Apple Blossom Diary: Feb. 11 - 27

This is the first of a three-part diary on the $5-million Apple Blossom Invitational (gr. I) April 9, pitting Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in a long-awaited battle for the ages. Part two will cover the month of March and part three will cover the days leading up to the race, the race itself, and the aftermath.

Feb. 11
- Charles Cella announced that the $5-million showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta that had been proposed for the April 3 Apple Blossom and was rejected by Jess Jackson because of the timing was back on for April 9. Both Jackson and Jerry Moss came out with statements that they were prepared to do battle on that date. This announcement set in motion a frenzy of activity, with the media and fans rushing to make arrangements.

Blood-Horse editor Eric Mitchell called later that afternoon and asked if I had any interest in going to Oaklawn to cover the race. Hmm, let's see, cover the race of the millennium, the greatest non-Triple Crown event since Seabiscuit--War Admiral? Uh, sure, why not? Heck, I'll even stay and watch the Arkansas Derby the next day. And if Lenny Shulman winds up going, we can shoot "And They're Off" from Oaklawn. With the race being held on a Friday afternoon in mid-April, Thoroughbred racing and Hot Springs, Ark. should be the center of the sports universe.

Eric said he was able to reserve one room at the Austin Hotel and Convention Center and would call them again and try to reserve another room. I immediately called Continental and booked a nonstop flight from Newark to Little Rock, arriving Tuesday night and leaving early Monday morning. Things are happening fast.

Earlier that morning, Zenyatta worked a solid six furlongs in 1:13 4/5 for her scheduled debut in the March 13 Santa Margarita Handicap. Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle is trying to get management to change the conditions of the race to weight-for-age. Imagine Zenyatta getting beat for the first time in her life conceding a ton of weight off a 4 1/2-month layoff. That would remove her unbeaten aura and prove disastrous for Oaklawn, greatly reducing the importance of the race. Neither filly can afford to lose their prep. Rachel Alexandra will go into hers - the New Orleans Ladies - off a seven-month layoff.

Feb. 12
- Rachel Alexandra, who is on a tight timetable, with no room for error, worked in the slop at Fair Grounds this morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 4/5. Asmussen normally would have put off this work, but it's time to get serious and stick with the schedule if she is to make her prep in the New Orleans Ladies, the same day as the Santa Margarita. Don't think Charles Cella and the rest of the racing world won't be holding their breath on that day.

Feb. 13
- Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds called and asked what I thought of the idea of Oaklawn Park opening the race to males; he was intrigued with the idea of running Macho Again for $5 million. My thought is, because it is an established filly race they couldn't include males in the Apple Blossom, and that Oaklawn is thrilled enough to have Rachel and Zenyatta. This race is all about them and there was no need to bring males into the mix. That can come later on after this grudge match is settled.

Feb. 15
- I e-mailed my go-to guy at Oaklawn, Jason Milligan, in communications and told him I would be making my first trip there. I never thought in a million years that if I ever did get down to Oaklawn it would be for the Apple Blossom. I had tried calling him, but Oaklawn's number was constantly busy. I can only imagine the overload of phone calls after all hell broke loose. It took one person who had purchased 20 seats for April 3 six hours to get through to Oaklawn after hearing of the change of date and the confirmation from both Jess Jackson and Jerry Moss. He was told those 20 seats are not valid for April 9.

Jason's reply to my e-mail: "It's about time you decided to show up.  The Austin is a good spot.  It is probably 2 miles from the racetrack. Be glad that you have a reservation anywhere (seriously)."

Later that afternoon he wrote back: "It has been hectic and will be that way for the next seven weeks. If the race had been held on April 3, we could have made a light business day big, but now we are making a good day better. The people that already had April 9 tickets feel like they hit the lottery."

But the people who rushed to get tickets and hotel rooms and make flight arrangements immediately after the April 3 proposal was announced are out of luck.

That same night I received an e-mail from Harry King, columnist with Stephens Media in Arkansas, saying: "Was at Oaklawn today (Monday), talking with Jason Milligan about widespread interest in the April 9 race. He shared your e-mail to him and your e-mail address. I would like to use it and your trip to Arkansas to help illustrate what a big deal it is. I have a few questions I would like to incorporate into a column."

Feb. 16
- It didn't take long for ebay to get in on the action. Two tickets on the finish line are being offered for $1,100 and a box for $6,500.

Because my plane arrives in Little Rock at 10:19 p.m. on April 6 and it's over an hour drive to Hot Springs, and because my plane leaves Little Rock at 7 a.m. April 12, I made reservations at a Holiday Inn Express for the nights of April 6 and 11.  

The worst thing that can happen, with the exception of an injury, is for either filly to get beat in their prep. In that regard, Zenyatta's connections and fans received good news today when trainer Mike Mitchell announced that Santa Maria Handicap winner St. Trinians, the fastest rising female star in the country, will pass the Santa Margarita and face the boys instead in the Santa Anita Handicap a week earlier. St. Trinians has dominated her opposition in all four of her starts since arriving in the States from England, where she was a solid handicapper on Polytrack, winning or placing with weights as high as 138, 137, and 134.

Feb. 17
- A new website was launched today for the Apple Blossom by the Hot Springs convention and Visitors Bureau. As reported by KARK 4 News on

"The excitement over a big upcoming race at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs is spilling over onto the World Wide Web.

A special internet website containing all available information about the April 9th $5-million Apple Blossom Invitational featuring famous fillies Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta has been established.

‘The website will be opened to the public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17,' said Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is having the site created.

‘People interested in the Apple Blossom will find a one-stop web address to find out the very latest information,' Arrison said."

Feb. 18
- Rachel Alexandra is starting to get serious, as indicated by her 1:00 1/5 breeze this morning, second fastest of 19 works at the distance. Because she went so slow in the slop last week she was more aggressive this time. Steve Asmussen indicated that Rachel has put on more than 100 pounds during her fall and winter vacation.

The two stars are now on the same work day schedule, as Zenyatta also breezed, going six furlongs in 1:14 at Hollywood Park, fastest of four works. John Shirreffs said she "looked absolutely beautiful."

A representative from Saudi Arabia called Oaklawn wanting to know how large an aircraft Memorial Field in Hot Springs can accommodate, basically inquiring whether or not the sheikhs will be able to land their 747.

Every hotel in Hot Springs is already booked (all 3,840 rooms in the city), and people are being directed to hotels in Arkadelphia, Mt. Ida, Benton, Bryant, and Little Rock. It is being projected that Oaklawn's attendance record of 72,484 for the 2006 Arkansas Derby will be eclipsed, especially if infield bleacher seats are added. Reserved seats are sold out, and bidding on eBay is beginning to pick up. A pair of reserved seats are currently going for $202 with almost five days remaining.

Arkansas-born producer-director Harry Thomasson, best known for the TV series Designing Women, has contacted Oaklawn about doing a documentary on the race. Other producers have made similar inquiries.

Can racing really pull this off?

Ellen Kiser, secretary to our publisher Stacy Bearse, called this afternoon and asked me if I'm set with a hotel room. She contacted every hotel in Hot Springs trying to get a room for Stacy and there was nothing available, so she is attempting to get him a three-bedroom condo to rent. My buddy Ed Fountaine of the New York Post called shortly after asking me about my hotel situation. He got shut out as well, but found a cabin by a lake and was looking for someone to share it with. By the time he called back, all the cabins were booked. Fortunately, he was able to find a motel for $59 a night. This is really getting crazy. And the race is still seven weeks away.

Of course, it didn't take long for the misinformed PETA zealots to get in the act. Their vice-president Kathy Guillermo sent letters to Jackson and Moss urging them not to enter their fillies in the "match race," citing Ruffian's catastrophic injury and even mentioning Go For wand and Bayakoa, implying that the Breeders' Cup Distaff was "essentially a match race." Apparently Ms. Guillermo hasn't looked at Rachel's and Zenyatta's past performances or even cares about the fact that they have totally opposite running styles.

Feb. 19
- Rachel Alexandra came out of yesterday's work in great shape. She is scheduled to work six furlongs next Wednesday (Feb. 24) and then have her most serious work the following Tuesday (March 2).

John Shirreffs could be away from Zenyatta for the first time if Life is Sweet winds up going to Dubai for the World Cup on March 27. That's only two weeks before the Apple Blossom. To say his mind will be in two places at once is a gross understatement. His wife, Dottie, who is racing manager for the Mosses, wrote me: "Not sure yet what is happening. John is getting his passport (hasn't had one in years). Being apart from Zenyatta would also be interesting, especially with the timing of the different races. So...what can I say? 

"In relation to Oaklawn, I heard that everything is booked already. People in California have been talking about doing a charter for the day as there are NO rooms....but not sure about the seating. It should be interesting and fun!   The hope is that all of this is great for racing! It's such a great sport.....let's hope!"

I will be in Dubai as well and it should be interesting watching Shirreffs over there dealing with the World Cup, with Zenyatta more than 8,000 miles away.

Feb. 22
- Fifty thousand trading cards of Rachel and Zenyatta will be printed on Wednesday (Feb. 24) by the Hot Springs Convention and Visitor's Bureau - 25,000 of each horse - and will given away at the Hot Springs Visitor's Center on March 2 at the track on March 6.

Feb. 23
- The early odds are out in Las Vegas, and Rachel Alexandra (--140) is favored over Zenyatta (+120).

Feb. 24
- Rachel Alexandra breezed six furlongs in 1:14 this morning, coming home her final quarter in :24 1/5 and galloping out a very strong seven furlongs in 1:27. Asmussen called the work "ideal" and "way easier" than her last work."

So far, 10 fillies have been nominated to the Apple Blossom, with Rachel and Zenyatta still not officially nominated. One of those who is, who no doubt will bring a different type of intrigue to the race, is Venezuelan Horse of the Year and Filly Triple Crown winner Bambera, who has won 16 of her 18 starts by an average margin of almost six lengths and is riding a six-race winning streak. Although Venezuelan-bred, her two maternal great-grandsires are American Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed, and her broodmare sire is Le Voyageur, whom Patrick Biancone brought to the U.S. to finish third behind Easy Goer and Sunday Silence in the Belmont Stakes. To the fans in Venezuela, she is known as "Her Royal Highness," according to Claire Novak on

If Bambera, who is currently training at Calder Race Course, working five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 Feb. 22, should upset the two American superhorses, what kind of propaganda will that be for Hugo Chavez? Could this be another Max Schmeling - Joe Louis scenario?

Also among the 10 nominees are West Point Thoroughbreds' Justwhistledixie, so Terry Finley could be running for $5 million after all. She is the 5-2 morning line favorite in Saturday's one-mile Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream.

Feb. 25
– Message on the Apple Blossom Facebook page: “MY HOME FOR RENT FOR APPLE BLOSSOM... WALK TO THE TRACK...5 BEDROOMS! MESSAGE ME!!!!!!”

Others read: “Available single, detached lake cottage, 10 min. to Oaklawn Racetrack, very nice neighborhood…I have a 2 bedroom 2 bath Condo at Sunbay for rent Derby Week!...Two bedroom, 1 1/2-bath townhomes available for rent in Hot Springs Village. Call (so and so at…) and tell her that I sent you! Very reasonable rates!”

You get the picture. This could be a real money-maker for anyone with a large enough house close to the track, even just for parking.

Feb. 26 – Working two days after Rachel this time, Zenyatta breezed a strong six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 this morning, fourth fastest of 15 works at the distance. Mike Smith called the work “unbelievable.” Shirreffs caught her final quarter in :24 flat.

A check over at eBay shows the bidding on a six-seat box for April 9 and 10 going for $3,050, with almost four days of bidding still remaining. A two-bedroom condo overlooking the lake for April 2nd to the 9th and four reserved seats are being offered at $10,000, but no bidders yet on this one.

Unfortunately for Calvin Borel, Todd Pletcher has decided to run Super Saver, on whom Borel won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn the same day Rachel runs at Fair Grounds. That will force Borel to take off a hot Derby horse, but there is still an excellent chance he will get the mount back, as Pletcher is loaded with Derby horses. For Borel, of course, it’s a no-brainer. He’s already given up a 6 3/4-length winner of the Kentucky Derby to ride Rachel. For Borel, this is a love affair.

If there is one filly who could possibly pose a threat to Rachel and Zenyatta on her best day, and could compromise Rachel on the pace, it is the brilliant Alabama winner Careless Jewel, whose kamikaze mission in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic was a complete disaster. But with only a pair of slow half-mile breezes at Palm Meadows in :53 2/5 and :52 3/5, she is nowhere near a race.

Feb. 27 – The proposal to change the conditions of the Santa Margarita Handicap to a weight-for-age race was rejected by Santa Anita management, so Zenyatta will have to carry substantial weight in her first start of the year and make large concessions to her opponents. You can bet racing secretary Rick Hammerle will make the weight spread as fair as possible.

Justwhistledixie ran an uninspired fourth in today’s Sabin Stakes and certainly didn’t look like a filly who can compete with Rachel and Zenyatta.

The bidding on that box at Oaklawn for April 9 and 10 is up to $4,800 on eBay. That’s $800 bucks a person.

So, ends part I. Who knows what March will bring as the days count down? Once Rachel and Zenyatta get by their March 13 races successfully and in good health, then we can start smelling the apple blossoms.


Leave a Comment:


Awesome! I'm looking forward to more.

28 Feb 2010 8:48 PM
Paula Higgins

Great diary!!!!!!! Loved the tidbits about the Saudis inquiring if the airport could handle their jet. What a hoot. Keep it coming.

28 Feb 2010 8:53 PM

This is really interesting - Thanks. How many people can the Oaklawn Track hold?

28 Feb 2010 9:42 PM

This is just GREAT!!! Loved every word. The way things are going, you should have no problem finding fodder for this diary (as if you ever had such a problem). If it's crazy now, so far in advance, imagine what it will be like the week of the Apple Blossom. I'm buckling my seat belt...this is going to be a heck of a ride. :)

28 Feb 2010 9:52 PM

Bambera huh?

That's exactly why this race is being held too early in the year.

If they don't finish 1- 2 nose to nose, and/or one or both gets beat by a third horse, you can pretty much write off the rest of the season as far as the kind of drama and story line it'd take to get non-fans into the tent.

28 Feb 2010 9:53 PM
Sarah G

Great article. I am a bit sad, though, that everybody has danced around the poor treatment Oaklawn has given those of us who had tickets for April 3 and weren't able to get through in time to get them on April 9. I wish thay had been willing to acommodate us with access to tickets, even general admission tickets. I went from having reserved seats on the finish line to being unable to even obtain general admission seats. It's a shame.

28 Feb 2010 9:55 PM

I have been at OP with about 72,000 on the grounds for the ARK Derby Day. Plenty of room for the fans, you just might have to park a few hundred yards away.  I have watched the big races at SA, KEE, CD, LS and Arlington Park.  OP is by far and away the best value for the race fans on their big days.  Oh, keep trying the Arlington Hotel, this classic old hotel makes you feel like Al Capone.

