zenyatta proves to be the better horse then Mr & Mrs Moss can only blame themselves for treating her like a hothouse flower.

Anonymous said...

Ummm.... Yeah the Moss's have really mismanaged Zenyatta ? They have an undefeated mare, who won the Breeders cup classic, who is showing no signs of slowing down, and they are (potentially) running for 5 million next month in a race they will be favored. You may not like the races they chose for her last year and not leaving California and all but it looks like the plan is working out just fine to me.

As for Rachel's race, first off to say Fair Grounds is biased against front runners the way in which Monmouth is biased against closers is simply not true. I watch a lot of Fair Grounds races and while yes it is one of the longest stretches in America, front runners/stalkers do just fine there. Also the fact that RA was 11 lengths clear of third against way overmatched mares means nothing.

Asmussen said it all yesterday. ". If I thought she would get beat, we would not have run her. I am sure Team Asmussen expected a better effort yesterday than the one they got.

PTP said...

I think the chances of Rachel running at OP in April are about equal to the chances of a Sarah Palin-Allan Mann Presidential ticket in 2012 :)

ballyfager said...

@anon 10:28

Why did they run her in the Classic after managing her so conservatively prior to that? Because they very much wanted her to be HOY.

She didn't get it and she didn't deserve it. That's why they brought her back this year.

ballyfager said...

P.S. Anon 10:28
It's a deep track. It's always been a deep track. And it's not one of the longest stretches in America, it is THE longest as far as I know.

Before the race they said Rachel was only 80% cranked. Now, according to you, Asmussen says he wouldn't have run her if he thought she would get beat? Anybody who can read PP's could see that the 3 horse was a legitimate threat.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how this plays out. If they don't run her on April 9 then Zenyatta wins by default because it would be a tacit admission that they don't think they can beat her. Seems to me, running and losing would be a better choice than that.

Vic said...

I'm a handicapper and I've always thought Zenyatta would beat Rachel (although not by daylight). I've been at this since the 70s and have never seen a horse like Zenyatta. She is never fully extended. She doesn't even appear 80% extended and that includes in last year's BCC. Rachel on the other hand was all out to beat Mine That Bird and Macho Again. Zenyatta is a much, much stronger closer than those two.

I note none of the Rachel fans are acknowledging that the first time she took on an older female she got beat, and this was a G2 winning mare, not a G1. Last year many were accusing Jackson of ducking the older females and instead taking on the weakest of the older males, because he suspected Rachel would lose to a decent older female.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Is that what "lede" means?

I've seen it around for a while now. Had no idea what it meant.

Sounds like a fair candidate for the "Pretentious Slang of the Internet" category.

As are many others. But here, you get to be Trench Coaty/sound Deep Throaty. Versatile, Romantic Journalism. Larded on, many layers.

Amazing what just one word can

Anonymous said...

According to the article on Team Asmussen is already stating that the Apple Blossom is most likely out.
That didn't take long...

DiscreetPicks said...

Nice of the Rachel camp to blow off the Apple Blossom after Oaklawn went out of their way to accomodate them by moving the date of the race back.

oso7 said...

Boy, those horses that run on "disgraceful crap" certainly have acquitted themselves well when running on dirt so far this year. It never ceases to amaze me that anyone thought RA would be in the AB after Jess Jackson and his trainer started making comments and excuses as to the "fitness" of their filly. The only reason Jackson agreed to run on 4/9 was because he had stated the original scheduled date was too soon for her to run. When Mr. Cella moved it to the following Friday, what was JJ to do and still save face? Say, how about another week??
Jackson wants nothing to do with facing Zenyatta at any distance beyond 1 1/16th. I sincerely hope RA is fine and will run again this year, but I have little concern if she ever enters the gate with Zen. This phenomenal mare has already demonstrated her greatness and simply beating the reigning HOY isn't going to change the fact she is clearly one of the greatest horses this country has seen in decades.
BTW, I would hardly call running in the BC Classic against arguably the best horses running was being treated like a hothouse flower. The hothouse treatment was running RA against weak fillies in her age-restricted races and then facing MA and Bullsbay in the Woodward rather than the QR and SB in the Travers. Jackson is a shrewd business man and he knew his great filly had some distance limitations and was better served running at a shorter distance and against a weaker field. Now he's done the smart move and pulled her from the AB. I felt win or lose yesterday, RA would not be anywhere near Oaklawn in 3 weeks.

ballyfager said...

Zenyatta wins by default! Jackson and Asmussen look like a couple of schmucks (and so do I for thinking they knew what they were doing).

As Jerry Brown says on his blog, if Zardana isn't in the race Rachel wins by twelve and it's on to OP. She ran as fast as fast as they had any right to expect her to run. What's really going on here?

As I said this morning, anyone who read the PP's could see that Zardana was a legitimate threat. If they were so concerned about her getting beat they should have scraatched yesterday.

I really doubt these two horses will ever meet now and that's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Can I get back to you on whether or not I support the Palin/Mann ticket?

Dirty said...

Bally -
It's not really a shame they won't meet. We already know the outcome. Rachel was a fraud. She will be retired next. I actually think Joy Scott riding Zenyatta could beat Jesus Christ riding Rachel Alexandra.

