Apple Blossom Diary: March 1 - 9

March 1 – The first NTRA poll of the year is out and Zenyatta tops the list with eight first-place votes and 150 points, while Rachel Alexandra managed five first-place votes and 145 points. You don’t often see the returning Horse of the Year fail to earn the No. 1 slot in the first poll, especially with neither horse having raced this year.

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A reader of this diary from Venezuela sent the links to most of Bambera’s races in Venezuela, as well as the Clasico del Caribe in Puerto Rico, her most recent start. Here are some observations after watching her in action.
The first thing that caught my eye was that her running style is almost identical to Rachel’s, tracking or setting the pace and then distancing herself from her opponents about two-thirds of the way around the far turn. But when she pulls away she is being ridden more aggressively than Rachel is. In the Clasico del Caribe, she was put to pressure on the turn, losing the lead, and had to be pushed by the rider to regain it. She does, however, win most of her races by large margins and is usually under wraps at the wire. What could make her all the more dangerous is that she has shown on a consistent basis she doesn’t mind mixing it up early.

Unlike Rachel, she often has trouble changing leads, and has won major races at 10 and 12 furlongs without ever changing leads, which actually says a lot about her. She also has shown a tendency to take herself wide at the top of the stretch, but not on a regular basis. Finally, like Rachel, she has the ability to manhandle the boys. All in all, she is one intriguing filly, and if she is as good as she looked on the videos, she could make things even more interesting than they already are, especially entertaining Rachel on or near the lead.

 

Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta: Get the latest on the road to the Apple Blossom.

March 2 – Rachel Alexandra worked this morning, breezing six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 at 10:30, after training hours were over. Asmussen had said earlier this was to be her most serious work, but it didn’t seem to be that much more serious than her last work, when she breezed in 1:14, except for the fact she worked this time in company, blowing past her workmate in the final furlong and finishing six lengths in front.

Although Asmussen admitted he was hoping for a faster work, he was happy with the way Rachel came home her final quarter in :22 3/5 and final eighth in :11 1/5. She galloped out a strong seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5 and pulled up a mile in 1:41 1/5.

“We’re happy with where she’s at,” Asmussen said. “The main thing is she’s healthy and this is a step in the process to getting her back to her previous level.”

Asmussen said Rachel will have an easy half-mile blowout on March 8 as her final work before the New Orleans Ladies. “We built up to this point and from here we need to back off and let her catch her breath,” he said. “We won’t be looking for speed, just fluid and relaxed.”

Watching the work online, it was not your typical Rachel work. She normally gets a bit keyed up before a work, but she was really jumping out of her skin galloping to the pole, equipped for the first time with either a figure-8 or drop noseband (couldn't see from the photo), which helps keep the mouth closed and prevents a horse from playing too much with the bit. Rachel, as usual, was full of herself galloping to the pole, and more headstrong than usual early in the work. Having a workmate also was new to her. Throughout the work, she had her head cocked to the outside and switched back to her left lead in mid-stretch. Dominic Terry, who had thrown a cross on her turning for home, was looking down at something off to the right. This wasn’t as smooth a work as her previous one.

Terry finally was able to get her to change back to her right lead and she finished up smoothly. To her credit, she still managed to come home her final quarter in :22 3/5. She cut the corner beautifully, as she always does, and galloped out strong, with Terry flicking her on the shoulder with his whip hand. The question is how far is she from being ready to tackle Zenyatta, from both a mental and fitness standpoint? You have to remember, she went almost five months without a work, and by not having a handily work she definitely needs to get something out of her prep and has to show she hasn’t lost anything from last year.

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The Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta trading cards order was increased from 50,000 to 100,000 and it proved to be a wise move, judging from the size of the crowd that lined up outside the Hot Springs Visitor Center on this chilly morning, with stiff winds and temperatures in the 30s.

They began arriving at 7 a.m. for the 10 o’clock giveaway, and within an hour there were about 250 people on line, some of whom had brought blankets and chairs. By 9 a.m., the line had stretched all the way around the Visitor Center, with more people still coming. Each person received one card of each horse.

The workload is beginning to pick up in the media department with the large number of credential requests that are now pouring in, some from as far away as Japan and Turkey.

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A new wrinkle has been added to the New Orleans Ladies, as John Shirreffs announced he will send his Brazilian-bred 6-year-old, Zardana, to Fair Grounds to take on Rachel. A winner of seven of her 18 career starts, Zardana won the grade II Bayakoa at Hollywood Park Dec. 5, and in her only start this year finished fourth in the grade I Santa Maria Handicap, beaten 4 3/4 lengths by St. Trinians. Zardana does have good tactical speed and won’t make it easy for Rachel.

Shirreffs said in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Mr. (Arnold) Zetcher, who is the owner of Zardana, suggested that we run her at the Fair Grounds, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Shirreffs and Zetcher realize there likely will be repercussions from their decision from conspiracy theorists who no doubt will feel Zardana is running to soften up Rachel by making her run hard in her first start back since early September.

“I said to Mr. Zetcher, ‘Oh no, here we go,’” Shirreffs was quoted in the Times-Picayune. But his explanation is that the only race in California for Zardana is the Santa Margarita, and that, obviously, is not an option with Zenyatta in there.

Speaking of Shirreffs, Life is Sweet’s owners, Pam and Marty Wygod, have officially accepted the invitation to the Dubai World Cup, so she definitely is going, and Shirreffs likely will be heading there as well. The reason for him tearing himself away from Zenyatta is simple, according to Dottie: “Life is Sweet LOVES JOHN.”

 

March 3 – Heard from Dottie again today. She had great news that Bobby Frankel’s longtime assistant, Ruben Loza, is now working for John, as is Frankel’s top groom, J.L. (Chummo), who rubbed Medaglia d’Oro, Sightseek, Intercontinental, Champs Elysees, and Ventura just to name a few. “It is so much fun to see them there, settled in, happy, and rebuilding their own lives,” Dottie said.

She added, “Depending on the weather, Zenyatta is to breeze Friday or Saturday....but the rain is due...so not sure of the adjustments John will need to make. One computer in his office has weather reports coming up constantly to keep us up-to-date on the forecast.”

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You gotta love this one: “WANT TO TRADE NORTHWOODS CABIN for APPLE BLOSSOM LODGING: I have a charming cabin on Spider Lake in Hayward, Wisconsin (Class A Muskie Lake). Beautiful Northwoods location, great fishing, charming cabin filled with antiques/vintage! 2 bedrooms, sleeping loft, 1 bath, fireplace, boat and dock. Am looking to trade/ba...rter 1 week at my cottage for lodging the 8th, 9th, and 10th of April in Hot Springs. Pictures available! Message me if interested! GO ZENYATTA!

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Another challenger for Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies will be the lightly raced 4-year-old, Clear Sailing, who has made only four career starts, winning her last three, including a neck score in the 1 1/16-mile Pelleteri Stakes. In her two prior victories, she romped by 8 3/4 lengths in a mile and 40-yard allowance race, in which she led every step of the way, and won a six-furlong maiden race by 4 1/4 lengths. All three victories have come at Fair Grounds, so we know she loves the track. It’s looking as if Rachel could have as many as eight or nine opponents.

 

March 4 – With more rain expected in Southern California over the weekend (does it ever rain on weekdays out there?), one can’t help but look ahead to next weekend when Zenyatta is scheduled to make her 2010 debut in the Santa Margarita. Shirreffs, who always takes everything in stride, isn’t fretting about it.

"There aren’t any concerns; none at all,” he said. “Generally speaking, March is not a big month for a lot of rain out here, and that’s out of our control, anyway. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. But even if we don’t get a prep, she’d be ready without a doubt. Did you see her race in the Milady after, what, a nine month layoff? There’s really not much worry.”

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The Venezuelan sensation, Bambera, who has been receiving a great deal of publicity lately, had today’s scheduled work at Calder postponed until tomorrow to accommodate jockey Javier Castellano.  

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Quotes from Jess Jackson in the New York Times:

“We are stretching to get there. But if we’re not in top shape, we’re not going.”

“If they (Zenyatta) beat us in one race, they might just disappear and retire her undefeated.”

“I think they are trying to size us up. It makes sense for them (to run Zardana at Fair Grounds). They want to catch us short.”

“I’m not afraid to lose, but it’s not going to do Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra any good if either one of them are not at their best.”

Interesting and revealing comments. By the way, when Jackson says “they” and “them” in his Zardana comment, only Shirreffs has a connection to Zenyatta and it was not his idea to run her at Fair Grounds.

 

March 5 – Zenyatta had the work Steve Asmussen apparently was looking for with Rachel, drilling a sharp six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 4/5 handily at Hollywood Park this morning, the fastest of 13 works at the distance. She came home her final quarter in :23 4/5. Her stablemate, Life is Sweet, who is bound for Dubai, also was sharp, going her six furlongs in 1:12 3/5.

Shirreffs said in Daily Racing Form of Zenyatta’s work: “It always amazes me how good she looks; how she glides over the ground. She’s picture perfect. She looks like she’s on top of her game right now.”

Mike Smith added: “I know it sounds funny, but I really think she’s getting better. She seems more and more focused and she couldn’t be doing any better.”

Zenyatta likely will van to Santa Anita Thursday afternoon.

Shirreffs said that Arnold Zetcher, owner of Zardana, is hoping to run his filly back in the Apple Blossom after she takes on Rachel in the New Orleans Ladies. It looks as if Shirreffs now has two owners who have no hesitation about running their filly against Zenyatta. Last year, it was the Wygods who attempted it three times, and now Zetcher is gung-ho to run against Zenyatta, and Rachel twice.

It was a busy morning, as Bambera breezed six furlongs in 1:14 at Gulfstream. Just as a point of interest, Careless Jewel is beginning to pick up her training, working five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 at Palm Meadows. But she’s still too far behind to be ready for Oaklawn.

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Calvin Borel on Facebook: “A little over a week remains until Rachel makes her debut in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds! The anticipation is tough, but I waited 28 years for her, so what’s nine more days?”

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It looks as if the Apple Blossom will be televised by ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST.

 

March 6 – Let’s see where Rachel and Zenyatta are at from a fitness standpoint. By the time Rachel had her first work in nearly five months, an easy :52 breeze, Zenyatta already had five works in her, four of them while “retired,” and two of them at five furlongs. And she ran two months later into the year than Rachel. Since then, Zenyatta has had five works in 31 days, and Rachel has had five works in 25 days, so it is apparent that Rachel has been cramming her works into a tighter schedule in order to play catch-up. Zenyatta has been working basically every eight days, while Rachel has been working every six days.

All we can do is go by Asmussen’s comment after Rachel’s last work: “We’re happy with where we’re at.”

Rachel schooled in the paddock before the seventh race today after having an exceptionally strong gallop this morning, according to the Fair Grounds clocker. When she schools again next week, they will let the people know about it. Today’s schooling went unannounced. “This was a little dress rehearsal for the dress rehearsal,” Asmussen said in the Times-Picayune.

Although Asmussen said Rachel’s gallops have been strong, he admitted she is not 100% for next Saturday’s race. “We’re very aware of that,” he said. “I am very concerned about her fitness level.”

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Has none other than Bob Baffert entered the Apple Blossom picture? Could be after Freedom Star’s wire-to-wire, 3 3/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Azeri Stakes; Oaklawn’s prep for the Apple Blossom. The Santa Anita shipper is another pure speed horse who has been on the lead in her last five races. It looks as if the Apple Blossom sure won’t be lacking for pace.

 

March 7 – Calvin Borel’s wife, Lisa, is gearing up for next Saturday, and she shared her feelings about Rachel and the Apple Blossom.

“I have not felt that twist in my gut yet; that settling feeling of overwhelming helplessness that always comes when Rachel runs and I can’t get out there and run alongside of her, protecting her and lifting her up and safely across the finish line -- in front, of course. However, I think the only thing that will keep me sane, and Calvin as well, is knowing that this filly came through for him the one time it really mattered for Calvin -- at the Preakness. She validated Calvin’s choice and from that day on she’s owed us nothing.