28 Feb 2010 10:35 PM

I'm flummoxed that Oaklawn won't honor tickets purchased for the 2010 APPLE BLOSSOM, whatever the date may be.  Will the purchase price be returned to the buyers at least?

I feel so sorry for all the people who made vacation arrangements and hotel reservations, bought plane tickets, etc., for April 3rd and have now been shafted by Oaklawn as repayment for wanting to support this endeavor.  It could be very, very bad PR for the track and the sport, just the opposite of what Mr. Cella wanted to accomplish.

Sorry for the negative comment, Steve.  Delete it if you like. Your diary is a wonderful idea and I'll look forward to parts 2 & 3.  

28 Feb 2010 10:57 PM
Pam S.

I'll be hanging on every word!!

28 Feb 2010 11:01 PM
Meydan Rocks!

One cool diary!!! I hope the big two are on their games for their big dance! Oh boy wouldn't it be fun to see Z actually tracking closer to the pace?

28 Feb 2010 11:11 PM

What if rachel or zenyatta loses their prep races?

28 Feb 2010 11:19 PM

Hot Springs is my hometown and Oaklawn naturally my home track, with perfect weather and the infield open to patrons, Oaklawn can hold well over 100,000.  I have a number of reserved seats I hope that everyone is able to enjoy the festivities.  If you are in need of reserved seats considering they are sold out please let me know.

28 Feb 2010 11:43 PM

Um, er ... Steve? As awesome as your report is, what is the website address??

"A new website was launched today for the Apple Blossom.... "

Yeah, I'd like to know that, THANKS!

28 Feb 2010 11:49 PM
Sarah G

"I'm flummoxed that Oaklawn won't honor tickets purchased for the 2010 APPLE BLOSSOM, whatever the date may be.  Will the purchase price be returned to the buyers at least?"

Sherpa, your comment was similar to mine! I wanted to answer your question. No, we received no refunds for the April 3rd tickets and we received no "guarantee" or presale to get tickets for April 9th. So while some people were able to call get get 20+ reserved tickets to sell for inflated prices on ebay, those of us who had already purchased tickets before the big announcement were basically screwed. My husband and I tried to call all day long the day they went on sale, but by the time I got through that afternoon, they wouldn't sell any more presale tickets. And their customer service has been horrible in the contact i have had with them. I'm really disappointed in Oaklawn.

Steve, that said, thank you so much for the 3 part blog. I'm looking forward to following this over the next month or so!

01 Mar 2010 12:18 AM

I'm sorry for all who had tickets for the 3rd, but if they hadn't changed the date this wouldn't even be happening. I think Zen's the best horse, but Borel's the best jockey. I'm a fan of both. May the best mare win. And i don't think Bambera can do it, but if she can i'd love to see that too.

01 Mar 2010 1:23 AM

WOOHOO!  This is going to be FUN!!  I can't wait ... I don't care if I have to sleep on the sidewalk, but I will BE THERE on 09 April...  

01 Mar 2010 1:40 AM

P.S. I LOVE YOU, MAN... Keep the news coming Mr. Haskins.. i liked the part about the Saudi's 747 jet.. hehe.. wherever those sheiks go, they always go in STYLE..

01 Mar 2010 1:41 AM
John Boudreau

Steve>>I'm So So Glad we will have the Best of The Best>>in Hot Springs>>to give us the Real Story>>Thankx and Good Luck!!!!!

01 Mar 2010 6:18 AM

"WOW", Now that would just be something!, Another horse runs in this race and beats both Rachel and Zenyatta. I can't fathom it.

I actually don't think that could happen, especially with Zenyatta and her closing runs she does, but this is life and anything can happen.

01 Mar 2010 6:24 AM
Don from Delaware

Wow us humans sure are complicated...just think, all these gem horses will show up and run for under two minutes, but what a run it should be, what a field and what a day April 9 will be for horse racing.

Dear Diary....."what a day it's been!

01 Mar 2010 6:37 AM

We have our reserved seats for April 3 and our hotel reservations.  We never once thought Oaklawn Park owed us any refund because of the date change for the Apple Blossom.  In this age of "entitlement" I'm not surprised others expect a refund.  We ordered our tickets before anything was finalized, which we considered a gamble.  I imagine others did the same thing. We rolled the dice and lost, but racing is the WINNER! Go RACHEL!

01 Mar 2010 7:38 AM
In support of Oaklawn

I am amazed at the people complaining about Oaklawn not exchanging their April 3, tickets for April 9.  This is a STAKES race. Any horse can scratch at any time  for any reason up until the starting gate.  There are no guarantees.

I give this race a 50% chance of actually happening, given the nature of horse racing.  I don't see either owner or trainer letting their horse run if they don't feel they're absolutely on top of their game. Anyone in the horse business knows how much can go wrong in the period of time leading up to the race.

01 Mar 2010 7:59 AM

I would try going west of Hot Springs to the National can camp out there....really nice , just rent an RV and have a blast. I am not kidding!

01 Mar 2010 8:15 AM

All of Hot springs is a National Park, and it's beautiful.  Take a tour of the baths.(Do not dip your toe in the stream running down the's a tad scalding).  Drink from the fountain in the center of town (but don't burn you tongue...they are HOT mineral springs after all).  Across from the fountain (but it's been a while since I've been there) is a great bar with amazing stories(of the bordello type). Take the tour to the lake in a duck (amphibious vehicle). The scenery is incredible and beautiful.  Enjoy yourself. This entire town is desert on the Apple Blossom menu.

01 Mar 2010 9:06 AM

What a great diary, Steve!  I'm so happy you've shared it with us and I'm also thrilled you are going to Hot Springs (and Dubai).  Hot Springs itself is a beautiful, beautiful place and I only wish you'd have time to explore some of the touristy stuff, too, but the racing is what it's all about this time.  I had truly hoped I'd be making to Arkansas for this racing season, but it doesn't look like that's going to work out, but I'll definitely be looking forward to your diary updates as well as your other reports.  Have fun!!

01 Mar 2010 9:22 AM
Steve Haskin
01 Mar 2010 9:25 AM

Great report, Steve.

Just wish this race were scheduled for May or even June, when it was apparent that both mares were fully back, fully ready.  For Steve A to work Rachel in the slop when he would not have normally is an indication of what I'm not comfortable with here.  These are two of the greatest race mares ever, and they get slammed together willy-nilly just so fans can have their fun (and Oaklawn can cash in)?  Whichever one doesn't win---particularly if it's Rachel, but Zenyatta as well---can reasonably argue that it was too early. Not to mention that rushing through training heightens the risk of injury.

All the other tracks were having the good sense to let the horsemen get the horses ready on the schedules best for each---but not Cella.  And, unfortunately, Jackson and Moss bought into it.

01 Mar 2010 9:41 AM

I meant "dessert".

01 Mar 2010 9:43 AM

I saw Banbera at the Clasico del Caribe I don't think she is in Rachel And Zenyatta's class. I hope I am  wrong. How it would be if the Derby for whatever reason is changed dates and the tickects are not honored.  

01 Mar 2010 9:53 AM
Big Red

"the brilliant Alabama winner Careless Jewel, whose first try on synthetics in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic was a complete disaster"

  Hmmmmmmm - how could a horse who has raced at Woodbine and Keenland make their first start on synthetics in the Ladies Classic???

01 Mar 2010 10:17 AM

Go Bambera....Careless Jewel...Anyone !  Just put an end to all this endless hype and bickering!  I, among others are tired of all of it !  Liking both horses (especially "Z") but hey, enough is enough.

01 Mar 2010 10:38 AM
Pam S.

I would like to respond to the (legitimate) concerns raised by Catbird.

In a way, it seems like the RA-Z matchup is happening so fast.  But not really.  The desire to get these two fabulous females in the same starting gate has been building up since about late June.  There was frustration, hopelessness when Z was announced as retired, then happiness when the retirement was rescinded and finally sheer joy when both owners okayed the April 9 date.  To me it seems more like "destiny" than "willy-nilly."

Each of these two Thoroughbreds -- probably the best-cared-for animals in the world -- has been off for months.  Looking at the past year, you couldn't call either of them over-raced.  I do think the Woodward knocked Rachel out, but she has had extra time.  

The date chosen was two months in advance when announced.  Z has been working regularly, RA's schedule has been picked up a bit, as it would have been eventually is she were ever going to race again.  Each will have time for a prep, hopefully a fairly easy victory.

All in all, I think the timing is pretty good.  Summer?  Sure, we could wait for that, but every week that goes by could be the week something unforeseeable goes wrong, not just the week the horses become more fit.

I think we should have confidence each team knows their horse and would not be swayed into running if they didn't think it a good idea.  Look at the criticism the Mosses endured about Z's "cupcake" schedule in 2009, but they stuck to their plan, and that's why we are getting the chance to see this extravaganza.  

You can be negative in the face of just about anything if you want to, but I think racing fans who complain that the sport is dying and the glory days are gone should look at themselves and maybe be more positive as a first step to addressing the problem.

Love the diary, Steve.  Why are you doing it?  Because this is a huge, huge deal, too huge for so many niggling concerns.

01 Mar 2010 11:17 AM

Love your "Apple Blossom" diary Steve! All of us who won't be there will be "living vicariously" through your words.


01 Mar 2010 11:27 AM

Sounds great Steve, but I have to say, I am getting nervous/excited with every word you write. Reading about the track not honoring the tickets of those who bought early is sad, I think in the intrest of the the tracks cs reputation, they should have honored the tickets. Those who aren't upset are very forgiving folks and are a dying breed. I must confess, I don't think I could have been so nice.

As far as the race itself, is there a filly entered who can run with Rachel and keep the pace somewhat honest? That South American mare doesn't sound fast enough to be a threat, but I could be wrong.

Great diary, thanks Steve.

01 Mar 2010 11:27 AM

They should start putting out some "official" Z and RA merchandise. I know a few racing fans who would buy some... :)

01 Mar 2010 11:28 AM


If I'm not mistaken, the Apple Blossom was on Zenyatta's proposed schedule to begin with. The date change added an extra week for her to prepare. So, I don't think that there is any rushing going on in the Z camp.

As for Rachel Alexandra, I doubt that Jesse Jackson would run her unless he and Asmussen felt she was absolutely ready. Losing face, by running a short horse, does not appear to be in Mr. Jackson's DNA.

01 Mar 2010 11:30 AM
Steve Haskin

re Careless Jewel, that has been fixed

01 Mar 2010 11:30 AM

Great article Steve, as always. Two great female horses running, but what happens after this race to get new fans to the race track. Nothing is ever given to the fans. It always seems to be about the owners, trainers, and jockeys.

Even the slots give people money back, twice a month depending on how much money you spend. It could be $10-$200. Horse racing has to be about getting new fans to the track.

01 Mar 2010 11:58 AM


A remark to make on Oaklawn Park and the Apple Blossom:

I bought tickets for the original April 3rd date realizing there was a good chance that Rachel wouldn't be ready. The tickets arrived shortly after I phoned in my order and had the words APPLE BLOSSOM printed on them. I obviously bought the tickets for April 3rd because of the Apple Blossom, not the April 3rd date.

They then go and change the date and I asked if there would be a refund and they refused. I really don't think that was proper. I know this race is not the Kentucky Derby but it is quite a big race (understatement, I believe!)Imagine if fans had bought tickets for the Derby and then the date was changed and they were refused refunds. Appreciate your comments. Thanks.

I did try to get tickets for the April 9th date (when I did asked if the April 3rd tickets would be honored) but lines were busy all afternoon and by the time I got through they were sold out.

01 Mar 2010 12:33 PM
The Rock


If either horse should lose their prep race, do you think that would sway the owners at all from running against each other?

01 Mar 2010 1:06 PM

"We have our reserved seats for April 3 and our hotel reservations.  We never once thought Oaklawn Park owed us any refund because of the date change for the Apple Blossom.  In this age of "entitlement" I'm not surprised others expect a refund.  We ordered our tickets before anything was finalized, which we considered a gamble.  I imagine others did the same thing. We rolled the dice and lost, but racing is the WINNER! Go RACHEL!"

I take exception to your comment above re entitlement. When a person purchases tickets to any specific event that is supposed to be held on a specific date and then that date is changed I don't see any resolution that could be considered "fair" other than a refund of the ticket purchase. I would even say a good case can be made that those tickets should be accepted for the newly scheduled date.

01 Mar 2010 1:12 PM


What a great idea!  Thank you so much for this diary!  You are not only a great writer but a terrific person to give the fans the glimpses of this historic event.  I, for one, cannot get excited about he Triple Crown until late March or early April but Zenyatta and Rachel are ALWAYS exciting.

Thanks so much for the diary and the positive spin on everything.

Let's hope all the horses stay healthy and sound.  It will be more than exciting.

01 Mar 2010 1:34 PM

Steve, it's too bad Careless Jewel is lagging in her training towards a race.  I saw her at Philly Park in the FitzDixon Cotillion; she's a real firebrand and would definitely create pace.  She's a fun filly to watch as you never know what she's going to do next.  She was relatively well behaved before the race at Philly but threw her jockey twice before the start of the Alabama and she still won by a healthy margin.

She would really be the icing on the cake!

01 Mar 2010 2:27 PM

This makes me even more depressed about living in Europe... I so wanna see this race live!

01 Mar 2010 2:33 PM

Dear Diary - It's been just like a dream.  Just when I thought racing couldn't get any more exciting!!!!

01 Mar 2010 2:40 PM

The whinning about Oaklawn not refunding the money for the tickets purchased for April 3 is crazy.  The tickets were not for a specific race they were for the entire day of racing.  Oaklawn will still be having races on April 3, so the tickets are still valid.  I didn't scream refund when I lost the money for 4 days of racing this year when Oaklawn was forced to close because of weather conditions.  

01 Mar 2010 3:14 PM
Steve Haskin

Rock, I dont know about the owners, not for $5 million. But it might sway Oaklawn having to give away that kind of money if the race loses some its luster. If either filly gets beat it could signify that they are not at the top of their game this early in the year, and some of the national interest would surely decline.

01 Mar 2010 3:21 PM

STEVE....DA MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was waiting for you to come up with something regarding this super match up and as didn't disapoint.  Someone stated they are hanging on every word...I am right there with them!!! The excitement is almost unbearable. Especially since I can't decide if I even want these two super stars to face eachother.. but yet... I simply can't wait until the race.

I can't even fathom that Oaklawn will not offer a refund for the April 3rd tickets. That is beyond reasonable comprehension for me. To me the gamble was whether or not Rachel or Zen would make the race, not whether or not the race would be run. If they change the date, they offer a refund or make the tickets available for the new date. Is this not common sense? I feel sorry for all of you that purchased tickets. That is a black eye for Oaklawn as far as I'm concerned.

