February 3, 2010

Rachel vs. Zenyatta for … One Trillion Dollars???

Not quite, but it could be closer than you may think.

Oaklawn Park owner and president Charles Cella has proclaimed a major announcement is forthcoming. Apparently, he is primed to promote one of the biggest races ever seen at the historic racetrack. The details of what he will announce at 10 a.m. CST tomorrow have been kept quiet. The immediate reaction by everyone, was to assume he was speaking of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap and the possible combatants. The match up that everyone craves to see, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta together on the racetrack, taking place on April the 3rd at Oaklawn Park. Could this actually be the big announcement? Yes.

Here is what I expect Mr. Cella to announce: Oaklawn Park will offer $5 million if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, run in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. That would mean the normal Apple Blossom purse will be increased by ten times, making it the richest winner’s purse in American racing history, which in turn would mean that the chances of getting them together in the starting gate, in eight short weeks, is quite good.

Five million dollars is big. It demonstrates a willingness by important people within the business to do whatever it takes to see our sport step up and promote the best thing that has happened in racing for a long time. I praise Mr. Cella and the Oaklawn Jockey Club for going for it in a big way. Alone Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are both stars. Together they will create a happening that many feared was lost forever in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing. The huge purse increase for the megastars creates a bit of a slippery slope, but frankly, I do not care. The bottom line is we see Rachel and Zenyatta together, once and for all.

Why Oaklawn and the Apple Blossom? It provides a fair dirt track that both horses have run on, and won on previously. Zenyatta won the 2008 Apple Blossom impressively. In her only career start on dirt, she defeated the reigning Eclipse Award winning mare, Ginger Punch. Meanwhile, Rachel Alexandra won two of her first three starts in her 2009 Horse of the Year campaign, romping in both the Martha Washington and Fantasy Stakes. The timing of the Apple Blossom also opens the door for more meetings throughout the year, hopefully culminating with both stars racing in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Leading up to the Apple Blossom, look for both horses to have one preparatory race. For Zenyatta, it will likely be the Santa Margarita Invitational at Santa Anita on March 13. Rachel Alexandra very well could use the newly created New Orleans Ladies at the Fair Grounds on March 13 as her prep.

Will this happen? Only time will tell, but if it does, the world will stand still as the stars align. Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta, make it happen!

37 comments:

Kate said...

Hmm, I don't know... No matter what the offer ss I don't know if Rachel is going to be ready. She is slowly coming back into form and only JUST posted her first official work. $5 million or not, they wont run her if she isn't ready and I doubt they wont rush her.

Jennifer Cook said...

Wow, Brian. I hope you are right. Were you sure enough to make your reservations!?

Anonymous said...

how sweet it is....!!!!!!!!!stay tuned........

Chris Coleman said...

I wouldnt rule out RA being ready Steve Asmussen can get her ready. im more intrested in whats in the rest of the field dose John Sherriffs bring Life is Sweet and have a coupled entry. or dose he bring in a rabbit to keep RA honnest on the front end? would the other connections duck this race and pick a softer spot to bring back their mares? or is the 5 mill enough to bring out RA Z careless Jewel and everyother multiple graded stakes distaffer in the world?

tjreyn01 said...

As Chris said about wondering who else may show, this could quite possibly end up basically being a BC Ladies classic type of field. Guess we wait and see what happens. Either way, exciting news!

Kate said...

This is why I am unsure...

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/55125/rachel-alexandra-has-first-breeze-at-fg

Mike M said...

Brian, have you heard for sure that it is the Apple Blossom, and not the Oaklawn Handicap?

Brian Zipse said...

Actually Mike, I have not. Sources have been saying it is the Apple Blossom, but maybe that is only what they assumed. The Oaklawan Handicap is grade 2 while the Apple Blossom is a grade 1, but the Oaklawn 'cap might be at a more desirable distance of 1 1/8, compared to the Blossom's 1 1/16. The good news is both races are April 3 at oaklawn!

Sarah Grice said...

Kate, that was her first breeze. I'm quite satisfied with the pace at which they are starting her. They want to ease her into running again. I'd be more concerned if they were just letting her run like a freight train right away!

Is Vodka definitely retired? Or would there be a chance of her coming for this?

And, I have to say it...I can't believe I bought tickets a few weeks ago! They are on my fridge for just in case this enormous race actually happens!