“So, yes, we would love for her to win against Zenyatta. It would be the ultimate confirmation to the world that she is what we know she is, but is so hard to explain. She has done so much for us already I feel greedy wanting anything more than for her to run and enjoy herself. If she wins we will be overjoyed, but a loss will take nothing away from her in our hearts and minds. All I would have to do is think back to that day in Baltimore -- when I could see her struggling, but somehow finding enough to get there -- and it would be really hard for me to say she let me down, or to be disappointed in any way.

“I just want both mares to come out of the race in good form -- happy and healthy and ready to fight another day. I’ve found that it is very hard to realize the magnitude of what is about to happen while it is happening or before. I've discovered that in this game you need at least a year after the fact to sit back and take it all in and put everything in perspective. The pressure can take away all of your perspective.

“Calvin does not let pressure disturb him. He goes out there and does his job, not thinking about anything but getting them across the line first. He is really excited to get out there and show everyone that Rachel is Rachel, just as Zenyatta is Zenyatta. Both are tremendous mares, but only one can come out on top. Calvin thinks he has a pretty good idea who it will be.”

Lisa, a former exercise rider, feels Saturday’s New Orleans Ladies will help put some deep fitness into Rachel, and give her a chance to “work out the kinks and get the butterflies under control,” as well as getting her into the routine of going to the paddock, being saddled, and loading into the gate. And finally, “Listening to Calvin and settling in off the pace; all those things that would be difficult to re-establish in the kind of atmosphere the Apple Blossom will undoubtedly produce.”

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Zenyatta was assigned top weight of 127 pounds for Saturday’s Santa Margarita. From the list of nominees, she is conceding from eight to 19 pounds. Second highweight is the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Tuscan Evening at 119 pounds. Last year’s Spinster winner and Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic runner-up Mushka would be getting 11 pounds at 116. Kenny McPeek has two nominated – Striking Dancer at 115 and My Baby Baby at 113. And Todd Pletcher has nominated Floating Heart at 111 pounds.

 

March 8 – Rachel had her final work for the New Orleans Ladies this morning, blowing out a half-mile in :49, going her opening quarter in :25 1/5 and final quarter in :23 4/5, galloping out a strong five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. This was a smoother and more professional work than her last. Asmussen said it was just an easy half, and he felt “she went beautiful” and “went over the racetrack very well.”

Rachel drew post 2 in the five-horse field for Saturday’s New Orleans Ladies. Zardana is just outside her in post 3. Fighter Wing, who set the pace in the Pelleteri, will break from the rail, and could give Rachel something to run at. Pelleteri winner Clear Sailing has the 5-post. Those two, along with stakes winner Unforgotten, will be getting six pounds from Rachel (123-117). Zardana carries 121.

As for the conspiracy theories, including Jackson’s, that Zardana is being shipped to Fair Grounds to “size up Rachel” and “catch her short,” it could be that Zardana’s presence will actually help Rachel in the long run. Let’s say, with Zardana in there, Rachel will have to work harder to win by a couple of lengths. Without Zardana, let’s say Rachel wins off by herself and never raises a sweat. Which scenario would compromise her chances more for the Apple Blossom? Many would think Rachel needs to be tested to some degree following a seven-month layoff, and Zardana could be the one to do it. Of course, you don’t want a gut-wrencher that could knock her out, but would another of Rachel’s typical cakewalks help prepare her to face Zenyatta? It’s at least something to think about.

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Hotel change: We’re out of the Austin Hotel and into the Comfort Suites – newer and closer to the track. It’s good to know people.

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From a Facebook friend from Spain: “Rachel is trembling with fear...Zenyatta is trembling with fear...BAMBERA to conquer USA…Jajajaja (which translates to hahaha).
“VIVA BAMBERA! Canonero’s history repeats???”

 

March 9 – A field of five or six is expected to be drawn tomorrow for the Santa Margarita.

Mike Smith said of Zenyatta’s weight assignment on today’s NTRA teleconference, “It’s a lot of weight to spot them starting off the year, but fortunately for us she’s a big mare and carries her weight very well, so, hopefully, it won’t bother her too much. She’s ready for something and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Speaking of the teleconference, NTRA’s Eric Wing informed the media that, “Unfortunately, repeated attempts to get someone from the Rachel Alexandra camp failed.”

Well, this is it. In four days we'll know if Hot Springs will be boiling over on April 9. Saturday no doubt will be the longest day for Charles Cella, who will be like Florenz Ziegfeld watching the final rehearsals for his most ambitious and grandiose stage spectacle. Only after the rehearsals will Cella be confident “The Greatest Show on Turf” will open with all the glitz and pageantry everyone has been expecting.

160 Comments

Leave a Comment:

dawn

Calvin Borel is not married to Lisa yet.  

09 Mar 2010 7:41 PM
rita

Great write Steve! I'm so excitiedIcan't hardly wait for Arril 9.I just hope both girls come out of their races this weekend good.I would hate to see either lose but it does and will happen sometime. It want make any difference to me I will still love both of them. Zenyatta of course is my special favorite one. Love the beautiful dancing girl with the big personality!

09 Mar 2010 8:00 PM
dustywhipp

Good luck this weekend girls! But Zenyatta will win the Apple Blossom.

09 Mar 2010 8:49 PM
Randy

Why are people suspecting that Zardana is on some sort of spy mission to scope out Rachel Alexandra. Oh, please. Trainer Shirreffs emphatically said it was the owner's (Zardana's) decision and not his. The owner wants to put on a good showing and be invited to the Apple Blossom considering the money they're offering.

And I wouldn't think that Shirreffs is lying about it.

At this stage of the game I sure that he knows all about what RA can do on a racetrack.

09 Mar 2010 8:58 PM
The Rock

I really hope Jess Jackson comes through with this matchup. You can just sense that he's having second thoughts by his comments. That would just be a big blow to all this anticipation building from everyone around the world.

I'm firmly behind Zenyatta. She hasn't missed a beat her whole career, and just seems to be thriving more than ever. Zenyatta will prevail. I have no doubt about it.

09 Mar 2010 9:19 PM
Golden Gate

The redbuds, and crocuses are beginning to bloom in Hot Springs  One thing all you fine folks coming to the Apple Blossom and Arkansas Derby will see is Hot Springs in its flowering beauty.

Hot Springs is truly a beautiful small town. Like any other place there is crime but it has a special feel to it..what with the steaming springs and the dogwoods and the race track.

Bath house row is on HWY 7 about 4 miles north of the track. There is a free fountain near the Visitors center where you can fill gallon jugs up of the hot spring water.

I was at Oaklawn on Saturday and there is a more than usual hum of excitement in the air. The trading cards were being given out by the red coated Oaklawn employees by the famous Oaklawn horse statue.

One thing great about this track is that people bring their children to watch the beautiful horses run. The parents and grandparents read the horses names to the children and let them pick the winners by who they like in the paddock.

Yes there are serious gamblers, horsemen and horsewomen all milling around but what is nice is seeing the families come out for the day. It is great there are some sport venues left that are affodable to average american families.

To have the opportunity to play host to some of the greatest modern day horses is so exciting for our town and our track. I hope everyone that visits has a great time cheering on their favorite horse.

09 Mar 2010 9:25 PM
Lil Darlin

Dawn - I know when Lisa posted on one of the blogs a couple months ago she posted as Lisa Borel...I was caught off guard as well, but I do think that they are quite the happy married couple now (and it's about time!)

Steve,

I don't know if I love or hate your diary...I love it because its such a detailed play by play and it gives us readers such wonderful insight into the growing vortex around 4/9...

BUT...The more I read, the more I am jumping out of my skin for the race to get here!  It's maddening, I tell you!

09 Mar 2010 9:28 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, what a GREAT blog/diary! Can't tell you how much I love it.

I think Bambera is going to be a contender. But my gut says she doesn't win. I wonder if she and Rachel get into a speed duel and wear each other out just in time for Zenyatta to whoosh by. It's a scenario I can see happening. If Rachel can survive a speed duel/pace from h--l with Bambera, and still beat Zenyatta, she will be a horse for the ages and there will be no argument from anyone. It would be an amazing feat. Ditto, my girl Zenyatta if she comes from behind to beat the two speedballs.

I love Dottie's comments and that they took on Bobby Frankel's assistant and groom. Speaks volumes of the kind of people Dottie and John are. A very nice thing to do.

Loved Lisa's comments also. She is so invested in Calvin's and Rachel's success, which is a lovely thing to see. I would want her in my corner rooting for me too. Calvin is a lucky man.

I think the prep races are going to tell us alot about both Zenyatta and Rachel. I do not think Zardana is going to wear Rachel down. That will not be an issue in my opinion. I don't think she was entered for that reason either. I don't think it would work if that was the intent and John Sherrifs is smart enough to know that.

09 Mar 2010 9:31 PM
Bambera Info

Steve,

Will you share the Bambera race links with us?   Please.

09 Mar 2010 9:40 PM
Cigar

Steve, your Apple Blossom beat is helping the cause for the "Race for the Ages." I would like to link your feed with permission to my racing blog at www.derbytalk.blogspot.com

I grew up near Oaklawn Park and that is my "home track" even though I now live in Dalls. I'm sure you'll enjoy your time there. Will be there Saturday myself for the Rebel!

09 Mar 2010 9:45 PM
CaitlynS

Is it just me or is the Rachel camp covering for themselves already... What with all of the stuff JJ and Steve said. (That is excluding what Borel said, he is obviously high on the horse, and who could blame him, she hasn't let him down yet.) They are already covering in case she loses, that way they will have an excuse. That tells me that they are not sure in her ability, whereas the Zenyatta camp seems more than happy with her.

09 Mar 2010 10:20 PM
Brian Appleton

Everytime I read this diary it makes me feel like history is coming alive becuase of the passion these two great athletes inspire!

I can't wait for the weekend to come...Go Rachel Go!

09 Mar 2010 10:20 PM
Hardhorseman

Wonderful to know that in a few short weeks the two Queens of racing will meet in the Apple Blossom...however i do get the impression that Rachel is playing catch up in terms of her fitness, and that is always a recipe for a good hiding ! Also...i believe that there needs to be a change of jock on Rachel...Borel looked terrible on her back her last two races...bumping and wining all over her...not to mentioning panicking and whipping the daylight out of her.he is not a top class rider...an elite rider...and in a close contest ...that will make a difference.I wish them the best !

09 Mar 2010 10:20 PM
Karen in Indiana

It does sound like Jess Jackson is trying to keep a way out open. That's not building suspense, it's just irritating. But - he owns the horse and has the right to make the decisions.

I do hope Bambera will be in the mix and in the form she had last year. There would be a few other mares that would make it even more exciting (if that could possibly be)- Vodka & Zarkava - but unfortunately they are retired. I'm with Lil Darlin - it's so maddening to have to wait!

09 Mar 2010 10:27 PM
Runfast159

OMG, reading all this actually makes me feel nervous for the races this weekend!

I think Zenyatta will waltz in hers, but I'm not sure what to expect from Rachel.  7 months is an incredibly long lay off and she may be more than a few months away from being at her best, as encouraging as her latest work was.

09 Mar 2010 10:28 PM
Jodie

Hmm, why all the hints from Jackson and Asmussen that Rachel is not in top form.  Are they already planning their excuses?

09 Mar 2010 10:34 PM
L Stein

I just want them all to come across the finish line safely, of course with the big mare in front!!!

09 Mar 2010 10:43 PM
GunBow

Thanks Steve for the work you're doing with the diary.

Let's hope Rachel and Zenyatta run well this weekend and remain in good health.  I will be attending Santa Anita for the Santa Margarita this Saturday; I have no idea how I'm going to deal with my nerves.

Interesting comments from Lisa(Borel) and Jess Jackson.  Lisa is very articulate and clearly understands the intracies of this sport.  It is fascinating to hear the participants' thoughts with still a month to go.

Jess Jackson isn't exactly exuding confidence, at least at this point. We all know he nixed the idea of running Rachel in the Apple Blossom when it was scheduled for April 3rd.  Clearly, he still has some reservations concerning Rachel's fitness and her ability to be 100% on April 9th.  