01 Mar 2010 3:22 PM

Wow, this is so exciting and your diary makes it even better, Steve.  My daughter's birthday is April 3 and she is a Rachel lover - I thought I'd look into getting her tickets.  Man, did I get a wake-up call.  The day after to announcement it was impossible.  I sure hope this gets the TV coverage it deserves.

01 Mar 2010 3:23 PM

MonicaV- Welcome to the more sane blog-lol!  

01 Mar 2010 3:28 PM

LOVE your blog and cant say it often enough.  It makes me feel like am there!  Keep up the terrific work.

01 Mar 2010 3:51 PM

Love the fact that Terry Finley want's to race his colt in a race for fillies.  What's next racing a 4 yr old in the Derby?  This is going to be fun!

01 Mar 2010 4:02 PM
Meydan Rocks


Thank you for corraling the likes of CATBIRD back into the cage.

When will we quit with the whining?

Mr Cella has done a great thing. Heck, there is even major network coverage in the works. If there was a better date within the current Oaklawn racing schedule, I'm sure he would have chosen that after all it's his money that's riding on all this...

Thanks you.

01 Mar 2010 4:40 PM
Sarah G

"The whinning about Oaklawn not refunding the money for the tickets purchased for April 3 is crazy.  The tickets were not for a specific race they were for the entire day of racing."

First of all, learn how to spell whining.

Second of all, you can come look at my tickets, if you want to. They say "April 3rd--Apple Blossom" on them in black and white. I purchased tickets to the Apple Blossom. The date was moved. Effort should have been made to accommodate people who had purchased tickets to the Apple Blossom on the date it was originally scheduled. It's not as if a horse scratched. What a stupid comparison. The entire race was moved to a different day.

01 Mar 2010 4:52 PM

While I commend Oaklawn for working to get this race done, I think that it shows a real lack of class on their part to not give existing holders of tickets for Apr. 3rd the right of first-refusal for Apr. 9th.  (And no, this doesn't affect me or anyone I know personally.)

01 Mar 2010 4:53 PM

Great Diary Steve! Love your reference to the Peta nut jobs. Aren't they something else? This race gives me giant goose bumps just thinking about it. I'm am a huge Rachel fan but something tells me this could be the most famous dead heat in the history of this sport.

01 Mar 2010 5:14 PM
Craig Duncan

Box Seats for $4,800

2BD Condo for $10,000

Las Vegas Odds out 7 weeks prior

WHAT is this the


01 Mar 2010 6:13 PM
Mike M

A fantastic read Mr. Haskin.  As a local, it's tough to tell if the nation is as excited about the possiblity of this race as we are.  It sure seems to be that way, you've conveyed many of our thoughts and emotions.

As for those of you who lost out on the April 3rd Apple Blossom....yes, you should have been offered a refund, but to say you should have received tickets for the new date on April 9th?  What about those who already had 'your' seats for the day?  Kick them out?  Remember, there were already lots of seats sold for the 9th, as it is the day before what's usually the biggest day at Oaklawn, The Arkansas Derby.

And also remember, general admission is only $ can still get in and enjoy the infield. ;)

01 Mar 2010 6:21 PM

@Sarah G,

Sarah I was another one who ordered tickets for April 3.I had to fight with Oaklawn to get a refund.I think it is disgusting the way I was treated as well as other race fans that ordered tickets.I told the Ticket person I will never set foot in Arkansas and never bet another race at Oaklawn.Very poor customer service.I will write a letter to Cella to voice my displeasure.

01 Mar 2010 7:20 PM

Footlick!  LOL!  Glad to see you here!  Yes, Steve's blog is more sane.  Not that Jason invites insanity but the bloggers there can be a little over the top.

01 Mar 2010 7:22 PM

How could people say we are whining about our tickets.I live in Pennsylvania and was planning to fly their and stay in a hotel.So I would be dumping money in Arkansas.The ticket person said to me well we still have the Oaklawn Handicap.i told her I am not dropping $800 for a plane,hotel and car to come see the OAklawn Handicap.Just a terrible job by Oaklawn Park.

01 Mar 2010 7:27 PM
Ida Lee

Wow, what fun reading!! I'm very worried about the girls' training time. I'm wondering if it's enough for such a big race. And that Bambera. How long has she been in this country training to beat our girls? Is she going to have a prep race? I must say from the one picture I saw of her, she is absolutely gorgeous. If she runs as good as she looks, we're in trouble.

01 Mar 2010 7:40 PM

I to thank you Steve for writing these diarys as you have to be most of our eyes and ears since we can't be there. Your writing is so good it's like it is speaking and showing the pictures to my mind.I can at least imagine.

01 Mar 2010 7:44 PM

Meydan Rocks,

Didn't mean to corral Catbird in any cage.:)  I was just commenting on his/her earlier post.

Mr. Haskin,

On an unrelated subject, but just as thrilling, I just read your article on Kip Deville's recovery from dreaded laminitis. Thank you for the update on a horse so many of us love and were worried about. Some people have been critical of IEAH but we must give them lots of praise for hanging in there and giving Kip every chance at recovery. So here's to continued progress towards good health for the beautiful grey and kudos to his connections!

01 Mar 2010 7:50 PM
Miguel Pontrelli Jr

Hi everybody, especially STEVE great Diary man...!!! Sorry for my english if i make a mistake but i am from Venezuela, i just wanted to share some videos of our champion filly BAMBERA she's wonderfull, i saw her win many times here in my country... I think she is going to be a great adition to "the race of the ages", but dont know how well will she run against RACHEL and ZENYATTA at least she's going to battle to the end...

Here are the links to some of her videos down here in LA RINCONADA racecourse:

BAMBERA breaking her maiden (she lost her first start then won this race) 10/26/2008 Distance 1100 mtrs (5 1/2f):

BAMBERA'S first time against the boys in the most important G1 for 2 year olds 12/21/2008 Distance 1 mile:

BAMBERA'S first win of 2009... Against the filly's in a G2, 01/18/2009 Distance 1 mile:

BAMBERA in a stakes against filly's 05/03/2009 Distance 1 mile:

BAMBERA winning the first leg G1 of the triple tiara 05/17/2009 Distance 1 mile:

BAMBERA winning the first leg G1 of the triple crown 05/24/2009 Distance 1 mile:

BAMBERA winning the second leg G1 of the triple tiara 06/07/2009 Distance 2000 mtrs (10f):

BAMBERA'S {second and last defeat, to present day} in the second leg G1 of the triple crown 06/14/2009 Distance 2000 mtrs (10f):

BAMBERA winning the third leg G1 of the triple tiara and becoming the 10th filly in the country's history to win all 3... 07/04/2009 Distance 2400 mtrs (1 mile and a half):

BAMBERA winning the third leg G1 of the triple crown 07/12/2009 Distance 2400 mtrs (1 mile and a half):

BAMBERA winning an international  cup in her own country 08/30/2009 Distance 1900 mtrs (9 1/2f):

BAMBERA winning the country's most prestigious race, The Clasico International Simon Bolivar G1 10/25/2009 Distance 2400 mtrs (1 mile and a half):


BAMBERA winning the G1 Clasico del Caribe in Puerto Rico 12/06/2009 Distance 1800 mtrs (9f):


01 Mar 2010 9:12 PM

You are so lucky if you are holding April 3 OAKLAWN HANDICAP tickets.  This is a $500,000 Grade 1 race.  Go and enjoy your day.  Only about 35,000 to 40,000 in the stands.  Just another average day at OP for the Racing Festival of the South.  Be sure to start your day at the Pancake House across the street from the Arlington Hotel and just north of Bath House Row, then off to the track for a great day of racing.  If you have time take the old style (circa 1900) spa baths, sure to cure what ails ya. No fancy treatments here.

01 Mar 2010 11:00 PM
Casper's Ghost

I'm from Arkansas but now live in Florida and return every year to visit family, friends and Oaklawn the weekend before the Ark. Derby.  Less crowded and a chance to see some great ones the last decade...Azeri twice, Zenyatta, even Rachel's dad -Medaglia d'Oro.  This year I held off making arrangements until everything was in place.  The tickets everyone is angry they got stuck with cost $2.50, I was able to get through on the phone late in the day and they had 1 single seat left over for the same $2.50. Our group can take turns having a seat if needed. The infield will hold as much overflow as shows. Plenty of hotel rooms in Little Rock and the drive is only 50 minutes but double that on the big day. It takes me that long to drive down to Gulfstream Park on the weekends here. To witness history you have to be a little flexible and determined to make it happen.  Every great race of it's like before has generated the same euphoric conditions and to get even a glimpse will suffice as the number of witnesses will surely swell over the years to come!

02 Mar 2010 12:19 AM

Miguel Pontrelli Jr, your English is excellent.  Thank you for taking the time to post the videos of Bambera.  She's a very impressive racehorse.  

02 Mar 2010 12:58 AM
Sarah G

"Sarah I was another one who ordered tickets for April 3.I had to fight with Oaklawn to get a refund.I think it is disgusting the way I was treated as well as other race fans that ordered tickets.I told the Ticket person I will never set foot in Arkansas and never bet another race at Oaklawn.Very poor customer service.I will write a letter to Cella to voice my displeasure."

At least you got a refund. They were very rude to me both times I spoke to them. I'm really disappointed nobody is mentioning this. It would be nice if it got back to Oaklawn that ticketholders for the cancelled date are disappointed and would just like general admission tickets to be sold to us. We aren't going to buy plane tickets for a race we aren't guaranteed entry to!

What kills me is that those of us who already had tickets for April 3 were true fans, not people who wanted to grab as many tickets as we could to sell on ebay.

Sorry, Steve, for discussing this on your awesome blog entry. There's just simply nowhere else to discuss it because most people who got through in time to get tickets don't care or are afraid to rock the boat.

02 Mar 2010 1:24 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Ordered my Oaklawn tickets for April 9 and 10 back in November--woo hoo do I feel lucky!  Loved this diary Mr. Haskin. And I am laughing out loud about 747's landing at Hot Springs.

02 Mar 2010 1:49 AM

WOOHOO! Oh my Heineken, I am starting to feel that I may have to watch the AB with a TELESCOPE not binoculars-- no seats are available anywhere!  I hate it.  NO, I won't buy from the scalpers at e-bay.  I suppose I can always watch from the ROOF of the stands.. hehe. lol.

How about putting MORE EXTRA seats for the AB-- maybe put chairs around the OVAL racetrack, and put little umbrellas there.  They can put chairs outside the stadium, and put up these huge TVs, like they do in concerts, and charge people cheaper tickets.  

Yeah, what about the RA and Z t-shirts and other stuff?  Is it possible to buy them already?

THIS is going to be FUN!!!

02 Mar 2010 2:25 AM

Steve -

You could copy from the telephone book, and it would read interesting.

Thanks for this.  Nice to have all the info and little known facts in one place.

02 Mar 2010 7:50 AM

Does anybody know if the race is going to be on "regular" TV -- as in one of the major networks or ESPN -- not on HRTV which we can't get here?

02 Mar 2010 8:06 AM

I really have to say, if you have tickets for April 3rd, I appreciate your predicament, but go to Hot Springs for April 3rd.  It's honestly worth the trip....and don't you think big Z and RA might already be there training on the you just might get to see them afterall.  Yes, I think Oaklawn should have been more considerate of the prior Apple Blossom ticket holders, but it looks as though that might not happen, and it's most unfortunate.  But when you bought your tickets, you really didn't know who would show up on April 3rd, did you?

02 Mar 2010 8:10 AM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, for sharing all of this with us. All of us who are not able to make it to Arkansas can now have an idea of the excitement and interest going on in the background. Thank you again! I look forward to the continuing saga.

Miguel Pontrelli Jr, thanks for the video links. Bambera would be a worthy competitor with these two horses.

02 Mar 2010 8:51 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you're enjoying the diary. And thank you, Miguel, for sharing the videos. I just watched most of them and she is most impressive. Her running style is almost idential to Rachel's, which is not going to help her if Bambera is as good as she looks in these races.

02 Mar 2010 12:16 PM

Call me crazy, but I really wish these two would have avoided each other until the Breeders Cup. The press coverage that the Breeders Cup would get would be something the horse racing industry really needs. Plus for a event that everyone has wanted to see so badly I think it deserves a race as important as the Breeders Cup.

02 Mar 2010 12:32 PM
Steve Haskin

Seatariat, it is early in the year, but it is what it is. Look at it this way, the BC is a long way off and so much can happen between now and then to prevent this from happening. you have to keep your fingers crossed they get this one in. So this is the best chance of having them meet while still on unbeaten streaks.

02 Mar 2010 1:18 PM
Steve Haskin

The March diary is already taking up a lot of space and it's only been two days, so I am seriously considering breaking up March into two parts, ending Part 2 of the diary on March 21 (before going to Dubai). And then having part 3 go from March 22 up to the race and aftermath.

02 Mar 2010 1:21 PM
Dave Johnson

There is serious doubt starting to stir on the backstretch about whether Rachel Alexandra can win the "New Orleans Ladies Stakes".

Steve Asmussen is starting to throw out the hints concerning his filly.

He was looking for a 1:12 workout and received a 1:13 3/5.

This is eight lengths slower than Steve Asmussen wanted.

Steve Asmussen had felt that she could go a sub 1:12 if the track hadn't been innundated with rain last night.

She is in trouble.

02 Mar 2010 2:12 PM
Count Fleet

Zenyatta is going to absolutely "C-R-U-S-H" Rachel Alexandra when they meet this year.

Ever heard of a 2yr/3yr old filly that isn't worth a shit as a four, five or six year old.

This Rachel Alexandra is running on empty. She used all her gas in the Woodward.

The Woodward ruined her. Thanks Jess Jackson.

02 Mar 2010 2:26 PM
Sarah G

"But when you bought your tickets, you really didn't know who would show up on April 3rd, did you?"

Nope, but we knew the Apple Blossom was the 3rd and that with these 2 awesome 4+y/o females that one of them might show up. And does it matter? We bought tickets for an event and the event was moved without any consideration shown to us. Things change, I get that. But it just seems like a poor PR decision to leave ticketholders who purchased seats to the Apple Blossom before the date was changed hanging without even the option of free...or PAID for...general admission tickets.

You either get the point or you don't. I guarantee if you were in the same boat, you'd feel shafted, too. And I apologize to Steve for hashing this out on this diary because this is no fault of his!

02 Mar 2010 2:49 PM
Pam S.

So Rachel is "in trouble" and "running on empty."  Five or six weeks ago I might have agreed, but hey, she is training and working and is scheduled for two races, so maybe she is doing a lot better than that.  Maybe it's just not obvious.  She could well lose to Zenyatta anyway.  But as far as the New Orleans Ladies, is Zardana the most fearsome nominee, or are there others?

02 Mar 2010 4:45 PM

Mr. Haskin, what is your impression after Rachel's work today?  Asmussen's comments are a little disquieting to this Rachel fan.  