Brian Zipse said...

Oh yee of little faith (Kate), you can't always believe what you read. Except for ZATT of course! LOL

SamHoustonRacePark said...

We started a Facebook group about these two ladies possibly racing at Sam Houston Race Park in March. Come join the conversation!

Anonymous said...

They never should have taken Zenyatta out of retirement. Too many risks. The mare is six years old. I think the owner has gotten a case of hubris and he's sore about not winning HOY. If anything happened to her it would be tragic. Anyway, Rachel will win.

Marti said...

Taken Zenyatta out of retirement??? She was never retired (they lied; you don't keep working a retired horse to let them down). She also has only raced for 2 years, people seem to forget that. She's also had a VERY easy over-all career.

Horses are at risk EVERY time they step on a track, even if it's to jog.

The only way to keep them all safe is to retire them all, right now...ban horse racing, and then hope for no stall accidents, paddock accidents, van accidents, etc., etc., etc....

These are RACEhorses, and there's nothing to suggest that Zenyatta is more at risk than anyone else.

I for one WANT to see a match-up between these two, I don't care where or when, just to end these debates once and for all! Some of them get SO ugly towards the respective horses, it's sick. So turn 'em loose, let 'em run, and whoever's on the wire first...let the "other fan camp" be gracious, for a change.

CNovak1 said...

My prediction: Zenyatta shows (her connections have already mentioned Oaklawn as a desirable target) while Rachel's camp uses the "slowly coming back into form" excuse to avoid Z as usual. All you have to do is read Jackson's quotes from the Eclipse Awards ceremony: "We're hoping that each horse, taking it's course, may win their way to an ultimate match, and maybe we can work toward that." Doesn't sound like he'd point for a faceoff in the first race of the season.

If Cella manages to attract the two and they actually both show up in the starting gate, he deserves an Eclipse Award of Merit.

Anonymous said...

It's like poker CNovak1 you don't tip your hand! We'll see these two down the road race each other.

Anonymous said...

I have to go .. She will already run before that , and there should only be one entry per trainer aloud!!

Katie Konrath said...

What I'd love is a "best of three" series. Anything can happen in a horse race, and if we had several races, it would be a more fair contest.

Plus, think of the enthusiasm that could be generated for the sport during a series! Could be very exciting.

Sam Houston Race Park said...

Sam Houston Race Park is also in negotiations to get these two ladies together for the first time ever...but in March, not April.

Visit our Facebook group "Zenyatta vs Rachael Alexandra in 2010" or just click here: http://www.facebook.com/theShowgrounds?ref=ts#!/group.php?gid=265789776737

Kate said...

Sarah,

First off Vodka isn't retired, YET. She is being prepped for a 'last run' as they call it here. She will be racing in the Dubai World Cup (on the new synth track) though I think she will have one prep race in Dubai before the WC. After this race she will go to Ireland to be bred. Most of us here in Japan are assuming it will be to Sea the Stars, but it is not official yet.

Second, she is a turf horse. I was shocked they were going to go synth with her, but with the success of Europe at the Breeders Cup, I guess they thought they had a shot. So there is no way she would come for the Apple Blossom.

By the time April rolls around she will have a 'date' with some lovely Irish fella.

About Rachel... my only concern is that they mentioned the weather had gotten in the way of her training. JJ mentions he think it is unlikely she will be ready for said Apple Blossom. Now if he comes back and says "I will run her" it will end up making fans a little worried he is pushing. I am not saying that he is, but to say 'she's not ready' one day... then after a multi-million dollar invite is extended and he says 'ok, I'll run her'. See what I'm thinking?

Thats all. I'm going on the comments by her connection, not the quality of her work.

Sarah Grice said...

thanks for explaining about the "last run." i know she's a turf horse, but one can dream!

EricKalet said...

I'll be there (SHRP and/or Oaklawn) if both run...

Anonymous said...

All I know from what I've seen this past year is if Jess Jackson wants to beat Zenyatta this will be his best chance. If RA and Z meet up at Churchill for the BC no way RA beats Z at 1 1/4. RA is a great horse and I am huge Z fan. I think at 1 1/16 RA has a bigger advantage with Borel whipping the crap out of her but you just don't know until they race. Either way once they meet it will be great for racing. I just hope both horses stay heathly.