This Saturday will be a huge day, and will undoubtedly be revealing.  One thing I have learned following this sport for over 20 years is that there are no guarantees.  Both Rachel and Z need not only to remain healthy, but they need to run well later this week.  Both horses tower over their competitors in the respective preps, but the fields for both races are not devoid of quality.  

The Santa Margarita drew the tougher field, as would be expected given it is a grade 1.  Striking Dancer and Floating Heart recently ran 1-2 in the 9 furlong gr.2 La Canada, and Pretty Unusual is a big, robust filly with excellent tactical speed.  Pretty Unusual has been running about every 2 weeks, winning the gr.2 El Encino and finishing in the top 4 in the Sunshine Millions Filly + Mare Turf and gr.2 Buena Vista; horses that have already run at least once during the meet have been dominating Santa Anita's stakes races.  On top of everything, Zenyatta will have to carry 127 lbs, and concede significant weight to these opponents.

As for the New Orleans Ladies, Rachel is facing less acomplished horses, but Zardana and Clear Sailing deserve some respect.  Zardana, a horse with solid early speed, is the type of horse that will likely run better on dirt than Pro-Ride, where her speed can be a liability around 2 turns.  Zardana ran her best recent race when winning the gr.2 Bayakoa on Hollywood Park's dirt-like Cushion Track, but folded on the Pro-Ride in the Santa Maria.  The field for the Bayakoa has proven to be suspect, and I really don't think she would have had a chance against Santa Maria 1-2 finishers St. Trinians and Life is Sweet had the race been at Hollywood Park.  Zardana is a nice, plucky little horse, but she doesn't have the talent to run with the Rachel of last year.  Clear Sailing is the Fair Grounds "house" horse, and appears to be improving.  Like Zardana, she should have no chance against the Rachel that ran in the Haskell, Woodward, Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, or Preakness. However, it remains to be seen if Rachel can return to peak form(or she might be even better!).  Saturday will tell us alot.

09 Mar 2010 10:46 PM
Sarah G

The anticipation is killing me! Thanks for these diaries. They are much appreciated.

So they decided on 7pm for the race? Good call. If only one of the major networks would pick it up...

BTW, my rooms are at the Comfort Suite, too. If we end up taking the gamble and flying out, I'll see you around!

09 Mar 2010 11:48 PM
Bob Z

Reprinted from the front page..

New Orleans Ladies, So who will Rachel Face?

"The only other graded stakes winner in the field belongs to Arnold Zetcher, who will send out 6-year-old Brazilian-bred mare Zardana.

Not coincidentally, Zardana is trained by John Shirreffs, the same trainer of champion Zenyatta.

Considered by many as a scouting mission for the Apple Blossom, Shirreffs will get a chance to size up Rachel Alexandra by racing one of his own against her."

Does this mean John Shirreffs will be in New Orleans for the Ladies (?) with Zenyatta running the same day in the Santa Margarita?

Do you think that if Rachel wasn't running in the New Orleans Ladies that John Shirreffs would be in New Orleans to watch another horse when Zenyatta is running the same day?

10 Mar 2010 12:12 AM
Bob Z

I made a post in the Apple Blossom Diary Part 1 about the sense of occasion for the upcoming Apple Blossom...

"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...."

I should have added that both my brother and I are horse racing fans in the same sense as someone who isn't too concerned about the majority of the football season...

but then gets really excited about the playoffs and the Super Bowl....  

not quite the same as the people that don't watch a football game all year and then get excited about the Super Bowl ..

but more that way than a hard core fan that watches every regular season game and knows all the stats for each game...

We both watch a Kentucky Derby prep race or two if we catch them but don't go out of our way...

We do make it a point to watch the Triple Crown races and then the late season races including the Breeders Cup... thats about the extent of it...

So the day after the Apple Blossom is locked in for April 9th my brother books his flight and hotel with 2 other people and is going to Arkansas on April 8th...

Here is a guy that has been impacted by the recession does not have a lot of excess cash to throw around and he is booked to see Rachel and Zenyatta ...

without there being any guarantee that both will run...non refundable airfare...

My point is that this is an example of how big the Apple Blossom will be if both Zenyatta and Rachel run in it...

This event is pulling in the mainstream public that normally would watch the Kentucky Derby on the 11:00 O'clock news...

... as opposed to making a batch of Mint Juleps and throwing a party and watching it on the wide screen at home..

It takes a lot of inertia to get the mainstream public moving in a direction ...

... These 2 ladies have done it!

10 Mar 2010 12:41 AM
Pasturelands

The Apple Blossom will be televised by ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST."

Speakin of GOOD NEWS! Thanks, i love you, man.. I've been waiting all week for this bit of news.  Now, I can ask my friends to record it off their Cable!  

WOO HOO!  GO, GO, RACHEL!!!  BEAT THEM SUCKERS IN OAKLAWN!  YEAH!  I will see you in Oaklawn in April!

By the way, so Lisa and Calvin are married?  i didn't know that.  Have a good life, Calvin & Lisa!!

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be too worried about the workout times of Rachel, and I won't bother comparing hers with Zen or Bambera's or some other horse.  

When Haskell time came last year, they said her workouts were "beautiful" but not wonderful-- and she won by 6 lengths.  

At the Woodward, they said Rachel worked out "fine" and strong, but not awesome-- and she became the First Filly in History to win the Woodward...

Now, they say her she moved "beautifully" but her "fitness" is not 100% -- so I don't know.  But whatever it is, it won't be what everybody might be expecting...

By the way, Calvin wrote a beautiful thing about Rachel in Facebook.  I sure hope he wins again with Rachel at the Ladies, and at the AB. GO, GO, CALVIN!  I wonder if Lisa ever gets jealous of Rachel, even if Rachel is a horse!  LOL.

10 Mar 2010 2:02 AM
dave

Sizing Rachel up?!? Catch her short?!? Come on Jess.  Shirreffs had nothing to do with the decision.  The owner has a decent horse and wants to be part of history.  If you think Rachel isn't fit enough for a minor stake then pick an allowance race.  There are three others in Saturday's race that may catch her short as well and are capable runners at that track.    

10 Mar 2010 5:32 AM
PomDeTerre

I agree that JJ appears a bit..paranoid.  And I agree that Zardana's prescence will, in the long run, strengthen RA for the AB event.  My biggest concern tho is that both of these magnificent ladies are ready and not physically compromised for their warm-ups this weekend.  May they (and their challengers) both have safe trips.

10 Mar 2010 7:22 AM
txhorsefan

Thanks again, Steve, for sharing your wonderful diary with us.  I love reading all the details of the behind the scenes action that is going on.  The endless arguing and disrespect for which ever horse one does not favor is very tiresome though and often I feel like I must be the only one who doesn't like reading it.  I know that the rivalry and all its implications, the media coverage that it involves is all supposed to be good for the sport, but I simply get tired of all the bickering, the conspiracy theories, etc.  They are both wonderful fillies and I'm so thrilled I've been able to watch them race even if it's only been on the tv - lol!  Your writing helps bring them closer, so again..I do appreciate it.  Thank you!

10 Mar 2010 8:25 AM
Railbird

Thanks for the great updates.  After going to the Ky. Derby and to Keeneland for the Bluegrass in the past 2 years I decided this was the year for my first visit to Oaklawn.  I bought my tickets on the first day they were available and made all other arangements before any talk of switching the date of the Apple Blossom.  I feel like I hit a big trifecta.  Can't wait.

10 Mar 2010 9:17 AM
Dixie Deb

Wanting a good "safe" race is important and the return of all the ladies afterward is my wish.  

Memphis TV sports had a small bit the other night. This is major  since nothing is ever reported that doesn't have a ball used,  except the KY Derby.

I'm pulling for Queen "Z".. but lets enjoy the excitment and see real class rise to the top in their owners.

(We know the horses have it!)

10 Mar 2010 9:33 AM
Slew

Golden Gate:  I was born in the South but have lived most of my life in the North.  My mother always told me (We have Japanese Magnolias that bloom only in early spring) that I'd never seen a "real" magnolia.  In my first trip to Hot Springs, as I toured bathhouse row, I saw my first

"real magnolia".  I was awed. It looked like a giant gardenia.  I'll never forget that moment, nor will I ever forget the kindness and courtesy of the residents.  It is a beautiful town, and you have a right to be very proud.

Steve: I'm loving every line of your diary; keep up the great work.

10 Mar 2010 9:34 AM
PRUDOFROMPUERTORICO

THIS MOMENT REMINDS ME THE TIMES OF SECRETARIAT, AFFIRMED AND ALYDAR, AND SEATTLE SLEW. SINCE THOSE YEARS I HAVEN'T FEEL SUCH ENTUSIASM ON HORSE RACING. ZENYATTA AND RACHEL EACH DESERVES A [HOTY] TROPHY. PERSONALLY I ROOT FOR ZENYATTA BUT BOTH OF THEM DESERVE THE ACCOLADES.  NICE JOB STEVE.

10 Mar 2010 9:35 AM
PAT DAY FAN

GReat move Steve on leavin AUSTIN for Comfort Suites

The Austin is a DUMP!!

CONGRATS

10 Mar 2010 9:46 AM
WinngColrz

I just ordered my Zenyatta T shirt from the Santa Anita giftshop...and I will be wearing it with honor at the Biggest Race of the Century at Oaklawn. I am all set to lose my voice and cry more happy tears! GO  BIG Z

10 Mar 2010 9:50 AM
Longshot Louise

Steve:  Leave it to two ladies to make the Kentucky Derby the sidebar story in horse racing in 2010.

zYiyare doing n excelletn job in previewing the participants of the Big Race at Oaklawn. No, the qeestion is, can we find a live longshot to beat either lady on Saturday?

We'll let you know later on this week, if we do.

10 Mar 2010 10:12 AM
Fahad Malaikah

I have so many mixed emotions about the Apple Blossom.  On the one hand, I know that this score needs to be settled, but I also love both dearly and want both to remain untarnished.  Don't get me wrong, I do understand that this is one of the biggest matchups ever and I get butterflies even thinking about it.  I am a bit more of a Rachel fan, and I truly feel that she is being rushed into the prep and the big race.  I am slightly worried about her conditioning.  I don't think she is the type of filly to "protect" herself, either.  I think that the date slightly favors Zenyatta.  If this race has to go down, I still think that Oaks day would be optimal for both camps.  Whatever happens, I just hope that both remain safe.  I wish that I could be there on April 9th, but I really might have a heart attack if I am there live.        

10 Mar 2010 10:18 AM
Steve Haskin

Cigar, be my guest.

Lisa's "Relationship Status" on Facebook is :Married to Calvin Borel and she goes by the name of Lisa Borel.

10 Mar 2010 10:21 AM
Rose

Unbelievable the way people have taken to both these mares.  This fanfare is drawing in those people who would not normally be intrenched with racing.  I think all this drama is great for the sport as it's bringing in new blood at a time when the sport needs it most.  With all that is written on a daily basis regarding what the Moss's or Jacksons are saying, thinking, or doing in regards to Zen or RA; I feel like I am on a day time soap, "As The Walker Turns " and I cant turn it off --

Its got me hooked, and I find myself looking for any tidbit to feed my addiction.  OUCH..

I wish I could go to the Apple Blossom, but alas, I cannot -  at least it will be televised, so I will tune in and watch history unfold.  

10 Mar 2010 10:23 AM
Frank

Steve,

Whatta great job you have; do they really pay you??

Seriously good job, I think Zenyatta will take RA. However like most folk I'm concerned about Jackson's remarks leaving him an out, but think about it; he did run her in the Preakness.

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

10 Mar 2010 10:24 AM
FloridaFan1

Was wondering if this weekend's races will be televised?  What a shame if they aren't...these are the types of races and horses that could give horse racing a much needed boost with the general public.  The NTRA and others should be doing whatever they can to get more races on TV!!! (Go girls...especially Rachel!)

10 Mar 2010 10:32 AM
Longshot Louise

My goodness, my typing is atrocious.