02 Mar 2010 5:29 PM

Great job writing the diary and wrangling the bloggers Steve!

Sunday and Monday I spent some time on Youtube watching Bambera.  Thanks to Miguel for putting it all together in one place for us to watch.  My visiting friends just watched,and they are impressed.

We still don't know who is going to show up on Apple Blossom Day; just like the KD, things can always change.  This is great for racing!

02 Mar 2010 6:27 PM

To All The Naysayers,

Dont worry about Rachels workout she will be fine.I cant believe people still doubt her.One workout with being a few ticks off the clock does not mean she is going to run a bad race.

02 Mar 2010 6:52 PM
Backside Sweetie

Thanks so much STEVE for this diary!To all of you who were interested in Zen and Rach hats,shirts and such try,they may not be official but I love my Zenyatta tshirt.Yes I am a die hard Zen fan!Zazzle has some really neat stuff,no matter who you like,in fact I intend to get more.I am so happy for all of you that are going,wish I was going too.

02 Mar 2010 8:31 PM

@ Pauil, if they lose they still have my respect, both have stamped out what they can do. Even other greats got beaten and were still fan favorites.

02 Mar 2010 9:03 PM

Soldier Course,

Are you out there? We haven't heard from you in a long time. How are you doing?

02 Mar 2010 9:13 PM

My goodness folks, If her trainer is alittle uneasy then we should be also, this is the man that sees her works daily, in person.

We will all be able to see for ourselves in her prep race,

I guarantee one thing, if her prep race isn't what they want or not as good as they want her to be, I think they need to pull out of the AB, and not go up against Zenyatta so soon, I am still upset that the NTRA polls have Zenyatta ahead of a HOTY voted horse, I would have thought that being voted for that award would have automatically had RAchel A, voted as number one in all the polls.

02 Mar 2010 9:40 PM
Backside Sweetie

Adding to my last comment,about merchandise from Zazzle,you must go to site then search for baltohorsefan.I could spend a fortune,they have so many things for Zen and Rachel and their upcoming race.Enjoy!

02 Mar 2010 10:02 PM


Thanks for the diary. Good stuff - but no mention of the just released first NTRA poll of the year with Zenyatta first and Rachel Alexandra second.

Also, wasn't March 1 Zenyatta's actual birthday?

Happy Birthday Big Z!

02 Mar 2010 10:23 PM

Dave, ARE U Serious?

the filly worked along side another horse.....they kept her behind him on purpose. I dont care what Asmussen wanted he was not riding and their main goal was to rate her make her lay then explode. When they finally let her go she finished not only 6 lengths ahead but also 22 final quarter and gallop out 1:26. You have to be joking and if you're a betting man I would take a nice wager against you in the New Orleans Ladies handicap....I will give you the field you just give me Rachel :)

02 Mar 2010 10:31 PM
Paula Higgins

I don't know that Steve Asmussen is really worried yet. Rachel has another work on Monday. Let' see how she does then. She is still trying to get up to speed. Plus she is a gutsy fighter. No matter what her works, the day of the race she could be jet propelled. There is alot of depth to that horse.

Miguel that was so nice of you to post those links. Good luck to your girl Bambera.

I am with Sarah G., it was wrong of them not to honor tickets that said "Apple Blossom" on them. I don't care if they cost $1.00. It's an ethical issue. It's about providing a product you pay for. A rain out is a totally separate situation, which is different from this issue. That's legitimate and you take your chances. This is about money. When you pay for something, the word "entitlement" shouldn't be part of the conversation.

I read that a major network (NBC) is interested in airing the race but wouldn't discuss it until after the Olympics were over and really wouldn't get serious about it until they WIN their prep races. If one of them doesn't win, it may not air on a major network.

02 Mar 2010 10:48 PM
Steve Haskin

Johnny, the NTRA poll was released March 1. As you can see from the diary, part I ends on Feb. 28.

02 Mar 2010 10:54 PM

shane- I'm a Zenyatta fan, but I thought her work was fine.  They really just want to get her ready for her prep.  Her last 3 furlongs was 35.40. It seems fine to me.

02 Mar 2010 11:45 PM

Thanks again to Miquel for the videos of Bambera. Wow, she made it look easy, just as champions do. It is hard to contain the excitement even for Zenyatta's and Rachel's upcoming races on March 13th. I will probably be in a straight jacket by the time the Apple Blossom arrives. Love it, love it!

03 Mar 2010 12:35 AM
David García

Hello...This is it the most important victory of Bambera in our country. See the fractional times in the left side. I narrated this race for a Race Horse Web Site.The third place, King Seraf, wins the Caribbean Sprinters Cup in Camarero Race Track ago two years, and the last sunday, he win a Stakes Grade 3 in one mile.

03 Mar 2010 8:22 AM

Until the April 9th date was set for the Apple Blossom, there was absolutely no commitment from the camps of RA or Zen.  With the April 3rd date, there was only the "possibility" that Zen might be there.  Rumor isn't fact, and no guarantees were made that Zen or RA would be there.  The April 3rd card itself has not been cancelled.  Yes, I believe that if you hold a ticket that states "Apple Blossom" on it, you should be accomodated...but it doesn't appear that is going to happen. And yes, if I held a ticket, I would be disappointed....but the diappointment would come from my own expectations being too high.  My thought remains that if you've made plans to go April 3rd, don't change your plans.  Go!  Enjoy yourself.  Life is short; enjoy what you have...not what you wish you had.  (Hell, I wish I could gallop Zenyatta, but that ain't gonna happen!)

03 Mar 2010 10:40 AM

Johnny: Zenyatta's birthday is April 1.  I think that's why she does her little dance on race day.

I figure Zenyatta leading the first poll is a reflection of that famous East Coast voter bias LOL.  Not.  

03 Mar 2010 10:44 AM

I don't believe Assmussen is the least bit worried.  Her work was fine and she blew past the other horse.  The thing that most people believe is that Rachel is a front runner.  She isn't.  In her biggest winning margin races, she laid off the pace.  She can rate it's just that she was on the front end in tbe Preakness and the Woodward to keep her from being boxed in which they would have done, especially in the Woodward.  If anyone thinks she's in trouble, think again.  You are not taking into consideration her compeitiveness and her will to win.

I don't think she will have any trouble in her prep and certainly Zenyatta won't have trouble either.

03 Mar 2010 10:59 AM


Great Job!!

The whole State of Arkansas is fired up over this!  The Govenor is involved!

This is what HORSE RACING needs and you can't find a more fan friendly track than Oaklawn/

Thanks for this diary

03 Mar 2010 11:24 AM
Bill Daly

This Apple Blossom commotion really amazes me.  It shows how much people are drawn to these events and the hysteria that surrounds them.  I remember attending the Marlboro Cup - if memory serves - the year that Affirmed and Seattle Slew hooked up. NYRA didn't charge an extra nickel for general admission and I got an unsolicited pack of Marlboros [dubious gift] for attending. I had no problem getting to Belmont on the LIRR train from Penn Station and all in all it was a very uneventful day - except for the big race which Seattle Slew won going wire-to-wire.  Maybe it was because the 1970's [Decade of Champions] made us jaded.  There were so many great horses and they followed one another in rapid fire fashion.  Now, everybody is so starved to see greatness that it really is a sad commentary of the state of our sport.  It is so infrequent when we get to see true quality anymore and when a confrontation of this dimension comes along it blows everybody's minds.  Amazing.

03 Mar 2010 11:27 AM
Bob Z

This is a video of Rachel working on March 2nd... video only, no audio...

She definitely looks heavier through the chest as compared to last year...

I noticed she veered out a few times... maybe she was being restrained by the jockey... and was fighting him a little bit..

They said the time was ok and the last quarter was great but she didn't look to be quite as sharp as the last time I saw her in the Woodward... then again its only a training session...

03 Mar 2010 2:01 PM
Bob Z

I looked at the video of Rachel a few times and while she seemed to be in a playful mood...

...when she did get down to business she kept veering out for some reason...

almost the way a very young horse can't keep going in a straight line...

Does anybody know.... what would cause that..?  

Is it the jockey restraining her and Rachel fighting him?  

... or is it just what horses do after coming back from a layoff ... they need to relearn how to run straight...?

03 Mar 2010 2:12 PM

Bob Z,

Thank you so much for the link to Rachel's work. She looks GREAT! I think she wanted to go faster than the rider allowed her. She looked very eager to me. It's been a long time since she's been allowed to go as fast as she can. She will be formidable in the AB... Thank goodness, Zenyatta is doing well also. My hope is for all fillies & mares pointed to THE RACE make it there in top shape. If they do, it will indeed be a RACE for the AGES.

03 Mar 2010 4:41 PM

I watched RA work, and she looked rank.  She's bigger, and more powerful, and appears to want to have her own way.  I do believe she was being restrained, and fighting that restraint. This was one of the few times she had a work mate, she's not used to it, and did not seem to like being behind him.  She did finally settle into a rhythm, and I can't wait to see her really run.  She's full of fire.  Harnessing that fire is the reason for the work outs.

03 Mar 2010 5:17 PM

I went back and watched the video of Rachel training, I thought she looked like she was doing fine, Of course I havent' been following horseracing but two years, but I can see , and she looked OK to me.

03 Mar 2010 5:35 PM
Sarah G

"Until the April 9th date was set for the Apple Blossom, there was absolutely no commitment from the camps of RA or Zen.  With the April 3rd date, there was only the "possibility" that Zen might be there.  Rumor isn't fact, and no guarantees were made that Zen or RA would be there.  The April 3rd card itself has not been cancelled.  Yes, I believe that if you hold a ticket that states "Apple Blossom" on it, you should be accomodated...but it doesn't appear that is going to happen. And yes, if I held a ticket, I would be disappointed....but the diappointment would come from my own expectations being too high. "

Your expectation that a ticket you purchased to an event would be honored? I think that's the normal expectation when one purchases a ticket to anything, correct? I don't think it has anything to do with expectations being high. Meanwhile, I have a super ticket for section L for the Apple Blossom on April 3 that I paid for and can't use. You can have it if you want it. Both of them.

03 Mar 2010 6:07 PM
Dave Johnson

Bob Z,

This filly is not the same anymore.

03 Mar 2010 6:48 PM
Paula Higgins

O.k. I watched the video and she seemed a little unfocused. But even still, she does really take off at the end. I think she will be o.k. for New Orleans, and win, but she is not in peak form yet. She needs a little more time.

03 Mar 2010 7:29 PM
David Garcia

Excuse me. It was my mistake not to put a link to the race they mention Bambera

03 Mar 2010 7:52 PM

Bob: After watching the video a few times there could be several things going on. I personally think it looks like she was playful at first and then got  rank. She was fighting her rider and not settling down. She didn't feel like rating and she was clearly very fresh. She switched leads several times which may have been what caused her to veer out. Rachel knows how to run straight...she was just ticked. Of course that is just what I gathered from watching the workout. She is a strong minded filly and at times can be a handful. That takes a lot of energy away from both her and the jockey.  It's been my experience that most horses really go through some physical changes between 3 and 4. Often filling out greatly, getting taller and changing mentally as well. I have had 4 year olds that I swear have reverted back to the terrible two's. She is coming off of a lay off, isn't in her best physical condition and dealing with some physical changes. My guess is Rachel is going to be a monster on the track this year once she gets use to herself again. Rankness aside, I couldn't help but watch her and see one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen. She is truly a sight to behold.

03 Mar 2010 7:52 PM

The only thing that concerns me after watching this is RA not being ready to meet Z. Both horses have to be at the top of their game. If she doesn't relax, Steve won't run her. She can't go into a race against Z and not settle. She will end up setting a blistering pace and then setting the race up for the freight train. In my opinion if RA runs her race, relaxes and sets a reasonable pace, she will have enough at the end to hold off Z. Both are going to have to adjust their running style to have a chance at this race. Zen needs to be closer to the pace and RA needs something in the tank to hold off the late charge of the master closer. Just my opinion of course.

03 Mar 2010 7:58 PM
Paula Higgins

Uh oh, the New York Times just posted an article by Joe Drape that says Jesse Jackson is "Hedging His Bets." If she isn't in perfect form she won't be there. Go read the article. They are seeing things they don't like in terms of her workouts at this point. Personally, I think she needs more time to get back in form and the Apple Blossom may be too soon for her to face Zenyatta, who is training like a female Cassius Clay/ Muhammad Ali. They acknowledge the Woodward took alot out of her. Well, let's hope for the best. But as Karen2 said, she is simply breathtaking to look at. Dave Johnson, I understand your point. Right now she is not the same horse we saw last year, but let's hold our fire for a bit because it may be she just needs time. I hope so because she is a national treasure, just like our girl Zenyatta.

03 Mar 2010 8:26 PM
Backside Sweetie

Slew  Personally I agree with your opinion of the video of Rachel,she is full of herself and being a female,she is being a bit bitchy as we females tend to be at times.I think fillys can be a lot more difficult to handle than the boys,she wanted to do it her way,not his and she was fighting him.And Karen 2,she truly is a sight to behold and I think she looks great!

03 Mar 2010 8:48 PM
Paula Higgins

ITA with your whole post above mine Karen2.

03 Mar 2010 8:48 PM

Admitting that I have an untrained eye in comparison to most of you, what I saw in Rachel's work was a filly who desperately wanted to go all out.  I wish they had let her take the bit and do just that.  She has so much pent-up energy (after all, she spent the last 6 months in various barns, not on a farm being a horse who could run at will) and that energy needs some release before she'll be easily controllable.  

On the other hand, perhaps Asmussen's strategy is to keep her at the edge of rank for 2 more weeks, then allowing her to release her energy at full-tilt in the Ladies.  It must be terribly frustrating for Rachel, though.

Sad, beautiful girl...I've been sorry for her since JJ bought her and turned her bright spirit into a machine.

03 Mar 2010 9:47 PM
Bob Z

Dave Johnson .. you wrote...

"Bob Z,

This filly is not the same anymore."

What does that mean?  Yeah she is not the same.. she is a year older and 100 pounds heavier...

Do you mean visually she is different form last year...?

Please clarify....

Finally some intelligent conversation on here...

Now isn't that better than the back an forth, tit for tat... my horse is better than your horse drivel that is usually on here...?

If anybody would like to talk race strategy for the Apple Blossom ... I'm game...


I agree with you... Calvin needs to be patient... break fast and after the first 100 yards or so if a speed horse takes off and wants the lead let them have it...

stay 3-4 lengths off the lead and wait until the 3/4 pole  for the leaders to tire and then hit the gas... Zenyatta will probably be closer than usual so when they both hit the gas Rachel should pull away initially and be cruising ..

the question is can Zenyatta run her down in the final 1/8 mile...

Mike Smith has said that he hasn't hit all of Zenyattas gears...

If thats the case he is going to have to start shifting gears earlier so with 1/8 of a mile to go Zenyatta is in her final gear... Its only a 1 1/8 miles...