Anonymous said...

absolutely not,but i would travel for all the goods that the city and its surrounding environs has to offer,namely the hot springs, the race track,unbelievable great eats,rewarding digs among others

LDP said...

I think the connections of RA are just trying to keep from fueling to much public speculation right now. All that would do is add more pressure than needed for her to return and win. Best for him just to keep quiet until her first race, which will probably be the New Orleans Ladies, as an easy prep.

If this match up happens, IMO, it will be bigger than the Seabiscut vs War Admiral match. Also IMO, RA wins at any distance. Borel won't put her on the lead when he has a closer like Zenyatta in the race. He knows RA is better stalking and has a wicked kick if she is allowed to conserve that energy. No matter if the distance is a 8.5 or 12, RA would win.

Anonymous said...

RA win against Zenyatta at any distance, I think not. Just look back to a closing Mine That Bird and Macho Again on RA. Z is a much better closer than both of them. At 1 1/4 Z is the winner. Shorter distances may be another story but once again even at 1 1/4 Mike still had not gotten to the bottom of Z and she still finished with her ears up. Also, you have to think Mike will not have Z behind RA the usual 10 - 15 lenghts like normal. It would be a dash to the finish.

Mike M said...

Anonymous, that's exactly LDP's point. Borel will not send her out in killer fractions like in the two races you are referencing with Mine That Bird and Macho Again. If she can save up some for the stretch by running :24.something, OR by sitting a length or two off the lead, it doesn't matter what closer runs after her, they won't catch her.

Brian Zipse said...

Bambera might be the third champion in the $5 million Apple Blossom.

mvlach77 said...

Brian, any word on plans for Bambera? I've been trying to track her plans but I have not heard anything other than that she'd be in Florida.

Anonymous said...

Underestimate Zenyatta at your own risk.

Anonymous said...

Medaglia D Oro was one of the fastest horses I have ever seen. Unbeatable at a mile and an eighth but at a mile and a quarter he always ran second so I believe Rachel is beatable at the classic distance which just so happens to be Zenyattas best speed figure to date. Jackson and Assmussen are very Sharp men and they know they must take on Zenyatta in 1/16 to 1-1/8 to be untouchable against Zenyatta so I would plan on her being ready for the Apple Blossom. No one will be racing no one unless these horses win there comeback races and are healthy.

Mike M said...

Underestimate Zenyatta at my own risk? No kidding? I can't wager on both of them to win, now can I?

Brian Zipse said...

LOL Mike, maybe a place bet on both is in order.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Zipse! From now on I always come here first. Great Job!

LDP said...

Anon,
Medaglia D'Oro won the Travers I believe, so there is a win at the Classic distance. Also when running second in a 12 Belmont Stakes would also sujest he could get the distance. RA is also not her father, she is better. You say underestimate Zenyatta at your own risk, I say the same about RA to anyone who doubts her.

Dirt is a surface that spreads a field out, meaning Zenyatta will probably be farther back than she normally is on a synthetic. Against fillies, there is not a one that can pressure RA into running to fast on the lead or while stalking. When she has things her own way she has a kick that can blow a race wide open and put her 10 lengths in front of her filly counterparts in the blink of an eye. Zenyatta may have the better kick, but she will always be to far behind to catch RA. The only way to possible soften RA up is a rabbit. This whole thing actually reminds me of Damascus vs Dr. Fager. The Doctor almost always won, unless there was a rabbit to soften him up, if not he wins with ease. The same thing will happen here.

railrunner said...

Wow, nice call on this! Do you have ESP? (:

Brian Zipse said...

ESPN? Yes, yes I do.

Expect more good news on the Apple Blossom in the near future.

ja.raymond said...

Marti, I agree with every word of your Feb 3 post 110%!!

To Jackson & Moss: I know you're not going to rush your girls into anything that you even remotely feel they are not ready for (you more than proved that last yr), but let's not dilly-dally around with this.
The girls' soundness has always been at the forefront of everyone's mind in this; and I dont think everyone would be "chomping at the bit" for it if they didnt think the girls could handle it! Also, (IMO) pride may be playing a big part in this, as neither of you wants to take a chance of losing to the other, but you two are sitting on one of the biggest mysteries in horseracing history!! So, please, can we just try it and see?
Thank you both for your considerations in this contest.
Sincerely, All of racing America :)