In my previous post, the second paragraph should begin with "You" rather than zYiy. And the next sentence shuld read, "Now, the question..."

10 Mar 2010 10:39 AM
ruffian64

JJ is already looking for excuses. But Im sure its just to excuse her if she gets beat. I doubt he will not run R.A. I hear he hires security to walk him around the sales(second hand info). Could you imagine his fear if he scratches RA from the Apple Blossom LOL?

In addition, RA may not be in peak form due to a long lay off. However I'm more concerned with the lack of rest that Zenyatta has to deal with. Does anyone actually know how much of a rest she has had?

Should be a great race. The best female will prevail. Im glad to see, that at least so far, there is no trashing of one horse or the other in the comment/blog. We're blessed to have these great mares.Period.

10 Mar 2010 10:44 AM
George

Just the facts ma'am:

Bob Z. - Zardana is not on a scouting mission for Shirreffs. It was the owner's decision.

According to Asmussen AND Mr. Jackson Rachel Alexandra is NOT 100% fit for this race. I would have NO reason to call them liars about this. If they don't know their horse, no does.

However, Rachel Alexandra did appear "happy and playful" Tuesday morning - perhaps a good sign she is becoming more relaxed.

On the other hand, DRF reports that Shirreffs had a grin on his face after Zenyatta's last workout (he also almost pegged the time perfectly).

The DRF also reported that just three minutes after her 1:11:80 six furlong work that Zenyatta wasn't breathing heavily.

And, after Zenyatta's work - Mike Smith was caught saying "I don't know if it's possible, but I think that Zenyatta is actually better..."

10 Mar 2010 10:44 AM
dave

weekend analysis - Zen will go off at odds of around 1-5 to 2-5 (Grade 1 + more accomplished opponents) and Rachel will go off at 1-5 to 1-9.  Each will win their races with about a 2-4 length margin.  Probable negative show pools for each track, although the Fair Grounds may have win and place only.  

10 Mar 2010 10:56 AM
beauvoir

Maybe Zenyatta'a camp (Sheriff's) is "finally" confident of the mare they have! Thats why they are all of a sudden taking chances elsewhere...Zenyatta,Zardana, Life is Sweet ect.

If I were JJ I would have suspect thinking as well... When was the last time a Sheriff's horse ships into the Fairgrounds...hmmm.

I think the "Z" camp wants this win so damn bad! Unfortunatley they're kinda transparent in their actions and comments.

I may be wrong, but it is my gut feeling.

10 Mar 2010 10:59 AM
It Aint Easy being good

Did someone really say that Calvin borel is not a good jockey. He has won 2 out of the last 3 derbies and won the oaks and the derby last year. Horsmeman you are way off! Poor Zenyatta fans will never get there glory when RA smashes Zenyatta on national TV!

10 Mar 2010 11:06 AM
Zookeeper

Ruffian64,

The reason there's no bashing of either horse on this blog is that Mr. Haskin doesn't allow it. Like you, I'm very grateful for that. It has gotten so bad in some instances that even the "looneys" got tired of themselves. LOL!

10 Mar 2010 11:22 AM
ruffian64

I really wish BloodHorse had a little "eyes rolling" icon that I could use in response to beauvoir.

10 Mar 2010 11:25 AM
dave

beauvoir - Zardana's owner wants to be part of history and wanted a dirt prep for the Apple Blossom.  Shirreffs happens to be the trainer.  The owner is paying to ship her, NOT Shirreffs or the Moss's.  Jess Jackson has no clue what he's taking about.

10 Mar 2010 11:25 AM
Vickie

I had plans to be at the Arkansas Derby to begin with--as soon as the 9 April date was announced, I was on the phone ---got reservations for 8-10 April, have trading cards, have pink T-shirt with "Rachel Alexandra Runs @" on back, stock piling film for camera, I am ready! I will be at Oaklawn this Saturday, 13 March for Rebel---hope this will take the edge off and I can get some sleep--have not slept since announcement. LOL

Oh, really enjoy your blog.

10 Mar 2010 11:39 AM
PJJ

Beauvoir:

We all know how Zenyatta will comeback, what we don't know is how Rachle will come back. That makes a big difference in confidence, Quit making excuses, we have enough of them coming from Jackson/Assmussen,

I guess that it is finally a shock to see california horses coming out of cali, right? Get  used to it...

10 Mar 2010 11:51 AM
Pam S.

Thank you, Steve, for your major contribution to the buildup and "hype" (meant in a good way) that this historic race deserves.  I wonder how many other readers felt like it was Christmas morning when they saw a new installment of this diary.

Can't make it to Fair Grounds or Oaklawn, but I will be at Santa Anita Saturday to see Zenyatta for the fourth time (pretty good for an out-of-towner, huh?) and I too am very nervous and excited about the preps.  Gun Bow, Zookeeper, you think they will show Rachel's race on the big infield screen??  I guess the important thing is Zenyatta has to see it, so she knows what kind of performance she needs to top!!  I hope both ladies dazzle on Sat. and that neither has to get drunk on Cosmopolitans or overeat ice cream!

10 Mar 2010 11:52 AM
Zookeeper

beauvoir,

Zenyatta, Life Is Sweet and Zardana may have the same trainer, but they have different owners. Do you really think that these "other" owners are only interested in helping the Z team? Could it possibly be that they are on their own quest for glory and hefty purses? I guess if you're a conspiracy theorist the answer is no.

As far as the Zenyatta team wanting this so badly, you bet they do. They and their wonderful mare have been disrespected enough because they did not compete outside of California last year. So now they are subjected to more critism or suspicion because they are willing to do so? Unbelievable!

10 Mar 2010 11:53 AM
PAM of Sunny Farm

Mr. Haskin ; I LOVE your reports on the up-coming race. The manner in which you write allows me to really feel the excitement of the up-coming APPLE BLOSSOM and the contenders. I look forward to reading your reports and they just make my day happy !THRILLING !!!

GREAT RACING LUCK EVERYONE !!!

10 Mar 2010 11:56 AM
Footlick

ruffian64- you haven't been to the other blog I see-lol!

10 Mar 2010 12:16 PM
factsAREfacts

"Is it just me or is the Rachel camp covering for themselves already... What with all of the stuff JJ and Steve said. (That is excluding what Borel said, he is obviously high on the horse, and who could blame him, she hasn't let him down yet.) They are already covering in case she loses, that way they will have an excuse. That tells me that they are not sure in her ability, whereas the Zenyatta camp seems more than happy with her."

It isn't rocket science. She had 5 months off. She just started training again. Do you expect her to magically be ready for the race of her life?

10 Mar 2010 12:26 PM
Marshall

C'mon, people...  Why do all the Zenyatta fans have to start jumping on Jess's comments as "already making excuses"?  What else do you expect the man to say?  Or for ANY responsible owner to say for that matter?  Should we expect him to promise to run Rachel regardless of her fitness or health just for the sake of a race?  If a horse isn't ready to run, they aren't ready to run... it's pretty simple, really.  It's a decision that is made EVERY SINGLE TIME a horse run's...  sometimes it's a decision based on the horse's conditioning or health, sometimes it's a matter of the weather at post time (see Zenyatta's scratch at CD last year).  I don't understand the criticism of Jess Jackson AT ALL and he CERTAINLY doesn't deserve a reputation as a race dodger.  Remember that Rachels previous owner would NEVER, EVER, EVER have had her run the campaign that Jess did.  Had Jackson not purchased Rachel, it's very likely that we would never have had an opportunity to enjoy this horse for the ages.  

10 Mar 2010 12:26 PM
ROBERT

I don't think Rachel is 100% for her race this saturday, but she does not need to be.  Calvin knows she is not going to be 100% and should ride her accordingly.  She probably would do better starting off at 7 furlongs rather than 1 1/16 miles.  Zenyatta is much bigger and stonger than Rachel and has not been off for 7 months, plus really never was retired.  She still galloped everyday and was never loosing fitness.  After her first "Take the edge off" work, when she went 4 furlongs in 48, was the first sign she is still fit and ready for battle.  I do think she is in a tough spot this saturday and even she may not be 100% for her first start.  But Zenyatta eats up 2 turn races and they don't take as much out of her as Rachels races do.  I am really looking forward to the Apple Blossom and in the end I think Zenyatta will win this race.

10 Mar 2010 1:04 PM
Mary

Emotionally I don't want to see either Rachel or Zenyatta get beat in the Apple Blossom.  But as a bettor, the other very capable mares in the race will be going off at odds we'll never see again.  If neither RA or Zen hit the board the superfecta pay-out would be like hitting the Powerball.  Even the exacta would probably be enough to finance a wonderful vacation.  

But again, emotionally I'd like to see RA & Zen dead heat for first place.

10 Mar 2010 1:25 PM
Zookeeper

Marshall,

Not ALL Zenyatta fans are jumping on Mr. Jackson's comments and accusing him of being a race dodger. There are many people on BOTH camps who are gifted with the power of "mind reading".

Thank you for reminding all of us that Rachel had a better campaign last year and that Zenyatta's connection scratched her from a race at CD. Without you we might have forgotten these very important facts.  :)

I'm a Zenyatta fan and an admirer of Rachel Alexandra. I hope both horses win their respective race this coming Saturday. I hope they both continue to WOW us all year long. Most of all, I hope that people would stop predicting, with absolute certainty, the outcome of a race and let the horses settle the argument on the racetrack. Why so many are concerned with what the connections think, say or do is beyond me. I have yet to see them (the connections) on the racetrack doing the running themselves...and that's a blessing!

10 Mar 2010 1:41 PM
Forbidden Apple

Steve, thank you for all of your hard work and information. How can I watch Bambera's races?

Golden Gate, thank you so much for your pleasant comments, you painted a beautiful picture in my mind. It is refreshing to hear that racing is alive and well in Arkansas.

Jess Jackson, you would only be lucky if Zenyatta wins the Apple Blossom and then retires. Zenyatta has many more spectacular races left in her body. You should be scared, maybe you can bring Curlin out of retirement to face Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic. As I know your little filly wants no part of a race at 1 1/4 miles against the best competition.

April 10 headlines: ZENYATTA ROLLS PAST HER RIVALS LIKE A MAGLEV TRAIN!

10 Mar 2010 1:59 PM
sodapopkid

Marshall:

Why is it you are basing everything about Rachel A. on last year. This is a new year, everything starts all over. You need to stop! because you are doing more harm than good for Rachel's image at the present time, because everyone is already expecting something to pop up at the last minute, by listeninng to her owner and trainer. People like you aren't making anything any better , except making excuses.

10 Mar 2010 2:18 PM
Irish

Mike Smith already ran against Rachel in last year's Preakness, and he did so with a horse that has the same running style as Zenyatta.   So Shirreffs already knows what he needs to know about racing against Rachel.  That being the case, it sounds an awful lot like paranoia for people to accuse him of running Zardana in the NO Ladies with an ulterior motive.  

10 Mar 2010 2:31 PM
GreyK

Marshall, accept that some Zenyatta fans have that 2009 bitterness and can't let go.  I agree with your comments about Jackson sticking his neck out last year and giving Rachel a chance to prove herself in a way her previous owners did not have in mind for her.  Jackson said it took a lot out of her though, and I am not sure I can stand to watch this race on Saturday.  I might just wait to catch a replay.  This year Zenyatta has the tougher first race but she's also had more time to prepare, including he "unretirement" time.  I hope they both come out strong, and Team Rachel gets the prep they need out of this race to feel like she's ready to face Zenyatta in April.  And I think Jackson is being a little paranoid about Zardana - but don't forget to watch for teeny cameras strapped to her ankles.        

10 Mar 2010 3:07 PM
Star G

Hey There are the links about Bambera:

www.youtube.com/watch

www.youtube.com/watch

www.youtube.com/watchv=53hrKQDyqGE

www.youtube.com/watch

She only lose 2 races of 18 races

10 Mar 2010 3:49 PM
Rachel

Let's be nice and love both girls! ☺ Let's be happy we have both of them...