Another question is... I don't know but I don't think Zenyatta has had to move early... Using energy early on when you aren't used to running that way takes gas out of the tank that you normally rely on for the last 1/8 mile...

If at the start of the race Rachel takes off and after 100 yards nobody is challenging her and she sets the pace and does the 1/4 mile in anything above 24 and the half at say 47... in my opinion the race is over at that point... nobody is going to catch her.. because she will have saved the gas for the acceleration point at the 3/4 pole....

The worst case for her is a repeat of the Woodward where she was on the lead and did the first quarter in 22 4/5 ... setting a real fast pace and then having multiple horses challenge her...

In that situation she'll have the best closer since Cigar or Forego bearing down on her...

So in my opinion the strategy for the race will be decided after the first couple hundred yards... before the first turn...

In all probability it will set up where Calvin needs to be patient and hang 3rd or 4th and be at or near the leader by the 3/4 pole... and then hit the gas and see what happens... and be listening for some serious thundering hooves coming up behind him...

That is if he can hear at all... Can you imagine what 100,000 screaming maniacs sounds like? : )

03 Mar 2010 11:01 PM

Bobz, thanks for posting the Rachel workout. I have been looking for some footage of her work this year. I agree with Karen, she looks playful, then rank. A real snake to ride and her jockey wasn't looking terribly happy about it either. I'd love to have the chance to settle her. She will settle and get back to work again this year; whether it happens by April 9 remains to be seen.

We are blessed to have the chance to watch Zenyatta and Rachel race in our lifetime. Whether they race each other, whether we see them in person or afar, we are blessed. Thanks to the Mosses and to Jess Jackson for bringing them back this year and for trying to bring them together.

David G, thank you for the youtube of Bambera. She is another talented filly. If all three champion fillies make it into the gate; WOW!!

Those of you who will see this live have my envy, but I'm not going to let a TV screen keep me from enjoying every leap, bound, jostle and bump of the way. Aiyaiyaiyai, youtube better add some bandwidth!!

03 Mar 2010 11:02 PM
Bob Z

Link to NY Times Article...

Here is the major punch line...

"“We are targeting the Apple Blossom,” he said. “We are stretching to get there. But if we’re not in top shape, we’re not going.”

That's a scary thought...

Long after the fact it came out that Princess Diana wanted to get out of marrying Prince Charles and her sister simply told her..

"It's too late for that your picture is already on the tea towels!"

Here is a link to Zenyattas and Rachels recent workouts... for comparison...

03 Mar 2010 11:21 PM

I have watched RA's last work a few times now. I don't know what to make of it. Visually her works have not been particularly impressive. She may have peaked last summer in terms of how good she will be. What is particularly true of mares (and I think we've seen that with Stardom Bound for one) is that they can lose their desire to race as they mature.  She could also just need another work and a race under her belt to be ready to roll.

One thing I feel fairly certain about is that we will not see a Rachel/Zenyatta match up in April.  That's just my gut feeling.  If Rachel were working better I wouldn't say that. But we all know she is going to have to be at the level she was at last year for them to put her on the same track as Zenyatta.  I'm not convinced she is yet.

04 Mar 2010 1:40 AM

I'm so so happy about the AB.  Can't wait... I've been grinning for a week, and my wife says I look stupid.  Who cares?  WOO HOO!

Any news if ESPN will broadcast it LIVE via sat??  

Though Rachel seems fine under Asmussen, I feel she will be at her PRIME BEST if Hal Wiggins was back.  Hal is no longer training horses, but maybe Jackson can keep him as "adviser" to Asmussen ONLY for Rachel's case.  Scott Blasi is a nice overseer for RA, but Hal raised her from birth so he knows her much better than anyone else.

I am sure that with Hal Wiggins behind Rachel again, she will achieve greater things in 2010.  Jess, are you LISTENING??


04 Mar 2010 2:03 AM

Paula Higgins:

I went and read the article too. I am not a fan of JJ, but I do agree with him and that both horses have to be at their best for this race.

He and Mr.Assmusen arent' going to send her out if they know she isnt' ready and I dont blame them one bit. I wouldn't want Rachel or Zenyatta to face each other in a race if they both arent' ready yet and need another month or two.

I have always thought that this meeting up woulda/shouda taken place alittle bit later in the season, Giving both girls extra prep races...

I am a Z fan but I still want whats right for Rachel, it would not be fair to her or Zenyatta if either one was not ready yet.

I worry about Rachel if she isnt' ready because of her jockey, and his over use of the whip on her.

04 Mar 2010 6:35 AM

Miguel Pontrelli Jr,

Thank you for posting the video's of Bambera's races. I think she's going give Rachel and Zenyatta a run for their money.

Any news as to when Bambera will be making her US debut? I've read  she's at Gulfstream but I haven't seen any recorded works? She'll need a prep race if she's still being pointed towards the Apple Blossom.

04 Mar 2010 8:10 AM

Great workout vid. I think the issue down the stretch was the rider was looking for her lead leg but his cues to switch was making her go back to the other lead leg. I think this was from him not allowing her natural gait or stride. she looked a little winded at the end but that is expected from the first real workout she did a mile in a 1:41 20 faster than a 2 minute lick. OPENS the lungs.

04 Mar 2010 8:17 AM

Sarah bought a ticket for April 3rd, and the April 3rd slate has not been cancelled.  If you expected both RA and Zen to be there April 3rd...yes, that's a too high expectation, since nothing had been confirmed.  My point was that...why toss the ticket?  Go and enjoy the racing and Hot Springs itself.  It's honestly worth the trip.  I get that you wanted to see the Apple Blossom, but exactly which fillies were you expecting to see since no one had as yet committed to the race itself?  Stay a few days.  the big girls should ship in and work out by April 6th.

04 Mar 2010 10:27 AM

Miguel:  thanks so much for the Bambera videos.  I,too,think these 2 American girls are in trouble (even though I give them both tons of credit)...but..Bambera ?.. well she has a new fan rooting for her..need I say more?  Again..many thanks!   Also..thanks much, Steve.You do a great job (as always).

04 Mar 2010 11:01 AM

Rachel looks amazing.  She is definitely bigger and more muscular.  As far as being the same horse or not, it's a tad early to tell.  She looks to be anxious to really run and go fast and she was being restrained from doing that.  You can still see the fire in her and the will to run as fast as she can.  The Apple Blossom may be too soon and even Jackson said it was at the Eclipse awards.  If they change their minds I wouldn't be a bit surprised.  Who would want to face Zenyatta and not be at their top form?  Rachel has been dormant since the Woodward, just jogging until they started working in late January.  It probably is not enough time to be ready and that wouldn't be right.  Both should be ready and probably need another month.  Neither of them has been entered in the AB as yet.  If it doesn't happen in April, there will be plenty of time after that.  I would be disappointed but I would rather both horses are ready than both being rushed for the fans. We can all wait if that's what it takes.

04 Mar 2010 11:24 AM


What are your thoughts on the workout video of Rachel?

04 Mar 2010 11:28 AM
Bob Z

If you look at the times for Zen and Rachel...

Their most recent works at 6 furlongs...and their last 5 furlong workout...

Zenyatta 2/26/2010 6F 1:13.20 Track rated Fast

Rachel 3/2/2010 6F 1:13.60 Track rated Fast

Zenyatta 2/18/2010 6F 1:14.00 Track rated Fast

Rachel 2/24/2010 6F 1:14.00 Track rated Fast

5 furlongs...

Zenyatta 2/3/2010 5F 1:01.60 Track..Fast

Rachel 2/18/2010 5F 1:00.20 Track..Fast

The point being is that the most recent works are pretty comparable..  

I totally understand wanting your horse to be healthy and ready for the Apple Blossom or for any race...

but let't look at some of the quotes from the NY Times article...

“We are targeting the Apple Blossom,” he said. “We are stretching to get there. But if we’re not in top shape, we’re not going.”  (Jess Jackson)

On Rachel from the NY Times ... On Tuesday, she worked in company with a stablemate, going a modest 1:13 3/5 for six furlongs.

Rachel Alexandra, however, rolled home impressively in 22 3/5 seconds for the final quarter-mile.

“I was hoping she’d go a little quicker,” Asmussen told reporters.

“She settled off the other horse really nicely. She stayed with her left lead trying to stay with the other horse, then she switched to her right lead and accelerated. We’re happy with where she’s at. The main thing is she’s healthy, and this is a step in the process to getting her back to her previous level.”

"Rachel Alexandra will work a final time on Monday in preparation for the New Orleans Ladies. Jackson said Rachel Alexandra did not have to win that prep race, only come out of it healthy and growing stronger."

So if I understand  this correctly... if Rachel comes out of the prep race healthy and just happens not to win... she is still going to the Apple Blossom...

Steve Asmussen is saying they are happy with where she is at.. (training wise)...

So other than the health of the horse ... what factors go into determining that the horse is  "dead-solid perfect in the days leading to the Apple Blossom"

What does that mean?

If I go to a wedding on a Sunday evening and get home late after having several .. the next morning I might not feel "dead solid perfect" but I'm still healthy and I still go to work because I have committed to being there...  

The race was moved back to accommodate everyone, the purse was increased to an unheard of 5 million bucks...

Other than a real health issue.. soreness, cough etc.. (understandable)... is there any  excuse for not showing up to the Apple Blossom...

Are the training times not being exactly where you want them a good enough excuse not to go?

I say no.  If R comes out of the prep race healthy and stays that way but just doesn't get the times exactly right that shouldn't be an excuse for not keeping the commitment of running in the Apple Blossom...

04 Mar 2010 12:25 PM
Pam S.

I watched the workout video and agree with the consensus that (1) Rachel seems unfocused but (2) she can still run.  Obviously the New Orleans Ladies race will tell us more.

I also read the NY Times article, and I couldn't help thinking, with all this uncertainty about April 9 and beyond, the best time for RA and Z to meet may have already passed.  I know hindsight is 20-20, but RA could have skipped the Woodward and trained up to the Beldame to face Zenyatta in early October last year.  There was no question then that both were ready and doing super.  In response to a direct challenge, I believe the Zenyatta camp would have been there.  NYRA could have adjusted the date, eliminated the detention barn and done anything necessary, just like Oaklawn.

Jess wanted to win HOY and he believed the Woodward was the surest path to it.  But reading the article, I believe even he wishes he could go back and do it differently.

Zookeeper:  Thanks for the weather update, but we have decided to wait for a better day.  Maybe March 13.

04 Mar 2010 12:26 PM

@pasturelands, I agree. Rachel is not happy and that was not her appearance early last summer. It was one of the reasons that she captured our imagination. She was not only talented and beautiful, but she was full of joy.

I expect that is one reason that Zenyatta fans are so avid (should I say rabid?). Zenyatta is a happy horse.

If Rachel's handlers don't get past the mechanics of her training in order to boost her psyche, we will all be sorely disappointed. Talent will not beat Zenyatta, but a full open heart might.

04 Mar 2010 12:37 PM
Steve Haskin

Monica, it was not the type of work I was expecting or looking for. I'll give her playful vs. wound too tight, but she had her head cocked to the outside the whole way, didnt change leads turning into the stretch, and she and Dominic didnt seem in sync. He was looking down at something in the stretch. She finally changed leads and leveled off late and looked good the last part of it and hugged the rail galloping out, but Dominic was asking her on the gallop-out; flicked her on the shoulder with the whip handle, maybe feeling she needed to get more out of it. Asmussen was looking for faster. Who knows? She's on such a tight schedule, you want to see everything go perfectly.

04 Mar 2010 1:04 PM

Remember last year before the Breeders Cup the guys on HRTV yammering that Presious Passion would "finish last" and such because of his poor works?  He looked pretty damn good to me on race day.

My point is I think Rachel will be just fine.  

04 Mar 2010 1:51 PM

Bob Z,

If my horse wasn't as fit as she needs to be to run her race,  I would keep her out.  This may not happen.  If they put her in her prep, it may be all she needs to get back on track.  She is a born competitor and will do her best.  She's been kept from running as fast as she wants to avoid injuring herself because she was not running for so long.  We will see.  She's an amazing horse and other than giving her the exercise and works she needs, she may go to the prep burning up the track.

04 Mar 2010 2:29 PM


Nothing on earth has or will ever beat Zenyatta on the racetrack.

Not talent, not heart, nothing. She is not of this world.

It was only the voting of mere mortal men that only beat Zenyatta out of the HOY.

04 Mar 2010 3:21 PM

Bob Z:  I have to ask since you compared yourself going to work with a hangover to a horse competing in a race.

Is your job physically strenuous?  Does it involve athletic competition?  Are you a horse that must rely on your human connections to determine your fitness, both physically and mentally, to compete in a taxing athletic competition?

04 Mar 2010 3:22 PM

Mr. Haskin, I think Dominic was checking her lead and trying to get her to swap back to the right lead, because once she switched he looked up again.

04 Mar 2010 3:51 PM

Last year Rachel started racing in February with her goal being the May 1 Kentucky Oaks.  Hal Wiggins felt she needed several preps to get her to Churchill in top shape.  She never really went out of training from her 2yo season, so fitness was not much of an issue.

This year she is starting the year in mid-March and her goal race is in early April. That means she's starting one month later and her goal race is almost one month earlier. (and what a goal race!)

She had several months off and her serious works didn't start until the very last day of January.  Bad weather has been a problem.

I'm a bit concerned that she is not mentally settled. It can certainly happen to fillies who may feel they were pushed a bit too hard. She had a very exhausting 3yo campaign and maybe there's a reason 3yo fillies don't often run against older males in Grade One route races.

I'm just not feeling good vibes about this Apple Blossom for Rachel.  I'm almost hoping that they announce that she won't run next week and needs more time.  However, I'm a worrywart by nature so feel free to ignore me!

04 Mar 2010 4:03 PM
Bill Daly

Steve the poster: Interesting that you would point out what the HRTV boys had to say about Presious Passion's works prior to the 2009 BC.  Mike Welch [DRF]had something very similar to say about his works prior to his most recent race [which he won].  Some horses just aren't good work horses.  Something to keep in mind about horse in general. I understand Steve Haskin's concern, however, since Rachel has always been a good work horse.

04 Mar 2010 4:42 PM
Bob Z


I totally agree with you...

If that was my horse I wouldn't run her unless she was healthy...

My point is if she isn't healthy she won't run ... and I totally agree with that...

The issue is "fit"....

Let's say that in the training plan for Rachel that before the Apple Blossom the management team wanted her to run a 6 furlong work .. at say under 1:10.. under 1 minute 10 seconds...

... and less say that she just never hit that number ... maybe she just ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11... (the same as Zenyatta has been doing by the way)...

.. what I'm saying is that that should not be an excuse for not running in the Apple Blossom...

Is she performs well in the prep race and has good workouts and everything is ok ...

and she wakes up the day of the race with an upset stomach because of a boll weevil in her oats .. and they decide to scratch her... I totally agree with that...