BTW I saw Calvin Borel at Santa Anita today and I flashed him the international "choke" sign.

steve in nc said...

I only wish Zardana had been scratched. With Rachael winning by double digits, her connections (and Joe Drape) would have been singing "On the the Apple Blossom." This is another illustration of why I put more stock in good speed figures than notions about "class."

If Shirreffs had a magic wand, I bet he'd go back in time and scratch Zardana too. Not everyday you get a shot at a $5M purse with no males allowed. Bye bye $3M winner's share.

But these guys aren't psychic, and I suspect no one is ducking anyone either. Most owners fall in love with their horses' potential and abilities.

Anonymous said...

Steve, great point!

Shirreffs cost his other owner a potential S3M.

Wonder if Z will even bother now? Shame is it was shaping up as a terrific field even without RA.

Wonder if they can perhaps make the purse $2M if Z and a few other G1 winners run?

Do all those nominees get their $200 fee back now that they are running for a lot less money?

How about the ticket holders many of whom purchased air fare and hotel rooms?

Yikes, a friend was trying to talk me into going but I wisely told him racing was too unpredictable to make long range plans.

As for RA, a 100 Beyer would appear good enough to move to the next step, except of course if they have zero intention of ever facing Z.

Oh yeah, you RA defenders are being just a tad hypocritical blaming the defeat on an unfavorable surface after touting the Haskell win over a speed favoring sloppy surface as one of her great achievements, just saying.

Anonymous said...

Some of the "commentary" here leaves something to be desired. So, let me try to offer the likely perspective from Jackson/Assmusen:

Nobody knows their filly better than they do. Can we agree on that? So, it was not a bad comeback race. She ran hard, needed the race, posted a 100 beyer and can move forward, correct?

Yes, that's all well and good on paper, but it's also possible she's just not the same horse as last year. Can we agree that's a distinct possibility? Who would know this better than her connections themselves? They want to do right by their horse. If they feel she isn't ready, then more power to them. I would believe them, since they have every financial interest in running for the $5m if their filly is ready.

As a Rachel supporter, here's what I said last year and what I'll say again right now: The Rachel of 2009 would beat Zenyatta in this race. And the Rachel of 2009 had a vastly superior year compared to the Zenyatta of 2009. That's it. As far as career accomplishments, I'd give Zenyatta the nod. She's an iron mare. Based on Saturday, Zenyatta looks like a better horse right now.

So, let's try to keep things in perspective. And to call Rachel a "fraud" reveals that you know nothing about horseracing, dirtypants. My suggestion is to stop embarrassing yourself with silly comments like that. Let's try to keep the ignorance to a minimum on Alan's blog. -JP from SD.

Anonymous said...

"She blew after the race, but she wasn't exhausted," Asmussen said Sunday morning. "She drank plenty of water afterwards. It took her a little while to leave the test barn, but she went back to the barn comfortably. She went right to her feed tub last night, and she was in very good health this morning."

Wow, sounds like she was REALLY knocked out by this race, any logical person would conclude she simply could not run back in only 26 days.

What a joke, just retire her to the breeding shed already if you are going to duck and hide all year, tired of these Jess Jackson press releases.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: I don't how you
can say that RA would have beaten
Zen in 2009.

Anonymous said...

I don't know for certain RA would have beaten Zen in '09. It's merely my opinion. I base this on a number of factors: 1. Superior tactical speed, which often decides races. 2. Her thorograph figures were faster than Zenyatta's. Before you start ranting about speed figures not deciding races -- I agree with you -- they are one of many measures, but they are a handicapping tool and they say Rachel is faster. 3. Related to point #1, with her superior tactical speed, Rachel would not have to give up as much ground on the turns as Zenyatta.

This is all just opinion of course. But to use Saturday's results as some kind of "evidence" that the Zenyatta of 2009 was better than the Rachel of 2009 strikes me as total stupidity, which I have come to expect from certain members of the Zenyatta fan club. -JP from SD.

Erin said...

Looking forward to Bambera taking on Z in the Apple Blossom. Still pissed off it's on a Friday.

Anonymous said...

Lol. I don't know anything about racing. I'm sure I was the only person here cashing in the NO ladies.

Rachel might not even be a grade 1 performer as an older horse.


DiscreetPicks said...

I don't see how anyone can state that Rachel had a "vastly surperior year" to Zenyatta in 2009. Was that before or after Zenyatta won the Breeders Cup Classic???

Anonymous said...

At the moment, we all ought to be a lot more concerned about the future of NY racing. Do you realize how the ground is shaking under all 3 NYRA tracks? Hey, Albany, show us the MONEY! RA and Zen will sort themselves out over time.....being a history major, I am averse to the judgments of instant historians- speculative historians!- in any endeavor. Relax, let the RA-Zen rivalry play itself out this year. When it is over, we can start making the case for our faves.

Anonymous said...

Dirtyshirt, what a complete and utter clown you are. Ever since the invention of the internet, there have been clowns coming on after big races and saying "I had the winner." Next time, tell us who you are betting before the race. I can smell a charlatan from a mile away. -JP from SD.

Anonymous said...

JP - Keep losing buddy. I really hope the SD is south Dakota not San Diego.

BTW I did give that one out.