10 Mar 2010 4:00 PM
Steve Haskin

This thread is beginning to show signs of deterioration into the same old stale spats of old. Rachel and Zenyatta are not running against each other this weekend. Let's keep this under control. This diary was meant to be a fun way to chronicle the days leading up to this weekend and then the big race. It was not meant as another launch pad for spatting and bickering and Jess Jackson bashing. So, let's keep all that to a minimum and try to enjoy something we likely will never see again.

10 Mar 2010 4:04 PM
bellesforever

i just want both of the ladies to be at their best! rachel is coming back from her vacation after a long break while zenyatta hasn't left training.i am not looking for an excuse from j.j. but if she isn't 100% ready then she isn't ready!some act like these horses are machines that you can wind up and race..they aren't! i hope to see a couple of great races but i also want the safety of the great gal's come first.

10 Mar 2010 4:13 PM
Blaster

On the bright side - I've heard that it will be 70 degrees and clear at Santa Anita on Saturday, and likewise the same at the Fair Grounds.

10 Mar 2010 4:29 PM
Bob Z

George,

I read 2 reports that quoted John Sherriffs as saying that he is looking forward to going to the Ladies in New Orleans...

So as of last I read on March 9th.. John Sherriffs... will be in New Orleans to watch Zardana race against Rachel...

So he has a horse that is running for a 200,000 purse that he needs to be at...

... when he has Zenyatta who is running the same day and about to run in a race with a purse of 5 million bucks ...

.. and he is not at Santa Anita  watching  ZENYATTA   (that HE trains) that is about to run in the biggest race since 1938...in 4 weeks..  and he is not there (?)

So... he isn't going to New Orleans to scope out Rachel...(?)

He is more concerned about a horse that nobody ever heard of running in a 200,000 race...(?)

send me some... : )

10 Mar 2010 4:56 PM
factsAREfacts

"Do you even READ the posts before you comment?

Marshall's post was anything BUT anti-Jackson."

I was not referring to Marshall's post.

Regardless, I will be excited to watch this live on ESPN2. I think I will be cheering for both ladies. I can't pick just one.

10 Mar 2010 5:05 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

The diary IS fun. Most of the comments are enjoyable also. But some are so riddled with exagerations and falsehoods that it is hard to resist answering them.

10 Mar 2010 5:10 PM
Dawn

I'm getting keyed up for this weekend's races--the Apple Blossom is still far off IMO, and we know that anything can happen between now and then. With luck nothing will.

I'm a bit worried that my ;) lovely Rachel has some catching up to training wise. I'm really anxious to see if she will be able to maintain her 3yo form this year.

It sounds like the Zenster is loaded for bear.

Just a reminder: there are other horses running in these respective races, and if one of them should pull off an upset...well that's why it's called a horse race.

10 Mar 2010 5:15 PM
TerriV

Reading this diary helps me feel more connected and that's making knots in my stomach more quickly than usual.  I just love them both, hate for either to lose and will love them both when it's all over.  I just don't know how the connections to either of these horses can bear the pressure - I would be jumping out of my skin over this.  Is this how people felt over Seabiscuit and War Admiral?!!!  Steve, is anybody televising this weekend's races.  I don't get HRTV,

10 Mar 2010 5:32 PM
Colleen

I think Mr. Jackson and the Mosses both deserve accolades for running their great horses again this year.  I think the mild bickering and posturing between the two camps is mostly meant to entertain and get the fans even more excited, kind of like how boxers trash talk before a match.  Take it with grain of salt and enjoy the show.  

10 Mar 2010 5:35 PM
Sammi P

So it sounds like JJ and Steve are looking for an exuse not to race.....at first. However I think it could very well be they are looking for an exuce if they get BEAT! RA is great, but if they think that she may not win Sat. then they will want an excuse for why she didn't. So why not throw it out now right? Anyway, 100% or not Rachel is a classy filly who should be able to take on this small field no problem at all.

As for the Z Queen I can't wait to see her run! Every thing I read says she is doing super and Mike says better then ever! Good luck to the two champs this Sat. In between now and then, I'm gona do a little more research on this Venezuela that very well could be a threat to the Queen and Princess

10 Mar 2010 5:41 PM
MonicaV

Steve,

Thank you so much for keeping this from deteriorating into the Rachel/Zenyatta smears.

10 Mar 2010 5:42 PM
Zookeeper

factsAREfacts,

Sorry if I misunderstood you, but since your comment started with a quote from Marshall's post I thought that you were referring to him/her.

This Saturday we will be able to cheer for both horses, no matter which one we prefer. Let's hope they both win and come back safe. The much awaited Apple Blossom depends on it.

10 Mar 2010 5:54 PM
txhorsefan

Steve, thank you for injecting the voice of reason into the comments to get everyone to settle down a little bit.  There is no need to bash either horse - they are both fantastic and it's so much fun to read your insights into them, but as I said earlier, the bickering gets to me.  I'm getting too old to put up with a lot of stuff I used to tolerate more - lol!

Zookeeper, loved that last paragraph of your 1:41 p.m. post.  I am a dedicated fan of both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra and wish them both the best, but if pushed, I'd have to give my heart to Zenyatta mostly because she has held it longer.  Being ever the optimist, I'd love to see the Apple Blossom end with the girls in a dead heat!

10 Mar 2010 5:58 PM
My Juliet

   Steve, thanks for the Diary, I esp enjoyed the comments by Lisa, it's another side we get to hear about, another perspective. I loved what she said about Rachel not owing them anything. As a fan, I feel the same way.

   I also think Rachel's connections are merely being truthful about her fitness level, and not looking for an excuse as some have said.

   Zookeeper, thanks for the laugh you gave me, the connections running on the track themselves...too funny:)  

10 Mar 2010 6:19 PM
Miles

Bob Z.,

The only thing I've heard about John Shirreffs concerning the Ladies at FG against Rachel Alexandra is that he is looking forward to sending Zardana there.

I have no clear answer where he himself will be Saturday.

As for the reason he has simply said over and over again that it was Zardana's owner that suggested going up against RA and not his.

Please check out:

www.nola.com/.../trainer_john_shirreffs_to_send.html

Just like what Steve Asmussen says about his horse, I'll take what John Shirreffs says at face value.

10 Mar 2010 6:21 PM
Slew

Steve: it's time to point out some ignorance...mainly mine (because I don't get trackside). My neighbor has several thoroughbred jumpers stabled in the cleanest barn I have ever seen.  Their stalls are quite large and roomy. She has fenced off fields, and the horses are turned out every day.  RA has been stabled at the Fair Grounds since November; the same with Zenyatta at Hollywood.  Other than their breezes, are these ladies ever freed from their stalls to just run for a while, or are they constantly stabled?  I was just wondering?  I would think that a confinement like that could be counter-productive.

10 Mar 2010 6:42 PM
Steve Haskin

Terri, sorry, only HRTV is televising both races.

10 Mar 2010 6:46 PM
My Juliet

  I also am surprised at the amount of horses set to face Zenyatta. This mare just trampled the BC Classic field. After Rachel defeated the colts in the Preakness, only two(!) were brave enough to face her in the MG. I say this sincerely, I'm surprised more aren't staying away from her, now especially.

   I read an online article where Mike Smith was very flattering toward Rachel, and genuinely wanted her to win her race(not just so they would meet). It was great to read such positive words from him, he sounded like a class act.

10 Mar 2010 7:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I think most of us have nothing but respect for both horses and ALL their connections. I love the fact that their connections look out for their respective horses and do what's best for them. In other words, if their horse isn't ready to run, they won't run her. I couldn't agree more. It sounds like Rachel is coming along even if she isn't quite at 100%. I would bet money she wins her race this weekend. I also think she will come out of it well. Ditto my girl Zenyatta aka the Zenster (LOVE that from the poster above). My hope for the Apple Blossom is that everyone comes out safe and the rest is gravy. Neither horse is diminished in my eyes and I absolutely mean that. What they have already done, still stands.

10 Mar 2010 7:12 PM
maryann727

Those who post comments saying they are sure that Zenyatta will win the Apple Blossom make me anxious.  I am a huge Zenyatta fan but I also know there is no such thing as a sure winner in racing.  And I am also superstitious about making grandiose predictions--maybe it's my Irish genes--so please those of you who think Z is spectacular, just write that you hope she wins, not that you know she will.  I'll have all fingers crossed for her run this weekend, with hope that the weight assignment in the Santa Margarita Handicap won't be so high as to stop her.  Just thinking about this great mare, Zenyatta, how she wins her races gives me goosebumps.  May her running luck continue.

10 Mar 2010 7:36 PM
Bloodline Bob

OK STEVE, Here is my prediction about the March 13th races,either CLEAR SAILING will beat RACHEL A. and/or MUSHKA will beat ZENYATTA.

10 Mar 2010 8:20 PM
kyoaks09

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you so much for reminding everyone that this blog was not intended to be a way to condemn Rachel or Zenyatta or their connections.  Most of us probably have our favorite, be it Rachel or Zenyatta but we should be able to appreciate and respect both and consider ourselves fortunate in being able to witness the races of both. Do we need to remind ourselves that if it wasn't for the talents and abilities of both the filly AND the mare that we wouldn't be talking about the Apple Blossom being "A Race for the Ages"???

I received my FREE Rachel and Zenyatta trading cards in the mail today and wish that I had thought to post the information earlier.  For those of you wishing to still try and get them check out this information copied from the OP site.

To receive one copy of each card, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:

Apple Blossom Cards

PO Box 6000

HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, AR  71902

Cards will be mailed as long as supplies last.

Sarah G.,

I'm still pulling for you to get Apple Blossom tickets and believe it or not, we'll be in the same hotel!  Will you still go and try for tickets if only Rachel or Zenyatta goes?

As far as my favorite, well it's Rachel.  I've been places with her and experienced things with her that I never even dreamed of.  GO RACHEL!!!

10 Mar 2010 8:20 PM
beauvoir

This is not about being paranoid or a conspiracy on the JJ camp...it's just "slightly coincidental" that a Sheriff horse is coming from CA to prep (for a race at Oaklawn) at F Grds on the same day RA is running. I know it's a owner decision, but it's also usually a 50/50 decision on both sides. I guess that's the only dirt track around :)

I am a fan of Zenyatta...she's amazing and the most talented mare at this point in time and probably deserved HOY had the connections allowed her to achieve it. Maybe "JJ" just taught them how to do it.

10 Mar 2010 8:22 PM
Johnny

Here's some food for thought:

According to the lastest DRF article by Steve Anderson, everytime that Zenyatta works a fast six furlong, she runs one of her better races.  She worked 1:11:20 two weeks before her historic BC Classic last fall, and 1:10:20 last April six weeks before her 2009 debut of the Grade 2 Milady at Hollypark.

Here's the kicker - Zenyatta has recorded 81 works in the last three years and nine months, and NONE has left John Shirreffs more impressed than her work on March 5.

Man, oh man!

Further, Zenyatta appears to have more wind since her BC Classic - meaning her breathing.

She even has put on 25 MORE pounds and "looks really strong" according Shirreffs.

And, it only gets better.

Her career exercise jockey, after being away for a few months came back in February and noticed a change in Zenyatta and said that "she feels even better, more straightforward that before".

Holy Moly!

10 Mar 2010 8:37 PM
FOR YOU....

"AND BE SUPRISED"...... Bambera, are you dont know, who is she... shes like run, and hard. she will always in your mind.. never forget that day. april 9, 2010.

good luck.

10 Mar 2010 8:39 PM
Bob Z

"Bob Z.,

The only thing I've heard about John Shirreffs concerning the Ladies at FG against Rachel Alexandra is that he is looking forward to sending Zardana there."

I saw him quoted on 2 sites that said he was looking forward to going to New Orleans...

Now he might have meant that in a way that the "we" as a team .. meaning Zardana is going...

I'll look for the quote...

My only point was that with Zenyatta running the same day .. there is no reason to go to New Orleans unless you are looking to scope out what is going to be your competition in the biggest race you have run to date..

10 Mar 2010 9:04 PM
Bob Z

Miles,

I was wrong.. I stand corrected..

it looks like it was the owner that was quoted as saying "Also, I’m really looking forward to a trip to New Orleans."

“Well, we came up with about 20

reasons to try her and only one not to,” said Zetcher, who lives in Los Angeles. “First of all, the mile and a sixteenth is (Zardana’s) best distance, and second of all, we wanted to try her on dirt (again). Also, I’m really looking forward to a trip to New Orleans.

10 Mar 2010 9:15 PM
helsbelles

It's not surprising that Zardana is being shipped east to run in the NO Ladies Stakes, given the great success lately of Cali horses going synthetic to dirt and winning impressively.  Examples of this are Bickersons in the Forward Gal Stakes, Amen Hallelujah in the Davona Dale Stakes, with the latest being Freedom Star's romp in the Azeri Stakes.   It would appear that training/racing over synthetic tracks is valuable in building fitness and stamina.  I agree with GunBow's assessment of Zardana's spirited temperament, but not with his description of her size.  From what I could tell from seeing and photographing her in the paddock before the Santa Maria Stakes, she is slightly bigger and taller than Life is Sweet.  And speaking of Life is Sweet, it doesn't surprise me to learn from Steve that Life is Sweet LOVES her trainer, and cannot spare him when she goes to Dubai.  I think Zenyatta will understand!

10 Mar 2010 10:00 PM
Zookeeper

Bloodline Bob,

Regarding your prediction for March 13: Clear Sailing has a better chance of beating RA, since she is running in the same race. Mushka on the other hand is not in the field of the Santa Margarita so if she beats Zenyatta it will be a monumental upset! Was that your sense of humor at work?

10 Mar 2010 10:27 PM
Aluminaut

My Mom told me about being at the track and betting Noor to win over Citation.  *Noor was a son of the great sire Nasrullah (I know most of you are savy)and he beat Citation several times.  My Dad used to bet for a living, and the only horse he ever pounded was Citation.  I'm talking $2000 across the board.    

My Mom, who turned 83 on Monday is now living back in Missouri where she was born, and we were talking about my new yearling and talking pedigree, and she reminded me that Citation lost to *Noor while carrying much less weight.  

Zenyatta beware! However, 127 is nothing compared to how horses used to be weighted in handicaps.

All the best to Z & R in their races on Saturday.

10 Mar 2010 10:33 PM
Paseana

There's one thing that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere, not just here.  Assuming that Zenyatta wins on Saturday (and they run the race for a reason, folks), she will go into the Apple Blossom, hopefully matching up with Rachel Alexandra in a race for the ages, looking for #16 in a row!

I don't really believe that I'm the only one that's thought about this, so it's strange to me that nobody's talking about it.  That's the magical number established by Citation and Cigar, and she would be the third among GI Champion-caliber horses to achieve it.

Hallowed Dreams equaled it, and Pepper's Pride surpassed it, each undefeated in 16 and 19 races respectively.  What those two wonderful racemares accomplished was nothing short of astounding!  But the fact remains that they did it on a much lower level.

For me, #16-in-a-row is still the benchmark in the highest echelons of the sport, especially when doing it undefeated, which neither Citation nor Cigar did.  The idea that Zenyatta could be going for it when facing Rachel Alexandra for the first time is just mind-boggling!

Now arriving at Margaritaville.  Next stop Hot Springs!

10 Mar 2010 10:34 PM
Zookeeper

Bloodline Bob,

It gets even funnier. Mushka is running in the Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Downs. LOL!

Paseana,

SHHH! Let's not talk about it. One race at a time, that's all I can handle. :)

10 Mar 2010 11:09 PM
Sarah G

"Sarah G.,

I'm still pulling for you to get Apple Blossom tickets and believe it or not, we'll be in the same hotel!  Will you still go and try for tickets if only Rachel or Zenyatta goes?"

Hey, no way! Same hotel? That's exciting! I told you I was on top of everything; I just couldn't get through the dang phone lines to get guaranteed tickets for the new date.

At this point, we probably will not go if Rachel doesn't. With the whole date change (I promised Steve I wouldn't be negative on diary #2!), and April being my final semester at school and a super busy month at work, we'd  probably sit on it and attend a different race after I graduate in May. What about you?

I think Saturday will tell us a lot! I'm so nervous and excited to see how our girl does...

10 Mar 2010 11:55 PM
CV

Helsbelles had an interesting comment about the success of several horses moving from synthetic tracks to dirt.

Perhaps Steve Haskin can offer some first-hand observations about the synthetic track at Hollywood Park where Zenyatta trains. I read something about Hollywood's Cushion Track being a close facsimile to a dirt surface. And I think the training track at Hollywood is dirt.

Point being, it may not be a major transition for Zenyatta to run at Oaklawn.

11 Mar 2010 12:29 AM
Aluminaut

Paseana,

I know you're talking modern times, but Kinscem is the Benchmark.  The Impossible Dream.

Zenyattas could reach 19+ this year.  At 17 it'll be time to party. Let's see what happens.

11 Mar 2010 1:09 AM
Cyrus

Johnny,

Here is the link for the DRF article about Zenyatta and her workouts:

sports.espn.go.com/.../story

Considering everything I've heard from the Z camp, it is the most confident bunch of people since Charlie Whittingham couldn't stop smiling the week leading up to the 1989 BC Classic with Easy Goer.

By the way, what is the track record for 1 & 1/8 at the Fair Grounds?

Scratch that, what is the US record?

Scratch that, what is the WORLD RECORD?

I've got a feeling we are on the verge of a race with epic proportions...

11 Mar 2010 4:35 AM
Randy

Steve,

I've already heard that WQKC 1450am in Louisville is going to carry both races live on the radio.

Does anyone know of a list of radio stations, or if ESPN radio or Fox sports radio will be carrying the races for the folks that are driving around at that time.  I understand that Rachel's race is at 6:15 EST, and Zenyatta's is at 6:40.

11 Mar 2010 4:46 AM
breeze10

Steve:  Thanks so much for trying to bring the endless bickering under control.  I,for one,have been tired of it for MONTHS !  Many seem to forget that the Apple Blossom is NOT a MATCH RACE... all the horses racing will be "running their hearts out" ...and, AS ALWAYS in racing : ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!  It does seem,however, that the media should assume some responsibility for the Hoopla and the bickering.  Last season all we heard was RACHEL..RACHEL...RACHEL & ALL  well deserving others received minimal coverage !  I hope this year, for everyone's sake, will be different.  Example: The Derby is only 49 days from now and yet compared to this HOOPLA The Derby is receiving no attention.  You, being a respected voice on racing,...please try to keep "Rachel-Jackson-Asmussen Hoopla" within limits and give more attention to ALL the deserving others (horses, owners, trainers).  I think, if all in the media would follow such lead..horse racing will benefit greatly.  It's a competitive sport but it does not have to include all the bickering.  I feel, all the Rachel publicity became tiresome and had a negative effect overall.

Thanks for your consideration and for all you do, Steve.

11 Mar 2010 8:30 AM
shane

Why did they stretch the distance of the Apple Blossum to 1 1/8?

11 Mar 2010 8:35 AM
ruffian64

Footlick,

 Actually I had seen it. I was just happy that this particular blog had managed to remain free of bashing one horse or the other. But I come back today and see there has been quite a bit of change in attitude. Its one thing to question trainer motives, but get real guys. Sometimes I wonder if some of you are on JJ's pay role.

11 Mar 2010 9:03 AM
Slew

Paseana...I think we're not mentioning it because we are all a little superstitious and unwilling to jinx anything...mostly because she doesn't have #15 under her belt yet.  My crystal ball is broken, and I have no idea who will win what...but you can't make money on 1-9 odds (Zen) or 1-5 odds (RA).  I'm just looking forward to a great weekend.  I feel that people are upset by Jackson's remarks because they believe valid concerns for RA should have been discussed with C. Cella first, rather than the media.

The media is NOT  putting up $5 million for the race. At least that's how I see it.  RA and Zen are the greatest horses I have seen in a long time, and they have commanded national attention. They both have earned our respect and admiration.  We shouldn't really have all the squabling that's going on.  Let's just enjoy this monumental moment.

11 Mar 2010 9:05 AM
Bob Z

Cyrus,

The short answer to your question about the fastest 1 1/8 miles on dirt looks to be ..

Simply Majetic in 1988 at 1:45 flat.

Here is a site I found that lists all the records.. dirt, turf, etc..

www.horsehats.com/horse-racing-records.html

I always thought Secretariat held the world record for 1 1/2 miles... yes but only on dirt..

11 Mar 2010 9:31 AM
dave

CV - I think she'll handle the Oaklawn dirt course :)

www.youtube.com/watch

11 Mar 2010 9:44 AM
Rafael Molina

in this link www.anecdotashipicas.net/.../Bambera.php   they can to see Bambera images and record.

11 Mar 2010 10:07 AM
dave

Will Bambera have a prep race?  

11 Mar 2010 10:27 AM
Bob Z

Yes,  all the horses in the Apple Blossom will be running their hearts out ...

but this is all happening because of just 2 of the horses... If they weren't running this particular blog and all the interest that this race is generating wouldn't exist...

11 Mar 2010 10:56 AM
CV

Dave,

Yes, I know. I think the 2008 Apple Blossom was one of Zen's best races because she accelerated so fast. I was just commenting on the discussion about several horses handling the synth to dirt transition.

Also, I've read somewhere that Hollywood's Cushion Track plays close to dirt, which would mean it won't be that big a change anyway for Zenyatta.

11 Mar 2010 11:20 AM
EasyGoerFan

I want to comment on what Cyrus said about the '89 BC Classic because, as you can see by my fake name, I am all about Easy Goer.  The fact that Sunday Silence was just plain quicker was what separated the two.  I'm not saying that he was faster on a straight stretch of track, but he was more nimble and agile and could hug the turns at a high speed. Sunday Silence could shift gears and spurt away at any time.  Easy Goer needed to get in position and then unleash his incredible kick.  He almost caught Sunday Silence in the BC Classic.  He was flying down the stretch, but there was too much ground to make up and the quicker horse won.  The same fate may be waiting for Zenyatta.  Rachel can turn it on at any point in the race.

And, another observation about Easy Goer/Sunday Silence  --  I was so excited that they both stayed in training for their 4yo years.  I never dreamed that both  would lose to Criminal Type in different races.  Up until Met Mile day, I had never heard of Criminal Type.  Who's to say that there isn't some superstar for 2010 waiting in the wings and we'll learn her name in the Apple Blossom?

Having said that, I'm hoping Rachel is fit and mentally prepared and ready to rumble.  I'm a nervous wreck and there are two days to go before her prep race.  All the best to Zenyatta too.  What a gorgeous mare and she has so much personality.  We need to savor and enjoy them both.  Safe trips to all.

11 Mar 2010 11:21 AM
Mike Relva

IT AINT EASY BEING GOOD

You sound as if it's an after thought that RA will beat Zenyatta. Don't wanna hear a million excuses when it doesn't happen!

11 Mar 2010 11:23 AM
Star G

No, she will not have  pre race. I'm from Venezuela and I've been running and she is very good, but I do not understand because their owners did not want to register it in a prep race, I think it is crazy to do that.

11 Mar 2010 11:57 AM
WWSTP

Rachel is clearly the one coming from behind.  It's the circumstances she has been dealt and if I were Jackson I'd be hesitant/cautious as well.  If she's not up to the fitness par that she was, why wouldn't someone be hesitant?  If they get to the Apple Blossom, Rachel will have had far less opportunity to get to the fitness level she needs, and that is a very important factor in all of this. And the big Z who was supposed to be retired kept working, and is probably more fit than ever.  I also feel that the Moss camp became VERY strategic and filled with some uncharacteristic attitude when Z lost the HOY award.  That makes me nervous, because they seem quietly aggressive with their focus riveted on something BIG to prove.  Seems uncharacteristic based on all the caution and perhaps over care of Z's campaign last year.  They marketed Z endlessly for HOY and it didn't work.  I don't think they are running out of strategy.  It's just more slick.  It's a bit sad to see that "turn" in people I have admired.  Very suttle, and so far efffective.  No one (almost) is pointing the negative finger in their direction.  