I guess it comes down to what Jess meant by "dead solid perfect"..  

if according to him even if she doesn't win the prep race she is still a go for the Apple Blossom then I'm just hoping that the times that she is running in training after the prep race even if they don't hit the exact number that they were looking for ...

is not a reason to keep her from running in the Apple Blossom...

Rachels and Zenyattas name have already been printed on the tea towels ... (trading cards) along with a 747 wanting to land in Hot Springs with an Arabian contingent ... so unless its a real health related issue ... she needs to be there even if the training times are not what they exactly wanted...

04 Mar 2010 4:57 PM

It is funny how some folks sit back and say about these horses completely opposite from what the trainers and owners say.

It is funny that some on here say that they are holding Rachel back and when you read  March 3, article by Joe Drape "Hedging his Bets" that JJ and Assmussen say completely opposite,

I tend to believe what I read that the true owners and trainers say about their horse than some of you amateur folks thats putting your own input in here.

If you're not the trainer nor the owner than you are misleading folks. Unless you are with Rachel every day as her connections are.

04 Mar 2010 5:23 PM
Steve Haskin

Easygoer, I make mention of the long work gap in my next diary and that she was off only 2 1/2 months from 2 to 3. She's better and stronger now, but it's something to consider.

04 Mar 2010 5:23 PM
Bob Z

Coleen,  You wrote..

Bob Z:  I have to ask since you compared yourself going to work with a hangover to a horse competing in a race.

Is your job physically strenuous?  

No. not at all...

Does it involve athletic competition?

No, not at all...

Are you a horse that must rely on your human connections to determine your fitness, both physically and mentally, to compete in a taxing athletic competition?

No,  Not at all...

So whats your point?

My only point was we often do things when we are not 100% perfect to our own standards...

If Rachel isn't healthy or wakes up that day just not feeling right than she shouldn't run ...

I'm just saying that a decision not to run shouldn't be  based on a time requirement for the workouts...

If they are looking for 1:10 for 6 furlongs in training and they only get 1:10.50 to me thats not an excuse not to run...

If she wakes up that morning feeling great she should run even if she didn't hit the exact number that they were looking for in the timed workouts...

that's all.. no big deal...

04 Mar 2010 6:13 PM

You want a horse to work the way they always work.  If a horse is a good, consistent work horse, then you tend to view an atypical work under the microscope.  I've never really scrutinized her works before, but it doesn't sound like this was a usual one for her, so I hope they are really going over her and making sure she's ok.  The most important thing is her health.

04 Mar 2010 7:18 PM


What's the point of running the race?

04 Mar 2010 7:28 PM


Great blog as usual.

04 Mar 2010 7:29 PM

Another must do while in Hot Springs is make sure you eat at McClards BBQ it is a landmark and a great place to visit before the races. Also Rocky's just across the street has awesome food. Cant wait hope they both make it to the big race.

04 Mar 2010 7:48 PM
Paula Higgins

I hope Rachel's next work is better. If it isn't I don't believe this race will happen and maybe not the New Orleans race either. They won't risk Rachel getting hurt for any amount of money and I agree with that philosophy.

I agree with the poster who stated both our girls might be in trouble. That South American Queen, Bambera, is something else again and shouldn't be underestimated. I have watched her video several times and she was pretty impressive. Maybe this race will come dwon to Zenyatta and Bambera.

04 Mar 2010 8:22 PM

 I can understand the ill feelings towards Oaklawn about the date change and the refusal of refunds, however a lot of us took a gamble and booked quickly to try to get to the front of the line on this event.   I booked a hotel room on April 2nd and I still plan to go and enjoy the Oaklawn Handicap.  One of my greatest thrills was getting to see the great "Cigar" run in the Handicap.   I'm sure this year will have a good field also.    I'll also try to get back for the Apple Blossum.

04 Mar 2010 8:24 PM

I wondered if the work gap had something to do with her rankness.  Perhaps this is "Rachel on Rest".

Not too long ago SA was commenting about not working RA in company because she didn't need it (unlike Curlin who he said "had a job" and implied Curlin needed the motivation).  I was consequently surprised to see her working in company.  The comment was that her last work was so easy for her that they thought a workmate would help her get more out of it.  But then they send her out with a horse she is faster than running backwards (???) and she seems to get rank running behind this horse.  She has trouble changing leads and then flips back and DT has to make a very obvious request to get her to change back to the correct lead.  She then finishes out OK.  She is normally very balanced, fluid, and easy in the changes.  I couldn't help but wonder if it was really a "rating check/training" that revealed she needs to work on this.  Calvin was gunning her to the lead against the boys (her last 2 races), does she think this is the way it is done now?  Was the lead issue because she was tense?  An easy guess is that something is bothering her. . . hopefully it is transitory if that is the case.

SA made the comment that she was good AFTER the lead change - sometimes what people don't say tells you something too.

04 Mar 2010 8:51 PM

I'm with you extreme worry wart by nature..A blessing and a curse LOL....

Sodapopkid: If you have the work out. It's easy to call the obvious. You don't need to wait for the article to come out to read about it. Plus, this is a blog...where opinions are not only welcome but expected... That's why we are here. For great horse racing dialog

04 Mar 2010 9:39 PM
Karen2 are exactly right. Horse's cannot tell us if something is wrong. It is up to  those who know their horse best to "listen" to them. Horses are creatures of habit and routine. Anything out of the ordinary could speak volumes. They won't run her if she isn't ready..I truly believe that and I hope I am right.

04 Mar 2010 9:48 PM
Miguel barrera

I m from venezuela, excuse me for my little english. I know its been dificult for the most of the venezuela´s horses to win against the usa´s horses, but i´m going to speak about of Bambera is capable. I´m sure that she is capable to do since 106 to 108 seconds for the mile and 1/8 if the condition or variant of the track is similar to the La Rinconada Track, the only once she ran in mile 1/8 was in the caribean classic in Puerto Rico, she did 111 3/5 but Camarero track is about 3 or 4 seconds slowest than La Rinconada, in la rinconada in a mile,  easily she did 94 3/5, and in a mile 3/16 she did easily 115 3/5, i think she has a high potencial to low these time and figth face to face against RA and Z, greats... Miguel Barrera

04 Mar 2010 10:22 PM

People Get Real?

Jess Jackson is not worried about running Rachel against Zenyatta. If Rachel A. isnt' at her best in her first prep race then you sure to heck won't see her in the AB.

Jackson got what he wanted for last year with the award, so if she isnt at her best (which it isn't looking so good  right now), then he will pull her from that race in April, he could retire her and forget about it and succomb to Zenyatta, and say that RAchel A. had to much taken out of her last year and wasn't  this year like she was last year.

Mr. Jackson doesnt' care about the money and he has his award, and the quicker he can get her to the breeding shed(W/Curlin) , the better for him.

Say it ain't so, but always look for the things to happen unexpectedly, but in this case since the beginning of the year, Jackson has been saying all along about her training and her workouts are proof,

Every day I am beginning to see, what we may not be going to see this year or anytime soon. and that is RA/Zen meeting up anytime soon or at all.

Five Miilion dollars is a whole lot of money to me and most of us, but to Jackson it is chump change.

Five million dollars aint crap if your horse don't win it, Is It?????

04 Mar 2010 10:50 PM
Sarah G

"Sarah bought a ticket for April 3rd, and the April 3rd slate has not been cancelled.  If you expected both RA and Zen to be there April 3rd...yes, that's a too high expectation, since nothing had been confirmed.  My point was that...why toss the ticket?  Go and enjoy the racing and Hot Springs itself.  It's honestly worth the trip.  I get that you wanted to see the Apple Blossom, but exactly which fillies were you expecting to see since no one had as yet committed to the race itself?  Stay a few days.  the big girls should ship in and work out by April 6th."

Let's say you bought tickets for an Aerosmith concert in a different state. After you booked everything, they rescheduled Aerosmith for the following week. They wouldn't refund your tickets that said Aerosmith on them because the opening act was still playing; to make it worse, you weren't able to get through to buy tickets for the rescheduled date and when you finally got through, the venue was rude to you and told you that you were out of luck. You can't tell me you wouldn't be extremely annoyed if someone told you to just go ahead and spend the money to travel just to watch the opening act and that you were not justified in feeling upset. Get real. Oaklawn messed up and a lot of people are pissed about it. If you continue to try to convince me to just go on April 3rd and not be upset, I'm going to assume you either work for Oaklawn or were one of the people who had connections there and were able to get 20+ tickets for April 9 as soon as they went on sale so you could sell them on ebay and profit from it. Because a real, rational fan wouldn't continue to try to justify such a bad decision.

05 Mar 2010 12:10 AM

Miguel Barrera,

Your english is good enough. Don't worry. I watched the replays of Bambera's races and she is very impressive. I'm very grateful that she has come to the US so that we can enjoy her also. Best of luck to her. Hope she does well!

05 Mar 2010 12:49 AM

"Five million dollars aint crap if your horse don't win it, Is It"?????

What I mean by this is , If Jackson don't think Rachel A. has a 100% chance of winning this, then the five Million purse dont mean crap to him. A couple hundred thousand is pocket change to him.

05 Mar 2010 8:13 AM

This is for afleetalexforever.  Do you still have any reserved seats left for April 9th?  

Love the diary!!

05 Mar 2010 10:29 AM

Sarah G. ...your analogy is poor.  You never bought a ticket to see RA and bought a ticket for the April 3 card...use it.

As to Rachel being rank...has everyone forgotten the post parade before the Woodward, where she tossed Borel then smacked him in the head with her head?  She won that race.

It's breeding season, and if she's in season right now, it will show up as rankness. (bitchiness).She's not just a filly.  She's intelligent, powerful, and seems....quite independent. It would seem her works are geared more to harnessing all that power, rather than to just show people a speed figure. And this year, it looks as though she would prefer to be at the front of the pack, even if it might not be in her own best interest.  We have such great racing in store for us...I can't wait.

05 Mar 2010 11:02 AM


Excellent post and very insightful.  You may be on the money with that thought that Rachel has been running up front and wants to go to the lead.  She was rank because she was being held back.  Her races against the boys were on the lead, the Haskell not quite but just off the lead.  She didn't go to the lead in any other of her races.  She never works in company and having another horse to run at makes her want to pass them.  She just wants to go fast....that was what her last race was.  She hasn't acted up in her previous works except for wanting to run.  It's really interesting.  Maybe there is just too much reaction to this work.

05 Mar 2010 11:02 AM

Also, Sarah G...I'm not trying to justify anything.  And no...I don't work for Oaklawn, nor have I received any tickets.  I've already stated, OP's treatment of ticket holders was not fair.  I'm just trying to assess the situation for what it is, and how to make the best of it.  That's not irrational.  Calling anyone out because they offered an option however seems a bit over the top.  I've been to Hot springs; it's beautiful and worth the trip. And I would never waste my $$ on Aerosmith...I'd rather go to the race track....or the Jazz Fest in New Orleans. (Simon and Garfunkel together again..priceless.)

05 Mar 2010 11:20 AM

Zenyatta just worked worked 1:11:80 for six furlongs today at Hollypark.  She was cruising with her stablemate El Vino and just rocketed to open a five length distance between her and EV.

Holy Mackerel!

05 Mar 2010 3:49 PM
Sarah G

"Sarah G. ...your analogy is poor.  You never bought a ticket to see RA and bought a ticket for the April 3 card...use it."

My analogy was pretty dead-on. My tickets say Apple Blossom and April 3rd on them. Again, you are welcome to have those tickets if you want them. My treat. :)

05 Mar 2010 5:51 PM

Zenyatta is coming along just great. Can't wait to see her again on the 13th. Still pinching myself that her owners have not retired her.

Rachel is scheduled to race on that day also. Hope she runs like only SHE can. Would love to see her in person.

And then... there is Bambera. Isn't she getting a prep before the Apple Blossom?

Can we really be so lucky as to have these three great females facing each other in the AB? Holy Mackerel indeed, Bruno!!!

05 Mar 2010 6:37 PM
Paula Higgins

You know MonicaV and Kat, I would also love to think that Rachel was upset at being held back, but I am not so sure. I don't think that was it. She looked like she just didn't want to be there and totally unfocused, not that she wanted to be let loose. I also think that Steve Asmussen knows his horse and so does Jess Jackson and they don't love what they are seeing in these works. I don't think this is a permanent situation, and it may turn around pretty quickly, but she has other ideas right now. I thought she was having another work on Monday but maybe not. If not, I hope they run her in New Orleans as planned despite her works, and we will see if it effects how she runs when  it really matters. It may not matter one iota.

Zenyatta is burning up the track and doing great. She is amazing.

Miguel Barrera good luck to your girl Bambera. She is special and I think if anyone could take these two, she could.

05 Mar 2010 9:03 PM
Star G


Gulfstream Park 3/05/10



1:14.20 Breezing

Rank 1/2

Watch out!

05 Mar 2010 9:50 PM

WHAT A FABULOUS EVENT! And we are going to witness it in our lifetime!! I'm so excited to find this Diary...And can hardly wait for more to read in the next parts! It will be quite a race to experience if it does come to pass,,we must hope they recover nicely from their 2 prep races, so the match race will come off!!!

05 Mar 2010 9:54 PM
Star G

I was researching it and found a video where she surprised me. She ran nearly two months in 8000 meters in the triple crown of filly and males, she won her last race of 2400 meters in 1:47.3.

2f 23.2

6f 1:11.2

8f 1:36.3

12f 1:47.3

She is wonderful, she won

05 Mar 2010 10:16 PM

"GOLLY", If Zenyatta continues to train this darn good, she will be the only filly/mare taking off out of the starting gate on April 9, she is going to scare away all her competition, and I do mean "ALL" of them.

05 Mar 2010 10:20 PM

Zenyatta is coming along this good in her works, and to think she hasnt even hit her "closer" button yet, like she does when she is coming down the track for home.

This is just her cruising speed.

I know it is people out there that was horrified to hear she had not been retired. Zenyatta, You are some people's dream,and other people's nightmare.

05 Mar 2010 10:28 PM

To Slew:  

I have ALL of the videos of Rachel's races on my smartphone, including that "tossing of Borel" bit, and I don't recall Rachel "smacked him in the head with her head".

Rather, Rachel jumped up a bit, Calvin got off, held her head close to him, and she settled down, and Borel re-mounted her. Its kinda nice, seeing that Borel has a "calming" influence on Rachel.  

That's why I would advice myself, If I was Jackson, to get back Hal Wiggins as co-adviser to Asmussen.  It seems that Rachel works BEST with her old partners-- Hal and Calvin.  Not to say that Asmussen or Terry or Blasi was no good-- its just that its better with a little help from these guys, Hal and Cal. They're the old Pro's as far as Rachel is concerned.

Anyway, I have good news-- I got tickets to the AB right here in front of me. WOO HOOO!  Oaklawn, Here WE COME!!!!

GO, SUPERFILLY, GO!!  KICK EVERYONE'S BUTT!! HEHE! WE LOVE YOU, BABY!!  Geez, I will be that guy in the crowd with that stupid grin on his face!  LOL.  

06 Mar 2010 2:06 AM

Looking at the video of Rachel's last workout, I don't get it why some would say Rachel is "slow" or "disappointing" or even "tired" (?!)

Her legs are as bouncy, active, and "springy" as before the Kentucky Oaks. Her drive for speed is still PHENOMENAL, and you can tell she chafes at the bit while running. If she is a tad slow, its coz Terry is pulling her back so hard that he is almost standing up in the saddle!! But her 22-sec last furlong, after Terry set her loose, says it all: she CAN pull it off again.

Honestly, I think no significant damage was done to her due to the Woodward.  Rachel is, in fact, much stronger, more flexible, and "keener" to compete unlike before.  She has grown as big as the colts (if not bigger), and despite the long lay-off and fewer workouts, she seems more aggressive too than last time.

My bet is that Rachel should do just fine and, after one more breeze, be ready to tackle not just the New Orleans Ladies but the AB too.

HOY 2010? YES. No question about it. The biggest worry is not Zenyatta, nor Bambera, or even the Apple Blossom.  Rachel's best victories were with females, on any surface (dirt or plastic).

The real threat is with the COLTS and older Males, QR to be exact.

It remains to be seen if Rachel can beat QR's 124 BSF anytime soon.


06 Mar 2010 6:12 AM

I totally disagree with the assessments of her last workout. Rachel is not used to working in company because she is so competitive. Therefore when she saw the horse in front of her she wanted to woop him but the rider would not let her. It has nothing to do with her not being able to put in a good work. If you watch her works before the Oaks last year when a horse came to her after her work, she rebroke into stride, basically racing the other horse. Therefore when dominic does not let her go, and makes her go as SLOW as the other horse in front of her, she got frustrated. I really dont get how you guys want this girl to fail sooooo much and dont say you dont. If she takes a bad step EVERYONE has a comment about it. I really think, it was a poorly planned workout strategy. If they wanted her to lay off another horse they should have used either a faster horse, or broke the other horse off earlier and had him in full stride. She caught him to early and was just jogging next to him. They will not mess up like this on monday I guarantee it.

06 Mar 2010 6:37 AM

oh and footlick....I forgot to thank you for your agreeing with the

06 Mar 2010 6:39 AM
Bob Z

Just a few thoughts ...

If I have the facts right ...

Zenyatta ran her latest 6 furlongs in 1:11:80 on March 5th

Rachels time was … 1:13:60 on March 2nd  being seriously held back ...

That was a GOOD one for Zenyatta ...

I think Rachel is scheduled for one more timed workout on Monday ...

It will be interesting to see if they let her run to get the time down to 1:11 and change ...

Or they want to rate her behind another horse to get comfortable being off the pace ...

What they probably don’t want to see in the New Orleans Ladies and the Apple Blossom is her on the lead with fast fractions  like in the Woodward…

that’s why they are running her behind another horse in training to get used to hanging back ...

One way to accomplish both is to just get another faster horse ... or just have the horse they used to run with Rachel run faster…

this way they can still rate her behind the leader ...  teaching her patience ... or re teaching it while running faster to try and get the time for 6 furlongs down to the 1:11 mark ...

Regarding Rachel tossing Calvin before the start of the  Woodward ...

If you watch the video, Rachel was getting a little uppity and as a result Calvin was leaning off axis to his right (Frame 16)  

At Frame 17 his left foot is already back over the center of Rachel’s back and on the right side of her ... probably already in the motion of hopping off when ...

Rachel snapped her head back and caught Calvin flush on the right side of his face ... clearly visible ...

Rachel at 5 furlongs on 2/18/2010

Rachel at 6 furlongs on 3/2/2010

Both videos with audio and commentary ...

The New Orleans Ladies is a prep race for the BIG event ... It will be interesting to see where Rachel is as they go around the first turn ...

As the Apple Blossom is the big enchilada ...

and I would be expecting that there will be some crazy early speed in that race  it would be best for Rachel to be patient ...

unless there is no early speed ... then she can take the lead and relax on it ...

I would give Calvin the same instructions for the New Orleans Ladies as I would give him for the Apple Blossom ...

break fast... then quickly assess the situation before the first turn and if there are speedsters that want the lead... let them take it ...

and then use the lessons learned (hopefully) in these 6 furlong breezes to wait patiently and then be at or near the lead at the 3/4  pole and then just take off ...

I think that’s the way the Apple Blossom will play out too...

So it would be good for Rachel if the situation in the New Orleans Ladies sets up the same...

So she will have an actual race under belt where she rated off the pace and then did her thing at the 3 / 4 pole...  

unless nobody is going after the lead .. then Rachel can get it and hold it ..

and if she can get the lead and run the first 1 /4 mile in something like 24 + and the half in 47... both of these races will end up the same... with Rachel winning easily...

I don’t think the management team is expecting the field to let Rachel get the lead at a slow pace... its going to be quick... so that’s why they are training her to be patient behind another horse

06 Mar 2010 11:20 AM

Did you catch what Steve Anderson of the DRF said just three minutes after Zenyatta's fabulous work -"she wasn't breathing heavily".

Gobbling up seven lenghts on that other horse between the far turn and the top of the stretch.

Are you kidding me!

And did you catch in the article that Mr. Shirreff had this grin on his face after the work. I can only imagine it resembled the smile of the Grinch's.

06 Mar 2010 11:22 AM

Shane, I believe the point of a work mate was to harness Rachel's energy into stalking a lead horse so that she wouldn't wear herself out before the finish line.  The criticism comes because Rachel refused to be controlled. Constantly being on the lead can burn a horse out too quickly.  I think she'll be fine; she certainly looks fit if a bit unmanageable.

06 Mar 2010 11:47 AM
Lil Darlin

Rachel may just need the prep race to get her head back in the's been a while and she hasn't had a break like this since she started her racing career.

I know when I take a vacation from work, the first week back is always a drag, trying to get back into my routine. It's probably the same with her...I mean, who do these guys think they are, waking her up so early for a jog?!?! And before she's had her coffee?!?!

06 Mar 2010 12:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Shane, no one wants to see Rachel fail, including me. I want to see three great fillys have a great time out there and run their hearts out. I think Rachel needs one race under her belt and she will be o.k. She is such a competitor, that the works may not be relevant to how she actually runs in the real thing.

I agree with the poster who said that a different race with Quality Road in it is going to be a whole other thing again. He is a monster.

06 Mar 2010 2:58 PM

Lil Darlin, I had an actual lol to your last comment. Very refreshing : )

This may be a stupid question, but has Rachel had any gate schooling recently? If not, she'll have not seen a starting gate for over six months on March 13th, and I think that might be a little risky. Maybe they should let her just walk in and out to make sure she still remembers it? I'm not implying that she's stupid, simply that she may be caught off guard to go into a claustrophobic device that she hasn't seen for six months. It couldn't hurt, right? Just my opinion...

06 Mar 2010 5:46 PM
Bob Z

I was wondering where John Sheriffs was going to be next Saturday...

He has 2 horses running... one at Santa Anita and one at the Fair Grounds... ?

06 Mar 2010 10:22 PM

funnycideoflife- I'm sure they will have her in the gate soon.

06 Mar 2010 11:36 PM
Bob Z

Rachel went schooling today at the paddock...

“Her gallops have been very strong,’’ Asmussen said. “She’s not 100 percent fit for this race. We’re aware of that. She’s had six works in six months. But she’s a very physical horse. She is Rachel. I am very concerned about her fitness level.’’

So what does one do here?

Do you go all out and try to win it and if you do ... great...... or just use it as a training exercise and if you don't win ... you don't worry about it...

It sounds like they are lowering expectations....

Her last workout before the race is scheduled for Monday.

Thats going to be an interesting one to watch...

07 Mar 2010 12:29 AM
Paula Higgins

They gate schooled Rachel today (Saturday) and she did fine.

07 Mar 2010 12:36 AM

Rachel will do just fine, I hope.  If she can duplicate the KY Oaks performance, when she completed her last furlong in 12 sec flat, nothing can catch her-- not even QR, not even Bambera on roller skates.. but of course, we have to wait and see.  Another 6 MORE days til New Orleans Ladies.  

WOOHOO! GO, GO Superfilly Rachel, GO!!  If Rachel wins, the drinks are on me!!

07 Mar 2010 1:13 AM


I don't think that Rachel has any problems with starting gates, per se.  QR's problem with it, may be just an isolated case.  As for the Woodward incident, Rachel was spooked by thousands of hollering fans, and not by starting gates.  

Not seeing a gate for months (even years) has no effect on horses, to my knowledge. Horses have good memories, and they remember training regimens really well, even after a year or so has passed.  One thing I am sure will make any horse "act up"-- any sudden, loud, mysterious noise.  But if horses have become familiar with the noises-- say, tractor engines, or human voices-- they just ignore them routinely.  Same goes for starting gates.

GO, GO SUPERFILLY RACHEL, GO! WE LOVE YOU, BABY!!  KICK BUTTS AT THE AB!!  Nobody gonna catch my girl, Rachel!!

07 Mar 2010 2:33 AM

To Slew

I`ve got my Jazz Fest tickets for 4/24 as well and am looking forward to seeing Simon & Garfunkel.  I don`t have tickets for the AB and won`t be there for the race, but I will be at the FG next Saturday for the New Orleans Ladies race.  Here`s the pp`s for those nominated from the FG site.  The works aren`t up to date though.  An up and comer in the race could be Clear Sailing who may end up a clear second behind Rachel.

May have to paste it to see it

07 Mar 2010 9:20 AM

Also, I don`t think you can compare workouts between the two since the surfaces are entirely different and horses generally work much faster at SA.  Their race times are faster as well.

07 Mar 2010 9:23 AM

What I understand from the articles I've read about Mr. Shirreffs having Zardova running in the RA prep race was that it was the owner's only decision. They desperately wanted to be invited to the Apple Blossom with a good showing considering the money involved in the AB and not the belief that Mr. Shirreffs wanted to scope out RA. I think he is well aware of RA's running talents.

07 Mar 2010 12:01 PM

On January 16th when it was announced that Zenyatta would not be retiring, my husband and I quickly made hotel arrangements and secured seats to a finish line box (thanks to some wonderful friends).  We made these reservations and got these seats for April 3rd with the expectation of seeing the Apple Blossom, NOT WITH THE EXPECTATION OF SEEING RACHEL AND ZENYATTA.  A meeting between Rachel and Zenyatta was only a hope at that time and to be perfectly honest, we really didn’t expect to see Rachel.  We thought it was too soon for her but we hoped to at least get to see Zenyatta.  The April 3rd  reservations, again, were for the Apple Blossom.

Fast forward to February 11th when it was announced that the Apple Blossom was being moved to April 9th.  My husband and I just happened to be lucky enough to get that message on the computer as soon as we did.  Again, we quickly scrambled and got hotel reservations.  I wish I could say that we were lucky enough to get the finish line box again but it had already been promised to someone else.  However, the next morning we were finally able to get through the lines at OP to secure seats (no extras to be sold on ebay).

For those people having tickets for the April 3rd Apple Blossom and not being able to get seats for the April 9th Apple Blossom, I’m sorry and I really believe I understand how you must feel.  Anyone purchasing tickets for the April 3rd date did so with the Apple Blossom in mind and the HOPE of seeing a meeting between Rachel and Zenyatta, NOT THE EXPECTATION of seeing one. There is a difference between the two.  We all realize that anything can happen in racing and that horses don’t always run where we think they will.  If the Apple Blossom was still on for the 3rd and neither Rachel nor Zenyatta ran in it, well then that’s just the way it turned out and those of us having seats for that race would have just seen the Apple Blossom without either of the two but changing the date completely took away the possibility of what MIGHT HAVE BEEN on April 3rd and that’s what the problem is.

There are those that say that anyone having tickets for the April 3rd date should go ahead and use them and have a good time. If you live close to the track, can easily drive there and don’t have to spend money for a hotel (2 night minimum at many hotels) then that’s great – go for it and have fun.  The problem is that MANY people don’t fall into that category.  They have to either drive a good distance or fly and stay in a hotel and you just don’t want to do that without the Apple Blossom and the POSSIBILITY of what might be.  Again, the date change took away the possibility.

As far as how the whole thing could have been handled, I really don’t know.  Unfortunately, the seats that people had on April 3rd just couldn’t be honored for the April 9th date since so many of them had already been sold with it being Arkansas Derby weekend.   Aside from giving a refund, I really don’t know how the problem could’ve been solved.  Even if refunds had been given, that still wouldn’t have solved the problem.  MANY had purchased tickets in hopes of what they might see and a refund was not what they were looking for.  A seat is what they wanted and understandably so.  I know I would’ve been crushed if I hadn’t gotten a ticket.  The only fair way that I can see changing the Apple Blossom date would’ve been to a date that wasn’t even a race date, such as Monday April 12th and we all know that wouldn’t have been possible.  If it had been changed to a brand new date, then ALL seats would’ve been available (except individual boxes).

All of this being said, I have to say that I’m quite concerned as to whether or not Rachel is ready.  I’ve followed her since she broke her maiden at 2 at CD.  I’ve been at a number of her races and seen her on the backside of a couple of tracks and she’s always appeared happy, something I didn’t see in the video of her last work.  I saw her on the backside of CD every morning the week of the Oaks and she was relaxed, focused, and cooperative.  Nothing seemed to bother her.  People came to see her and pictures were taken of her time and time again and she took it all in.  I’ve never seen her act up until before the Woodward.  I just hope her spirit hasn’t been broken.  It would be so sad if Dave Johnson is right and “This filly is not the same anymore”.

07 Mar 2010 1:19 PM
Rachel Fan

I guess I wonder why people have this strange feeling that Rachel will get caught in a speed duel in any race she runs in this year.  If you watch her races Calvin always lets her break the gates alertly but there were two races where he had to turn her engine on early (Preakness & Woodward) but there were reasons for that, in the Preakness she was out in the 13 spot and in the Woodward race riding would have led to her being boxed in and not being able to run her race, thats the reason she was on the muscle early, if you watch the other 6 races she ran in she was allowed to break from the gates but she was relaxed early on and sat off the pace or made the pace setting reasonable fractions. I wonder why there are concerns, just like with any horse that is asked to run early its hard to get them to relax after shaking the reigns at them, relax people everything is under control.

07 Mar 2010 1:44 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve Asmussen stated Saturday "I am concerned about her fitness." I think if she doesn't run well in New Orleans the Apple Blossom is off. I would bet on it.

07 Mar 2010 2:13 PM
Lil Darlin


We can all use a bit of a laugh on these blogs sometimes as they have the tendency to get a bit hostile. I have my thoughts on how things are going to play out, but rather than speculate I'm going to let the race be run and enjoy the ride...this kind of race doesn't come around very often.