11 Mar 2010 12:06 PM
Ragsy

I love Zenyatta and Rachel, I get so disgusted by people attacking Jess Jackson and saying he's hunting a way out of the race... thats all crap...

what happened to sportsman ship???

Rachel's preparation time for this 3-13-2010 race has not been the greatest and I would not blame him if he did not run her and say forget the Apple Blossom too...guess, I would miss 2 good race..but I would not blame him at all..

7 month layoff is long time to make up in 5 weeks....

Zenyatta has not had a layoff..

I want living,breathing and healthy,happy horses after these races...

11 Mar 2010 12:09 PM
Mary in VT

None of the speedsters that may show up in either Rachel's' prep this Saturday, or the Apple Blossom can deliver anything close to what Big Drama delivered in the Preakness. Or Munnings in the Haskell. Or the early going in the Woodward for that matter. Those were speed duels that will live on long after we have all turned to dust.

I am certainly not concerned about Rachel's prep race, but I am very concerned about if she can possibly be in form to meet Zenyatta by April 9th. I have felt that way since all this talk started. Lots of people would rather see them meet down the road in the Beldame or Breeder's Cup when everyone can be dead certain both horses are peek. That's the race I want to see - when there is no question about either of them. Zenyatta will be the toughest horse Rachel has faced to date, and Rachel is by far the toughest horse Zenyatta will ever see. There is no reason to bring them together until both are in peek condition.

I'm glad that Jackson could care less what any of the turf writers or any of us think. If his horse isn't ready, she will not run. Period. And that is exactly who you and I need him to be.

And I am hating the weight piled on Zenyatta in her first race back. Personally, I think that is a dumb move. I know her career justifies the high weight, and she has carried weight before, but I wish they had picked a weight for age race for her first race back. Why take two steps forward when you can take one? Her size puts enough weight on her feet without piling it on her back too. She runs on bute for some reason, and the added weight will not help it one bit. The man who trained her dam said that mare had ankles like grapefruit ...

<hand wringing> <worry, worry, worry>

I just want them both healthy every step of the way, and to see them retire to lovely pain free careers as brood matrons.

Please, God.

Mary in VT

11 Mar 2010 12:24 PM
Footlick

EasyGoerFan- I thought that Day had a great opportunity to blow the race open if he just went on when he made that big move with Easy Goer.  I think he had the stamina and Valenzuela would have had to chase him for a change.  But that's horse racing.  I remember Dike's trainer saying that when nobody wanted the lead in Arts and Letters Belmont, Dike inheirited the lead running his regular race. His trainer was screaming in the stands-"Let him run!"  I felt the same when I saw Day rein in Easy Goer.

11 Mar 2010 12:50 PM
Footlick

ruffian64-No matter how this blog gets, it isn't as contentious as the other one.  I pick and choose what I blog now-lol.

11 Mar 2010 12:56 PM
Rachel

Terri, I don't get HRTV either,

I called the Fairgrounds, and they could care less if the majority of America and the world doesn't get the only cable outlet they will allow the race to be shown on BUT, you can at least watch Zen at Santa Anita by going to YouBet.net and signing up for a free account. There is a video time limit, but it's pretty generous, so just watch the races themselves. It's a tiny 3" screen, but heck, it

's better than nothing.

They also give you "play money" to learn how to bet, and when you're ready to go for real, they help you with that, too.

11 Mar 2010 1:07 PM
Paul R

Rachel is a natural ability and will do what she does best win after saturday it may be Mr.Sheriffs who ponders not coming to Oaklawn Zardana is a fine mare but Rachel will end the race on the far turn in her usual run them off their feet fashion

11 Mar 2010 1:09 PM
Mike Relva

BEAUVOIR

You state that you are "a fan of Zenyatta"...... right.

11 Mar 2010 1:56 PM
Star G

I understand that failure to receive confirmation of the invitation to the Apple Blossom, then Bambera, run the Rampart Stakes on March 20, but I doubt not invited because of marketing issues, Bambera profile is very attractive for advertising of the race, plus there are plenty of people in central and south america slope of this mare, including the organizers themselves, not in their interest to debut before the horse because it would not be a mystery performance on the slopes of used, and they agree that it is a mystery before the race to generate more viewers in the fans, particularly I think Bambera has with which I am sure that Bambera ran the 1800 but never was able to make from 107 to 108 sec and about that time is going to broker the winner in this classic so what is the fear?, Bambera ALSO HAS FOUR LEGS....

11 Mar 2010 2:47 PM
sodapopkid

Rachel may be able to take Zardana, but Zardana ain't no Zenyatta, and both horses that Rachel took down last year (SB,MTB,) Zenyatta took down after they were well conditioned, she took both out with one race. Rachel will have a better chance taking Zardana out, cause she sure won't have no easy time trying to take Zenyatta out, After all last year and seeing how RAchel runs, Mike Smith and John Shirreffs will have Rachel exactly like they need to in their scope. Mike Smith will know exactly when to shake the reigns for Zenyatta to accerlate....After the BCC, don't ever think any horse is to much horse for Zenyatta!!!!   She is going to make all of you naysayers have  more than enough respect for her, from now on...

11 Mar 2010 3:01 PM
helsbelles

Zookeeper, the confusion about Mushka is rooted in previous articles that listed Mushka, Tuscan Evening, and Life is Sweet as possible starters in the Santa Margarita H., and stated that Zenyatta would be conceding 15 pounds to these fine mares.  That information turned out to be erroneous.

11 Mar 2010 3:03 PM
MonicaV

Footlick,

Valenzuela wasn't on Sunday Silence in the BCC, it was Chris McCarron.  Valenzuela had been suspended.  One thing too is that Easy Goer had just won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/2 miles then came into the BCC.  Charlie Whittingham made the remark that it would take a lot out of him and indeed, I think it did.  He didn't run his usual race but Sunday Silence was primed for it.

11 Mar 2010 3:04 PM
MonicaV

I just read an interesting article on ESP.com about Rachel's vacation at the spa.  Apparently, she was in a enclosed grassy area at the spa and would lay down in the grass and sun herself during the day and relax as Scott Blasi brought her hay and water.  What it didn't say is that while at the spa resting, she had mineral mud packs, massages, petticures and hot tub treatments then reclined in the sun with a large straw hat and sunglasses while Scott Blasi brought her apple martinis (heavy on the apple, of course!) and applied sun screen so she wouldn't burn.  Wow!  What a life!

11 Mar 2010 3:13 PM
CV

"The man who trained her dam said that mare had ankles like grapefruit ..."

You mentioned this once before. Is the  implication that Zenyatta has "grapefruit ankles?"

I found a couple pictures of her feet. I'm not a vet. Are there are any grapefruit, oranges, lemons or limes here?

Close-ups of Zenyatta's feet shot in May 2009 from Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog:

FRONT: hoofcare.blogspot.com/.../zenyatta-revealing-close-up-secrets-of.html

HIND:hoofcare.blogspot.com/.../zenyatta-champion-mare-shows-her-toes.html

11 Mar 2010 3:21 PM
CV

For the sake of equality, here's a link to a shot of Rachel Alexandra's hind legs and feet on Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog.

Picture was taken in June after the Mother Goose Stakes.

hoofcare.blogspot.com/.../rachels-hoof-blog-confidential-hind.html

11 Mar 2010 3:38 PM
Mike Relva

PAUL R

Make no mistake,as long as Zenyatta's health remains intact she will show up in the Apple Blossom.

11 Mar 2010 3:52 PM
Zookeeper

MonicaV,

Thanks for the good laugh! I needed it after the grapefruit comment.

CV,

You're a PEACH! Don't see any citrus fruit in there. What is it they say about a picture and 1000 words? Perfect!

11 Mar 2010 4:11 PM
Zookeeper

helsbelles,

Too bad if it was "confusion" instead of "humor". The mental picture of Mushka coming all the way from Tampa Bay to nip Zenyatta at the wire was so much more fun... Maybe that's just me! LOL!

11 Mar 2010 4:15 PM
Footlick

You should be able to watch Zenyatta's race on CalRacing website also.

11 Mar 2010 4:16 PM
EasyGoerFan

Footlick and MonicaV, this Easy Goer fan approves of both of your messages.  Pat Day said Easy Goer watched a plane pull a banner and missed the break.  I say don't let your horse, stuck in the one hole, look at a banner.  Get his attention!

Charlie Whittingham was quoted in SI as saying that as soon as Easy Goer ran in the JCGC, he knew Sunday Silence would win the BCC.  The next year the distance of the JCGC was changed to 10 furlongs to make it a better prep.

Back to Rachel and Zenyatta, I hope they both continue to show their brilliance in 2010.  It's a lot to ask but if anybody can do it, those two can.  Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for keeping us informed and entertained with this blog.

Go girls!!

11 Mar 2010 4:35 PM
MonicaV

EasyGoerFan,

Gosh, wasn't it great when Easy Goer and Sunday Silence were racing?  1989 was such a great year because of them!  I loved every minute.  When I heard that Easy Goer died so young I cried my eyes out.  He was so great.  Sunday at least got to live longer but I cried for him too.

11 Mar 2010 5:30 PM
My Juliet

  Two days to race day, I feel such excitement to see Rachel Alexandra run again!!! A long time to wait, but glad she had rest needed.

   WWSTP, I too thought there was a sense of entitlement, which I can't stand in sports or from anyone nominated for an award. I thought Jess Jackson was humble and gracious when accepting.

   Monica V, you had me hanging on every word...'the spa comment'

...I guess it's not true? :)

11 Mar 2010 5:57 PM
Lil Darlin

This weekend is going to be an awesome piece of racing! TC preps, RA and Zen, I can't wait...I got the food, I got the drinks, now let's tune in to the action...oh, wait, that's right, I can't.  Time to invest in a giant computer screen and replace my TV!

11 Mar 2010 7:21 PM
Paula Higgins

Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussendid absolutely the right thing in resting Rachel alexandra as long as they did. She really needed it after the Woodward. Whatever happens in the Apple Blossom, she has many more races in her to win, and win she will. Ditto my girl Zenyatta.

WWTSP, no one is pointing a negative finger at Zenyatta's connections because there is no need to. They have done nothing wrong, but instead, everything right. Their handling of Zenyatta has been flawless and above reproach.

11 Mar 2010 7:46 PM
Pam S.

MonicaV, you made it easy (and fun) to picture how Rachel filled her time during her long vacation.  Wasn't it you also who wrote about Zenyatta's demoralized opponents pigging out on ice cream and ordering Cosmopolitans after the races?

I love assigning human characteristics to horses (in fun, of course), anthro-whatever you call it.  They are in their stalls so much that you can't help speculating about what they do in there.  How 'bout this:  CELL PHONES!!  We think the Princess and Queen will be meeting for the first time, but they might already be good friends from talking... or maybe Facebook friends!!  

11 Mar 2010 8:07 PM
beauvoir

Mike Relva,

My issue is not with Zenyatta...how can you NOT be a fan of both of them! My issue is with the connections...

I think WWSTP said it well.

Also, during the Eclipse awards there was a definite "less than sportsmanlike attitude". JJ was gracious and always included "Z" and her accomplishments when interviewed...and this was before HOY was announced. I just wish there had been more of the same respect towards Rachel.

And no..not on JJ's payroll to whoever said that...my god! Wish I was...:)

11 Mar 2010 9:14 PM
Mary in VT

CV -

Enjoyed the link to the hoof website. Thanks for posting it. Yes, it has pictures of Zen's feet, Rachel's feet, and many more feet besides.

I simply don't like the sound of Zen's dam having "ankles like grapefruit." That statement was delivered by that mare's trainer in a phone interview with HRTV. He wasn't paying her a compliment. It sounded like he assumed that his audience would know exactly what he meant, but I didn't know what to make of it other than it ain't good. I had never heard that expression before or since. It brings to mind the cauliflower ear of a fighter that has damage on top of damage. Wish you could find a picture of Vertingeux's (sp?) ankles. <hint, hint>

The fact that Zen's dam had an achilles heel in the form of "ankles like grapefruit" and Zen runs on bute might add up to something none of us want to hear. Hope not, but it might. You can't very well say you rest well at night because it gives you great comfort, can you?

I am just really worried that the timing of this grudge match is all wrong. Maybe it is too soon for Rachel after a long layoff. Maybe Zenyatta should have been retired BEFORE she too has ankles like grapefruit.

11 Mar 2010 9:15 PM
helsbelles

Zookeeper, I know.  Listen, I thought it was a mini Breeders' Cup Distaff!

11 Mar 2010 10:18 PM
Sarah G

I don't know and never will know JJ or Moss personally. I think both horses are wonderful and that there is way too much negativity between fans of both camps. That said, I have to say that I completely agreed with the following observation:

"Also, during the Eclipse awards there was a definite "less than sportsmanlike attitude". JJ was gracious and always included "Z" and her accomplishments when interviewed...and this was before HOY was announced. I just wish there had been more of the same respect towards Rachel. "

11 Mar 2010 11:36 PM
CV

Mary in VT,

I don't know how to respond to your multiple references of "grapefruit ankles" other than to say, they're not in the pictures. As they say, those are worth a thousand words.

As as a point of interest, when Rachel Alexandra was 2, she had a bone chip and multiple fragments removed from her left front ankle. And yet, I've not read any hand-wringing or expressions of concern from you over the potential for that repair to go wrong again...only worries about the supposed "grapefruit ankles" of Zenyatta's dam, and the subtle inference that Zen might suffer the same problem.

From everything I've read about John Shirreffs and Jerry & Ann Moss, they seem to think of Zenyatta as a member of the family, not just a champion racehorse.

I do not believe they made the decision lightly to bring her back to compete this year. Nor would they ever put her at risk, which is evident by the fact that Shirreffs scratched her last May when the Churchill officials sealed a wet, sloppy track. I've read that some trainers say a sealed track is akin to running on concrete.

Mike Smith said in January he had visited Zenyatta several times while she was still officially retired and she "dragged him around like a balloon" when he tried to walk her.

He told DRF this week that she actually seems more focused and aggressive this year, and may be better now than she was in 2009.

I say, let's just offer best wishes to ALL horses who put hooves on the track this weekend, and all year.  

11 Mar 2010 11:43 PM
Mike Relva

MARY IN VT

I've read probably a dozen of your posts slamming Zenyatta's connections for the way her career was handled. Now,since she's unretired and going outside of CA to race ON DIRT you seem to have new issues. Some people are never happy,I guess!

12 Mar 2010 12:44 AM
EasyGoerFan

Lil Darlin, you can have your party at my house.  I get HRTV and this place will be spotless by post time on Saturday because, being the worry wart that I am, my nervous energy will send me into a frenzy of cleaning.  All the things that didn't bother me all winter will be scrubbed and polished.  :)

Do these horses know how much we care about them?  To anybody reading this who can pass along our good wishes, please do so.  

12 Mar 2010 7:32 AM
Slew

Monica V...your cute vignette on Rachel's vacation may be closer to the truth than you know.  My neighbor's horses get regular massages, acupuncture, and monthly pedicures (ala farrier),and are on special diets + treats.

Steve...my previous query was in earnest.  I honestly don't know.  Common sense tells me they are probably walked around the paddock daily.  What do horses do that are regularly stabled at a track for months?

12 Mar 2010 8:28 AM
Bob Z

Steve Asmussen was quoted as saying that regarding Rachel and the Ladies prep race...

"We want to rev the engine but don't want to empty the tank..."

So with that being the concern.. how would you run this race...?

That would tell me ... no early speed duels ... stalk the pace and then rev the engine at the 3/4 pole and hope for the best...

What else can you do?

From the Racing Form....

Rachel Alexandra drew just outside the apparent speed of the race, Fighter Wing, and just inside Zardana, who is a John Shirreffs-trained stablemate of Zenyatta.

Fighter Wing's trainer, Greg Geier, was the only trainer present at the draw, and he was grinning ear to ear as he noted the post positions.

"I love my draw, because the front end is the way she wants to run," he said. "I'll be out early, and Rachel will probably be right there, too."

Fighter Wing on 12/19/2009

not a factor...

www.youtube.com/watch

From Bloodhorse...

"Two of the other challengers come out of the local Pelleteri Stakes Feb. 13 at the same distance.

Coteau Grove Farms’ Clear Sailing won the race by a neck over Jim Tafel’s homebred Fighter Wing, who set the pace and took a commanding lead into the stretch before being caught just before the wire. Fighter Wing, a Greg Geier trainee, drew the rail and is expected to set the pace once again while Rachel Alexandra tracks her."

So Fighter Wing with be the early speed and Clear Sailing is a closer..

The Pelleteri Feb. 13

www.youtube.com/watch

Here is Clear Sailing in January...

www.youtube.com/watch

So Clear Sailing is comfortable being on the lead like in this race or coming from behind like in the Pelleteri

Some Notes on Zardana... first time on dirt in 3 years...

Zardana, who was bred in Brazil, hasn’t raced on dirt since beginning her career there in 2007 with three victories in sprints.

In California, she has raced on turf and on synthetic surfaces. Overall, she has won seven of 18 starts, including three stakes in the United Stakes.

She closed her 2009 season with a victory Dec. 5 in the Grade II Bayakoa, a mile race on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park.

Zardana in the Bayakoa...

www.youtube.com/watch

The times..

1/4  23.65

1/2  46.80

3/4  110.63

1 mi. 135.73

1 1/16  142.24

12 Mar 2010 8:59 AM
MonicaV

Yes, I love to think of Rachel and Zenyatta with human characteristics.  Zen and her domination over her opponents and what they would feel like if human.  She just beats up on everyone and does it without turning a whisker.  Another thing she does is dance before a race.  She's sending messages to her foes and playing head games with them.  Of course, this is all in fun but when you see a horse like Zenyatta, you have to wonder just a little if maybe she might intimidate the others on purpose.  First with her magnificent size and beauty then she dances!  Kind of makes you fantasize about what the other horses reaction would be if they were like humans.  One might think "Oh, there she goes again!  Always prancing!  Hope her mane gets frizzy and her tail sticks straight out!"  Come on, you gotta have some fun with this.

I love seeing Rachel in a straw hat with designer sunglasses.  She probably has some as a gift from Vogue for the photo shoot.  Maybe even a cashmier blanket with her initials on it. Both girls are so beautiful it makes you wonder if all the other girls are jealous.

12 Mar 2010 10:59 AM
MonicaV

Yes, Pam S., that was me!

12 Mar 2010 11:00 AM
jpsbman

Bob Z, thanks for the links. Zardana looks good and Clear Sailing looks great. Does anyone know if TVG is going to do something tomorrow? thanks

12 Mar 2010 1:44 PM
Karen2

Steve!!!! I finally had a chance to sit down and read this. I have been dying to get to it. I haven't read all the other comments yet but my guess is they say much of the same of what I am about to say.  I know you hear over and over how thankful people are you are there for us. Really it goes without saying. But I can't thank you enough for being our eyes and our ears. With this diary you have created something that is far beyond the magnitude of this race. You have created a way for all of us to be there with you and live this dream. Every moment of it. I just don't think any one else would be capable of that. So Steve...from the bottom of my heart.......thank you!!!! I can't wait to hear more. I also must say I think Lisa Borel is a class act and her comments just lay that heartfelt human element in to all of this madness. It is truly about the great love for these horses. Nothing more...nothing less.

Monica....I LOVE the human characteristics you apply to these horses.  They fit to a "T". For those of us lucky enough to share our lives with these noble "beings" knows one thing....there is so much more to know. We haven't even begun to skim the surface. I have many moments when I swear my horse has a higher IQ than I do.

12 Mar 2010 2:46 PM
Fran Loszynski

Don't forget about the "GOT MILK"

commercials they would be great at!

I'm glad they are not just competing against one another and there are other horses in the race. These are two beautiful racehorses. I wish they could both win; I think Rachel is going to win because Zenyatta her motherly spirit and experience will kick-in and let the "little girl" win. I hope for a safe race for horses and jockeys.  I think whoever wins the race and $5 million should put it toward Fillies that are old and retired.  

12 Mar 2010 2:50 PM
Paula Higgins

O.k. Ann and Jerry Moss are lovely people. Let's say that right off the bat because it's true. It gladdens my heart to see how much they love that horse and love Zenyatta's fans.

Jess Jackson was very gracious at the awards ceremony. He couldn't have been nicer. Ann and Jerry Moss and John Shireffs were very disappointed in the result. They love Zenyatta and understandably so. Their disappointment showed. That's o.k. No one died. So let's give this a rest. I fully understand their disappointment. I think they feel Zenyatta is underappreciated by some in the racing world and that there is an east coast bias. While I do not know where the truth of that lies, I do know these are all good people and they are good to their horses. That's what counts.

12 Mar 2010 2:52 PM
Johnny

Zenyatta has just been assigned the 1-9 morning line odds for the Santa Margarita.

12 Mar 2010 4:35 PM
Freetex

Oh mercy!  I just viewed Bambera's races on YouTube, (thank you Star G).  

Could Bambera and Rachel run off in the Apple Blossom??  Or, will they tire enough for Zen to catch them?  Makes one's heart just flutter away.

12 Mar 2010 4:49 PM
Mike Relva

PAULA HIGGINS

Well said,I totally agree.

12 Mar 2010 5:50 PM
My Juliet

  Paula Higgins,

 If you were referring to my 'a long time to wait' comment when mentioning that Steve & Jess did the right thing, of course I'm glad

Rachel got rest needed, as I said.

I only said that as a huge fan who has been eager to see her race,which I'm glad to even get to see again.

12 Mar 2010 5:57 PM
Slew

Fran....all the fillies and colts are little next to Zenyatta, and she hasn't (not ever being in foal) given a motherly edge to any competitor...I don't think she'll start now. (actually, she's given entire fields to them, then beats them anyway).  Rachel Alexandra is a big girl now, and she's not about to give an edge to any competitor either.  They are both great, and they are both winners and champions in my book.

12 Mar 2010 6:08 PM
The Z Girl

Some disappointing and distasteful comments from JJ.  After reading them, I'm not sure I'd expect Rachel at the Apple Blossom if she does not win this weekend.  Also, not sure that "they" (which apparetnly means Z and her connections) would simply disappear for the season if they do wind up beating Rachel. That comment is depressing especially since I hope that the expectations for Zenyatta go above and beyond Rachel and the Apple Blossom this season...I hope that JJ has the same expectations for Rachel though I'm not so sure now.

I hope the race lives up to this enormous hype, as well.  Even a quick glance at racing history tells us it seldom does, and that is worth remembering as the media gets more and more frenzied billing yet another "Race of the Century, Decade, Year" etc, etc.

As for Z's first start this year:

A 127 pound impost for her first race is a good start for what will hopefully be another incredible season.

Glad she's getting some attention this year for her imposts, her 129 pound victory last year didn't seem to garner as much attention though I thought it was maybe her finest effort of the year.

12 Mar 2010 7:26 PM
Sarah G

"Their disappointment showed. That's o.k. No one died. So let's give this a rest. I fully understand their disappointment. I think they feel Zenyatta is underappreciated by some in the racing world and that there is an east coast bias. While I do not know where the truth of that lies, I do know these are all good people and they are good to their horses. That's what counts."

But isn't that the definition of a sore loser? Stubbornly refusing to admit that someone else won and that you should be gracious and try harder next time? Apples to apples, Rachel had the better season. She rightfully won. That doesn't mean she is a better horse or that Zenyatta isn't fabulous. Moss should be proud of what he has and not bitter about the loss and accusing people of bias. Who knows, he just might win HOY this year if Zen's fitness is really where they believe it is! Can you imagine if she runs even better than she did last year?

I'm going to need people to post videos of both races as soon as you can tomorrow night! I am DYING to see both of these ladies run!

13 Mar 2010 1:28 AM

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