07 Mar 2010 2:27 PM

Nicholas- I read the same thing.  Shirreffs doesn't need to be told how talented RA is.  Just as Asmussen doesn't need to be told how talented Zenyatta is.

07 Mar 2010 6:05 PM

RiverCitySmitty- Zenyatta works at Hollywood, not Santa Anita.  And since the advent of synthetic tracks, I don't think the works are appreciably faster than any other track anymore.  It was true in the days of the freeway dirt tracks that used to predominate the West Coast.

07 Mar 2010 6:08 PM
Bob Z

Rachel Fan,

In the Preakness... yes she had to break fast because she was in the outside gate 13... but once you are in front of most of the pack what is to say that you must take the lead .. like in the preakness...

she could have rated behind DaTara but chose to take the lead or duel head to head with him..

... and I'm not sure what you meant about the Woodward..

... what was you opinion on why she had to be out in the lead...?

I think you meant... so as not to be boxed in... thats true in any race.. go fast to stay out of traffic and to avoid being boxed in... but the Woodward was a lot more than just staying out of traffic...

... Rachel was all out taking the lead, and not hanging back....

she was going to be on the lead in that race...

thats what I worry about in the Apple Blossom.. if the race is run like the Woodward she is playing into a closers hands...

I was fortunate  enough to see her at Monmouth Park in NJ for the Haskell and she was just off the lead behind Munnings.. with Summer Bird right there too...

The Mother Goose at Belmont Park in NY is a good example of what I was saying... The other 2 horses Flashing and Malibu Prayer broke fast and did the first 1 /4 in something like 22 and change and the 1 /2 mile in 44 and change... which is way too fast if you are going to run 1 1 /8 miles...

... So then ... yes... Calvin held her back and then let her run at the 3 / 4 pole and she ended up winning by 19 lenghts and just missed the record for the race...

That is the type of race strategy for the Apple Blossom that I think gives her the best chance... If she runs out fast and tires ... that plays into Zenyattas strategy...

07 Mar 2010 6:57 PM
Sarah G

KYoaks09, I appreciated your well thought-out response! It sounds like we were in the same boat, but since I am down here in FL I wasn't able to go stand in line when tickets for the 9th went on sale. You said this:

"As far as how the whole thing could have been handled, I really don’t know.  Unfortunately, the seats that people had on April 3rd just couldn’t be honored for the April 9th date since so many of them had already been sold with it being Arkansas Derby weekend.   Aside from giving a refund, I really don’t know how the problem could’ve been solved. "

I would honestly be happy if they had just said that they would honor my finish-line ticket for April 3rd as a general admission ticket. If I could just send it in and have it exchanged for a guaranteed admission on April 9th I'd be so happy. But it's difficult for those of us who live out of state to commit to plane tickets and hotel rooms when we aren't even guaranteed admission for the new date!

I'm excited to see what happens on March 13. And I hope Rachel's camp has the courage to pull her from the AB if she isn't ready. She has months to prepare to race against Zen!

07 Mar 2010 8:38 PM

Sarah G-

We were actually more "in the same boat" than you thought. My husband and I live out of state just as you do and although we will be driving, we too must have hotel reservations.  Although I said that we finally got through the lines at OP to get our tickets, I wasn't referring to standing in line at the track.  My husband and I spent almost two hours straight on two separate telephone lines trying to get through in order to request our tickets.  Although we didn't get the great box that we had for the April 3rd date, we were happy just to get to talk to someone in the ticket office and get something.

I'll keep hoping for you as well as all of the others in your position that something works out for you. Good luck!!!

07 Mar 2010 10:57 PM

I still feel that Rachel is fine.  Maybe Asmussen is "shaking the tree" a bit, so that they won't get the jinx-- saying that something is a sureball puts hexes on the best-laid plans, and ruins expectations.

Otherwise, Rachel seems physically ABLE.  She is strong, healthy, with no pain or injury keeping her from doing her best.  In fact, her strength now is BETTER than before -- she can run for miles with no chance of fatigue.  Unlike before at the Oaks, where her legs are wobbly but yes, showing early signs of strength to come later.

Contrary to what fans say at the Woodward, Rachel developed rapidly over the months since the Oaks, and her strength is on display for the first time in the Woodward.  Notice how she held off the late-charging Macho Again?  If that race happened in March, Rachel should have lost.  But in September, her bones have become harder and bigger.  Despite the pressure, her legs held on, and she won.  

We may NEVER see a filly as good as Rachel in the next half century! I am glad to have seen such a talented horse in my lifetime.

At four, Rachel is fully developed, and I think, with the right weather and lots of luck, this 2010 she can surpass her 2009 records with ease.


08 Mar 2010 1:26 AM

NOOOO!  Please don't tell me TVG will again broadcast the Pre-Apple Blossom analysis!!  nobody, not even me, have TVG!  Please get ESPN or ABC-- I have them.... not TVG again!  Crap.

NTRA should get ESPN on this.  AB is a HUGE thing.  I hope that NTRA doesn't get left out of the Smorgassboard!

08 Mar 2010 4:18 AM
Slew fortunate you are.  My daughter lives in NOLA.  I'll get back there, yet.  Enjoy the Jazz Fest. I do have the Fair Grounds bookmarked, so I check it all of the time for works and entries.  

KYoaks09...How fortunate you were to reschedule your tickets, and your response reflects the problems facing both OP and and original AB ticket holders.  And Sarah G...I feel terrible for you also.  I wish I could take you up on your ticket offer :-D, but I live even farther away than you.  Since you would lose a chunk of change if you don't go (because of the reservations), I just thought going to Hot springs just might turn out to be an enjoyable trip if you took advantage of it.  I've always enjoyed traveling..

...anywhere..but the past few years have made it next to impossible, and I truly regret not seeing everything I wanted to see when I had the opportunity to do so.  I just didn't want that to happen to you. :)

08 Mar 2010 8:56 AM
My Juliet

  Steve, I enjoyed the Diary very much. When the meeting does happen(I'm late on here, I know things could be changing) looking forward to your taking us 'behind the scenes' like only you can. What a treat for fans :)

   Paula H, I wonder also about Jess's and now Steve A's comment. These guys don't make statements unless there's a reason. I guess the prep race will tell the most, but I am glad these aren't people who will be pressured into anything. I'm a huge Rachel fan, but she will be meeting the other best horse in racing. I'd feel better if she were going into it 100%.

  Pasturelands, I love your comments, such enthusiasm for the Brilliant Superfilly Rachel :)

08 Mar 2010 6:18 PM
Paula Higgins

Here's the good news, Rachel did well today in her short work. That is encouraging and makes me feel better, and I bet it makes Steve Asmussen and Jess Jackson feel even better, LOL. I hope she wins her New Orleans race and then we will get our wish to see her in the Apple Blossom.

I am not happy about Zenyatta getting a weight of 127 pounds. Who figures these weights out anyway??? Way too much IMO and unfair. I would refuse to run her with a a weight that heavy. Has anyone ever refused to run a horse with a high weight imposition?

08 Mar 2010 7:29 PM
Bob Z

A comparison of Rachels last 2 works...

March 2nd 6 furlongs

March 8th 4 furlongs

She seemed more fluid and more focused today...

08 Mar 2010 8:44 PM

Just a note.  They retired Vodka because she bled again in her race at Dubai.

08 Mar 2010 10:31 PM
Sarah G

"KYoaks09...How fortunate you were to reschedule your tickets, and your response reflects the problems facing both OP and and original AB ticket holders.  And Sarah G...I feel terrible for you also.  I wish I could take you up on your ticket offer :-D, but I live even farther away than you.  Since you would lose a chunk of change if you don't go (because of the reservations), I just thought going to Hot springs just might turn out to be an enjoyable trip if you took advantage of it.  I've always enjoyed traveling..

...anywhere..but the past few years have made it next to impossible, and I truly regret not seeing everything I wanted to see when I had the opportunity to do so.  I just didn't want that to happen to you. :)"

Slew...within 15 mins of the date change announcement, we switched our awesome hotel rooms to the weekend of the 9th. We haven't cancelled them. If Rachel and Zen are both a go for the 9th, we may just go anyway and try to get in. Between that and the Arkansas Derby, we should be able to get in for one day of racing, right? ;)

08 Mar 2010 11:24 PM


Just took a look at Bambera's pedigree. Her dam is a direct granddaughter of Seattle Slew on one side and Affirmed on the other side.

Her sire is a direct grandson of Northern Dancer. She is bred to beat just about anything, and that is exactly what she has been doing. This is gonna be great!!!!!

09 Mar 2010 11:50 AM

I think Asmussen is covering himself a bit beacause he's been so careful and may have caused Rachel to work too slow while trying not to work her too fast too early.He has never brought her back from a long layoff.He got her in almost peak condition after the Oaks and did a good job running her the balance of the year.Remember how Wiggins worked her in 46.4 for the half mile before the Oaks and what a performance she gave in the race.She was never worked that fast by Asmussen before her other races.They were in the 48- 49  range, which was ok given her fitness then. She should be ok for a mile and 1/16  now and should win against these horses while not dominating as she normaly does.Whether she will move forward far enough for a race against Zenyatta is a tough chore but if  she wins Saturday they will have to try!

09 Mar 2010 1:21 PM

Zenyatta has to carry 127 pounds in her prep race, this just does not seem fair. First race back after a long layoff and she has to spot the field 10-18 lbs? This just is not right.

09 Mar 2010 2:39 PM

I think the main thing to take away from Rachels works is the rider getting her to sit down 25 second first quarter splits....that is brilliant IMO.

09 Mar 2010 2:47 PM

Rachel did work a 1:11 for Asmussen before the Haskell.

09 Mar 2010 2:48 PM

Sorry the 1:11 was after the haskell

09 Mar 2010 2:56 PM


Yes, trainers have withdrawn horses due to high weight assignments.  With Zenyatta, though, it doesn't seem to make much difference to her.  She won last year carrying 129 and still won easily.  She's a huge mare and so strong that I doubt it will make any difference to her.  She still runs as though she has wings.

09 Mar 2010 3:23 PM

As far as Rachel's prep, I have no idea what she will do.  Seems as though we have been receiving comments from the connections that she could lose the prep due to not being 100% which I'm sure she isn't.  The postive thing is that she LOVES to run and with Borel on her she will probably be okay.  She will be reunited with him and she will know what her job is just by him being on her back.  I think she has a lot of pent up energy due to the slower works.  If Calvin can get her to relax the first half of the race, she will probably explode in the stretch winning easily.  Maybe.  We shall see.  I will be watching both girl's preps and I know for sure that Zenyatta will win but we've been given doubts from Rachel's camp so it will be interesting.  I just want them both to return safe and sound and happy.

09 Mar 2010 3:29 PM

I'm with you Paula. I thought the weight assignment for Zen was nuts. She has carried that much weight before and won but giving 19 1bs to some of these horses??? wow....

Bob..thanks for posting RA's works. She does look so much better in her latest work but I am concerned about her shifting her nose to the outside. She seems to straighten out a little once she gets rolling but she still is carrying her head and neck funny to me. Probably nothing. I just think she is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen. She is so fluid and Steve is right...she just moves so easy.

09 Mar 2010 4:56 PM

Time to cue up the TVG Zenyatta DVD and watch what she does to Life is Sweat at Hollywood Park after coming off a 7 month lay off.  Keep in mind Life is Sweat had just rattled off 3 consecutive victories at Santa Anita, owning the winter/spring meet beating Grade 1 company (Santa Teresita?).   The jockey aboard Life is Sweat tries some "tactics" (like pinning her in) but Zenyatta backs out and just passes him.

09 Mar 2010 5:10 PM
Bob Z


Yes maybe a little tentative with Rachel's training...  maybe a situation of not knowing what you have ...(?)

... meaning not believing how great this horse is...(can be)


just taking the tack to bring a horse along as you would any other horse...  

My hope is that they both (Zenyatta and Rachel) win their prep races in whatever fashion they feel like doing it in ....

If that happens... this going to be nuts....

I already hear people that are not track goers yapping about both horses...

This has now crossed over into the mainstream like an Apple IPhone or IPAD...

If this happens Oaklawn is going to be ELECTRIC like the Garden was for ALI and Frazier(I)  ...

I had the opportunity to see Rachel at Monmouth Park for the Haskell and the vibe was off the charts... much bigger than for Curlin or Big Brown....

... maybe because she is a female... or because of what she has accomplished...

I am getting the sense that the anticipation for this will eclipse the Seabiscuit War Admiral race in 1938 and the result has the potential to  eclipse the spectacle of the the Belmont Stakes in 1973.

More than likely... eclipsing the spectacle or the 73 Belmont will have to wait until the Breeders Cup.... but hey... even in the same breath ... that means the attendees at Oaklawn are going to see somtehing special...

09 Mar 2010 5:14 PM
Lil Darlin

Thanks for posting the works Bob Z...I think the game face will come back this weekend when she's got a couple other horses in the gate next to her.  Zen certainly seems to have hers on...I just hope both are game on come April 9th!

09 Mar 2010 6:52 PM

Having seen so many of Zenyatta's races, I just don't think that weight assignment will hinder her in the least.  This girl won the BCC!  She's amazing and they have to give the other girls a chance!

There is something though about Zenyatta that nobody seems to mention.  It is her utter lack of caring about how she ruins the other horses' self-esteem!  I mean, she yawns as she runs by and I have heard that many of the other horses have gone back to their stalls and ate a gallon of Dreyer's ice cream.  I also hear that some have ordered Cosmopolitan's.  At this rate, she will not win Miss Congeniality of 2010 among the thoroughbred set.  I think someone should have a talk with her and tell her that the least she could do is maybe act like she had to really work hard to win, like maybe blow a little for effect.  I mean it couldn't hurt and it would do a world of good for the other horses to think that maybe, just maybe they might have won if they had tried  just a little harder.

09 Mar 2010 6:59 PM

The impost of 127 lbs to Zenyatta is a recognition of the depth of her talent and capability. I don't like it very much but such is the nature of a "handicap". Trying to level the playing field has not worked in the past and I don't think it will work again this time. I'm more concerned with the pace (or lack of) than I am of her carrying more weight than her adversaries. If Mike Smith's internal clock is working, the rest is up to Zenyatta and we all know how that turned out in her 14 previous races...

09 Mar 2010 7:14 PM


You are TOO funny!

09 Mar 2010 7:16 PM

I expect Rachel will come out of her Saturday prep race sharper and more fit, as will Zenyatta.

And, at least Zen's 127-pound handicap is 2 pounds less than she carried in the Vanity Handicap last year.

09 Mar 2010 11:48 PM


Thanks for your last post. I was literally laughing out loud. What a great way to start my Wednesday! Be nice Zen! hahaha

10 Mar 2010 10:19 AM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs