Apple Blossom Diary: March 10 -12

March 10 – Zenyatta will face eight opponents in Saturday’s Santa Margarita, conceding from 12 to 19 pounds. Her main threats appear to be the La Canada winner Striking Dancer (115 lbs), trained by the always dangerous Kenny McPeek; La Canada runner-up Gripsholm Castle (112), who ran a big race in her U.S. debut; and the Todd Pletcher-trained Floating Heart (111 lbs), third in the La Canada, who will be dropping five pounds off that effort. There is absolutely no speed in the race, so just about anyone is capable of going to the lead in what assuredly will be a very slow pace. Because of the unfavorable scenario, Zenyatta will have to be closer up than usual.



March 11 – Rachel schooled at the gate this morning, her third visit to the gate in preparation for Saturday’s New Orleans Ladies. She will school in the paddock one last time tomorrow before the fourth race.

Rachel’s exercise rider Dominic Terry put it in simple terms on his Facebook page: “Two more days !!! Repeat 10000.000 times!!”

Lisa Borel said this year she’s determined to be excited more than nervous, but she’s sure the nerves will kick in soon as Saturday approaches. “I’m trying to keep busy and my mind quiet,” she said.

Zenyatta arrived at Santa Anita at 11:30 this morning after an uneventful van ride from Hollywood Park. “She’s a good shipper; she’s a pro,” said groom Mario Espinoza. With Zenyatta being off for four months, it is no surprise that she has put on about 25 pounds since the Breeders’ Cup. “We’re very excited to see her run again,” Shirreffs said.

A quick check over at eBay shows four tickets (two for April 9 and two for April 10) going for $661. The normal ticket prices are $2.50 for Friday and $4.50 for Saturday.



March 12 – For tomorrow’s race, Rachel will be equipped for the first time with a figure-8 bridle to give Borel better control. Rachel has been a handful in the mornings and Asmussen is trying to get her to settle down. He told the Daily Racing Form: “Her gallops have been not as controlled as last year. Right now, we need more control.”

The main concern regarding both fillies is that under normal circumstances they tower over their respective fields, but Rachel has fitness question marks (Asmussen has stated she won’t be 100% fit), as well as having to experiment with new equipment, and Zenyatta has major weight concessions to deal with coming off a layoff. They should be able to overcome it all, but in racing you never know on any given day. If their unbeaten streaks are to end (especially Zenyatta’s), you want it to be because they were beaten legitimately and not because of fitness or weight or a paceless race. But taking a more optimistic approach (which, unfortunately, is not the norm for me), they are two of the greatest fillies of all time and great horses usually find a way to overcome obstacles.

In discussing the weight, Mike Smith said, “I sure hope it won’t make a difference. But it is a lot of weight to spot horses, especially in her first race back. On the bright side, she’s a big mare. She handles weight really well. It is a lot of weight to spot, but what are you going to do? We got what we got. Given a fair opportunity, I think she’s going to run really, really big.”

Ben Cecil, trainer of Gripsholm Castle, said, “The weights are pretty fair. The spread has given us all an outside chance. Zenyatta’s not getting away with it easy, but having said that, she’s pretty good. She’s 1-9 in the morning line, and she deserves to be.”

Zenyatta was out on the track around 7:30 this morning. She galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Steve Willard and was scheduled to school again prior to today’s third race.

Dominic Terry after his final gallop aboard Rachel: "My job is finally done! Aaahhh! It feels so good ! Now we sit back and see what happens." 

Dottie (Ingordo-Shirreffs) summed it up best -- "Lucky us! We are so blessed to be a part of such a great sport. Cheering all on for a wonderful day of racing!"


 

224 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Brian Appleton

Only one day left then it's make it or break it for the Apple Blossom show-down!! Go Rachel Go!!

12 Mar 2010 3:37 PM
kyoaks09

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you so much for all of your time and effort in writing this diary.  I always look forward to the next segment.  I'm sure we're all keeping our fingers crossed tomorrow for both Rachel and Zenyatta that they both come out of their respective races safe and sound - and oh yes, winners!

12 Mar 2010 4:08 PM
Freetex

You just want to see both win their respective races and come out fine.

My biggest disappointment is that I won't be able to view the races live (no HRTV) here.  

Thank you for the diary.  It brings forth interesting details as the time for the Apple Blossom approaches.

12 Mar 2010 4:36 PM
Rachel

Thanks for all your writing, Steve.

Neither of these girls can ever be "losers", even if they don't win all of their future races...it would be like saying Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Swaps, Gallorette,  John Henry, Dr. Fager, Damascus, Cigar, the Bid, Kelso, et al were losers because they lost races...☺

12 Mar 2010 4:59 PM
AMY ROONEY

I just would like both horses to win saturday and then race in the Apple Blossom.  But regardless, I love both "girls".  Even if big Z does not prevail over RA maybe a repeat win in the the BC classic will be the eclipse in her career.

12 Mar 2010 5:09 PM
txhorsefan

The anticipation is excruciating!  I'm leaning towards what Lisa Borel said about trying to keep my mind calm and not be nervous - lol!  I love your statement "they are two of the greatest fillies of all time and great horses usually find a way to overcome obstacles" because that is truly how I feel about these two.  Thank you once again for giving us your incredible insights into your diary and providing us the information we so desire.  You are the best!

12 Mar 2010 5:32 PM
txhorsefan

Note to Freetex, they are going to be streaming the live video of both races at ntra.com, so even without HRTV, you will be able to watch it on your computer.  Not as good as the big screen, but better than nothing.  Hope that helps.

12 Mar 2010 5:34 PM
Zookeeper

Great new segment! I'm printing and saving all of them along with a few other pertinent articles. Even if the AB doesn't materialize (God forbid!) it will be fun to re-visit later and feel the excitement all over again. Today I'm having a small case of the nerves. So much is at stake for both horses, but mostly for Zenyatta: undefeated, 15th in a row, 127 pounds, 8 other horses. Can she do this AGAIN? You know I'll be crying like a baby when she does... and I won't be the only one.

12 Mar 2010 5:53 PM
Steve Haskin

As you can see, we have decided to keep the diaries more up-to-date, so I will be writing new ones every few days, depending on much there is to write. The next one likely will be Monday recapping the two races.

12 Mar 2010 5:55 PM
Slew

Freetex: the NTRA website will have live streaming video of the New Orleans Ladies, and the Santa Margarita tomorrow.Here is the schedule of their planned webcasts:

New Orleans Ladies Stakes,

            Saturday,  March 13

Santa Margarita, Saturday, March 13

Florida Derby, Saturday, March 20

Sunland Park Derby, Sun, March 28

Coolmore Lexington Stakes,  

                Saturday, April 17

So if you don't have HRTV, it will still be available to you for free.

Once more...hooray for the fans!

12 Mar 2010 6:20 PM
Paula Higgins

ITA with everything you said Rachel. They will never be losers, win or lose.

I don't think Zenyatta's weight is fair. A little too heavy compared to the others. I know she has raced with more but I still think it's too much.

12 Mar 2010 6:21 PM
Rita

Freetex I got an e-mail saying NTRA is going to have both races on live webcast starting at 6pm Saturday.So all should be able to watch them.

12 Mar 2010 6:23 PM
Star G

bambera for everyone! Never mind if she dont win this race but she is great horse and she can give a surprise to world!

12 Mar 2010 6:50 PM
Charlie Thomas

Thanks for the updates!!! Tomorrow will be an exciting day watching their prep races, (best of luck to both RA & Zenyatta). Then comes the April 9th showdown, which will be AWESOME. I'm a big horse racing fan and I think the Apple Blossom race will be the biggest race of my liftetime. Can't wait...and go Zenyatta!!!

12 Mar 2010 6:54 PM
sherpa

Steve Haskin, I also want to thank you for this diary as well as your Derby Dozen blog.  Don't know how you can keep up with both, plus writing some thought-provoking articles lately, but you are doing a superlative job of it!  I thank your Muse as well.

I don't comment often but I read every word of your articles - several times, usually - and all the blog comments.  I particularly appreciate how well certain posters behave in your blogs...I surmise that is because you yourself find worth in ALL horses and you are careful (unlike certain bloggers whose name will not be mentioned ;-) not to be provocative, with only the occasional very subtle "you may now go to the corner" smack-downs. LOL!  In short, your talent is *awesome*.

I'm so glad you decided to blog this diary more frequently than originally planned.  Things are moving so fast and as you can surely tell, we want lots of input from you!

Again, many thanks.

Sher

12 Mar 2010 6:54 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, Sherpa. I appreciate the kind words.

12 Mar 2010 7:38 PM
Mike Relva

STEVE:

I always enjoy reading your work,thanks as always for the great read.

12 Mar 2010 7:46 PM
skyfire

HRTV can be viewed on computers.  I just signed up for it at their website (not free - very reasonable) - lots of good shows that can be watched at viewer's convenience.

12 Mar 2010 8:05 PM
CV

Steve Haskin,

I just read an article about Saturday's prep races on The Handicapper's Edge/Brisnet.com (www.brisnet.com/.../article.cgi) and the last sentence said: "ESPN's SportsCenter will take both the New Orleans Ladies and the Santa Margarita from HRTV."

Is that true? Can you confirm ESPN Sportscenter will be broadcasting the live feed from HRTV?

That would be terrific, if it happens. Far more people would be able to see the "girls'" races.

12 Mar 2010 8:19 PM
dustywhipp

She's baaackkk!

Good luck Zenyatta, I'll be cheering for ya!

Oh, and, good luck to Rachel too.

12 Mar 2010 9:21 PM
Brigitte

Zenyatta with 127 and they say she's 25 lbs heavier, too. Well, she was bigger and heavier than all the males in the Classic so it's not as big a proportion of her weight as it would be for most fillies. The pace is more of a problem, especially if one of the competition can finish better than Anabaa's Creation did last year when there was a photo finish.

Rachel needing a figure 8 noseband is not good. Won't matter for her debut, which she should win in a romp. But if she won't rate in the Apple Blossom or loses energy fighting Borel ... here comes something bigger and faster than Macho Again. At 9f it's a race, at 10f, well the Apple Blossom is not at 10f, that comes later. Asmussen has time.

12 Mar 2010 9:36 PM
txhorsefan

Zookeeper, it's good to read that I'm not the only one who prints out the wonderful stuff Steve writes so I can savor it later.  Need to go get more ink for my printer soon - lol!

Sherpa, ditto what you said regarding Steve's awesome talent and generosity to share it with us.

12 Mar 2010 10:45 PM
The Rock

Brigitte,

The pace scenario has always been an issue for Zenyatta, but after 14 races, I think its moot. She's just a freak. The only reason that Anabaa's Creation was close to beating her was b/c M. Smith waited too long to get her started. I can't wait for her to run and see how RA handles the comeback

12 Mar 2010 10:53 PM
Michelle

Love Love Love both these girls and cannot wait until the Apple Blossom!  I just hope they both come out of their races safe and sound Saturday and everything stays on track for the big showdown.

13 Mar 2010 12:17 AM
Bob Z

Brigitte,

I agree with everything you said...

9 furlongs could go either way but I'm picking Rachel in the Apple Blossom...

10 furlongs ... totally different story...

In the Apple Blossom Calvin is going to have to do a quick assessment before the first turn and figure out where she needs to be... if there is heavy speed out of the gate that dosen't quit at the first turn ...

they should let it go and just rate behind the pace... like in the Mother Goose...

I don't expect a slow pace so Rachel being able to get the lead and hold it at a leisurely pace is not something that will probably happen...

Rachel has had the lead in races and has rated off the pace...

I think the more interesting (challenging) strategy is for Zenyatta...

They know Rachel is fast and likes being at or near the front... They can't let her get too far away ...

So that means that Zenyatta will probably have to move earlier...

I don't think she has ever had to move early in the race and start shifting through her gears...

There is something called an energy expenditure profile... some athletes are sprinters some are long distance runners...

They are that way because the way their body uses energy dictates it...

If you take a long distance runner and at the half way mark you ask them to pick up the speed earlier than normal it tends to affect their maximum attainable output...

So its going to be interesting to see where Zenyatta is at the half and the 3/4 pole...

I think the best scenario based on the way each horse runs is that Rachel is at the lead at the 3/4 pole and hits the gas and takes off initially ..

and then Zenyatta being unimpeded with no traffic is able to shift into that last gear that Mike Smith said she has never gotten into ...

So... Rachel in front of the pack and Zenyatta coming around the pack with nothing to get in her way...

Thats the whole question right there... and what people are excited about and want to see...

With everybody having a clean trip will Zenyatta run down Rachel in that final furlong or 1/16 of a mile...?

Can you imagine the decibel level at Oaklawn  if the situation is like the Woodward ..

with Zenyatta getting closer.. closer.. closer.. and the finish line coming up...

... and the winner is...(?)

13 Mar 2010 12:19 AM
Bob Z

I think this is the figure 8 bridle that is being talked about... its supposed to give more control to the jockey...

www.brisnet.com/.../article.cgi

Looks like a lot of stuff around the nose and mouth...

13 Mar 2010 12:34 AM
sodapopkid

Bob Z, you sound like you think you have the AB already mapped out and who will win and in the exact order? Tell me, Mr. bob Z, where did you have Zenyatta mapped out in the BCC, at the end or no where in sight, Right? And she won didn't she?

13 Mar 2010 7:22 AM
JAJ

Bob Z,

The figure-eight noseband in the photo you linked to is a rubber loop that is crossed into a figure-eight over the nose.

A figure-eight noseband is designed to keep the horse's mouth closed.  A horse will open their mouth to avoid the bit.

13 Mar 2010 8:32 AM
Bob Z

Sodapopkid,

You wrote:

"Bob Z, you sound like you think you have the AB already mapped out and who will win and in the exact order? Tell me, Mr. bob Z, where did you have Zenyatta mapped out in the BCC, at the end or no where in sight, Right? And she won didn't she?"

Mapped out?  Well, I look at how the horses typically run and based on that and the given circumstances come up with the most likely scenario...

Where did I give an exact order of finish for all the horses?  You must be referring to a post by somebody else... :)

I'm saying based on their profile Rachel will be at or near the lead and Zenyatta will be coming hard from off the pace... like she has done in ALL her races...

Why would she do anything different?  Are you saying you expect Zenyatta to be on the lead for the majority of the race?

I do have the exact order of finish for the first 2 horses with 2 scenarios..  

Rachel is on the lead and Zenyatta is able to pass her in the final 1/16 of a mile...  or

Rachel is on the lead and Zenyatta is not able to pass her in the final 1/16 of a mile...

THAT is what this is all about!

THAT is the question that somebody is paying 5 million bucks to have answered.

"Tell me, Mr. bob Z, where did you have Zenyatta mapped out in the BCC, at the end or no where in sight, Right? And she won didn't she?"

I had her mapped out to be coming from off the pace and attempting to finish with her usual grand flurry... and she did... exactly what she always does...Why would it be any different?

Assuming they are both "fit" with no excuses I see Rachel winning the Apple Blossom...

Why?  because its at her preferred distance of 1 1/8

If the Apple Blossom was run at 1 1/4 miles I would pick Zenyatta...

Why?

Because Rachel hasn't run in a 1 1/4 mile race and as Zenyatta is a pure closer not a pace setter as history shows us... I would expect Zenyatta to be able to pass her in the final 1/16 of a mile...

The real test for Rachel is beating Zenyatta at a 1 1/4 miles... beating a great closing horse... at a distance that she (Zenyatta) can clearly do like her knockout performance in the Breeders Cup...

For Zenyatta the test is being able to move early (expending energy earlier than usual) and running down Rachel who is a speed horse running in the Apple Blossom at her preferred distance of 1 1/8 miles...

Oh... I wanted Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup to win.. :)

13 Mar 2010 10:08 AM
Steve Haskin

CV, I havent seen anything official, but if they do it would have to be on ESPN News, because ESPN and ESPN2 have college basketball.

13 Mar 2010 10:54 AM
Golden Gate

Wow! This will be some day at the races. I'm heading to Oaklawn in an hour and will be there to watch my sweet gelding run in Race 6,and to watch the Rebel and Zenyatta and Rachel A. and all the other beauties run on simulcast there. I had to figure the times so I don't miss any. Maybe it will helpful to some of you too.

Oaklawn race 6 3:41 pm central (-:

Tampa Bay Derby Race 11  4:30 pm central time

New Orleans Ladies w/Rachel A. Race 10 5:15 pm central

Santa Margarita w/Zenyatta Race 7 5:36 pm central

Rebel Stakes Oaklawn Race 10

5:47 pm central

Thank you Steve for your great blog. Arkansas is just buzzing from what hopefully will occur April 9th. Even non race folks are paying attention and asking me questions like I know something--haa haa

13 Mar 2010 11:15 AM
sodapopkid

Bob Z:

Stranger things have happened, Wouldn't it just blow your mind if by some weird and out of this world coincidence that Zenyatta beats out RA in the AB, what in the world would you have to say about your predictions then. Never , put Zenyatta out to pasture so early in the game, she can make you eat your words....

13 Mar 2010 11:53 AM
TIM

The biggest race of the year and its gonna run on friday!!!! NTRA get it together

13 Mar 2010 12:55 PM
Steve

One scratch out of the Santa Margarita so far, her name is Powerofvoodoo.  So Zenyatta is only racing against 7 today.  

She Be Wild is a scratch in the Florida Oaks.

13 Mar 2010 1:26 PM
EasyGoerFan

Here's another option for those of you who don't get HRTV.  The Horse Racing Radio Network will be broadcasting both races.  You can listen on one of their radio stations or do live streaming on the internet.

http://horseracingradio.net/

I'm officially a nervous wreck.  I feel for Lisa Borel.  I admire her goal to be more excited than nervous.  That will be my goal as well.  

13 Mar 2010 1:32 PM
beauvoir

Steve (or anyone else who can answer)

Question: What if the track at Oaklawn comes up horribly sloppy with torrential rains (god-forbid). Would the entries have to pre-agree to a no scratch policy because of the purse difference (5M down to 500,000), if one of the two scratches?

And would the other entries be allowed to scratch...I would assume yes, as they would not affect the purse money.

13 Mar 2010 1:41 PM
CV

A little off-topic, but DRF is reporting as of 2:48 this afternoon that Life Is Sweet has been retired. No Dubai Cup trip for her.

She came back from a workout today and began suffering stomach cramps. Apparently, she has that tendency and her owners decided it was best to retire her. They say she'll be bred to Smart Strike.

13 Mar 2010 3:11 PM
sherpa

oh, darn..I just read that Life Is Sweet is being retired. Cramps/tying up again.  Poor sweet sleepy girl.  She will be missed on the track.  Hopefully, her intestinal problems won't interfere with breeding and birthing of foals.

13 Mar 2010 3:24 PM
TerriV

A huge Thank You to everyone on this blog for all the super info about where it might be possible to see or listen to these races.  My stomach is engaged in it's own olympic gymnastics event this afternoon.  I don't see how anyone intimately involved with these horses can stand the tension. Thank you, Steve for all the beautifully written commentary.  Your diary is wonderful (I admit to printing out Steve's articles too).  May they all come home safe today.

13 Mar 2010 3:34 PM
sherpa

DRF clarified the first LIS report - apparently, her recurring problem is *muscle* cramps, not stomach.  

IMHO, Smart Strike will be an excellent match for her!

13 Mar 2010 4:17 PM
Emily

Is anybody else having trouble logging into NTRA.com?  I think we have to login to see the races!  I reset my password (because I didn't remember it) and it won't accept the reset password.  I tried to open a new account, and it says I'm writing the "captcha" wrong (the word to stop computers from spamming), even though I'm definitely not and have asked a new word.  Is anyone else having these issues?!

13 Mar 2010 5:04 PM
CV

I gave up trying to log into NTRA. Registered for HRTV and the live feed is working fine.

13 Mar 2010 6:29 PM
Paula Higgins

OMG, Rachel was beat by Zardana! I can't say I am completely surprised. She was just not quite ready. I am thinking Jess Jackson will not run her in 3 weeks against the Queen of the West, Zenyatta. I would agree with that decision. I am disapointed for everyone.

13 Mar 2010 6:36 PM
Karen2

Can't get the replay to play...UGHH!!! I am heart broken for Rachel.  But we all knew she wasn't fit. I bet they don't show up for the AB....either that or this race was exactly what she needed to start training seriously again......she might just be a new horse by the 9th.... Zen....what is there to say?

13 Mar 2010 7:28 PM
My Juliet

  I feel disappointed that Rachel lost her first race back, then after the feelings subsided, I think coming in a close second is nothing to be disappointed about after @6 months off, with training only being able to resume recently. I love Rachel Alexandra, she will always remain a Champion to me. Most racing legends are not undefeated over their careers, she remains a Champion.

   My congratulations to the connections of Zenyatta and Zardana, both the faster horses

today.

   I would be very surprised if the AB were still on for Rachel, no rush for them to meet. Both need to be at 100%.

13 Mar 2010 7:44 PM
Angela

It's been a very long time since we have seen a horse like Zenyatta.  And from the looks of things, we ain't seen nothing yet!

13 Mar 2010 8:49 PM
Lynn

What two incredibly magnificient ladies Zenyatta and Rachel are.  I hate to see either of them lose.  They are a credit to their breeders, their owners, and their trainers.  Whatever happens, may they both continue good health, safe runs, and continued success in racing, breeding, and retirement. They both make me have goosebumps and cry every time I see them run.  Wonderful wonderful examples of the thoroughbred. You go girls!!!!

13 Mar 2010 9:04 PM
beauvoir

I agree with Juliet and Paula that the match-up will/should not happen at Oaklawn.I think we saw but a glimpse of the Rachel we knew.

They both have to be 100% for it to mean anything. The connections of Rachel were sincere when they said her works were not what they were looking for leading up to the race.

Maybe later in the spring/early summer we'll see it. Still looking forward to the AB...after today it just proves an upset can happen anytime. Maybe "Bambera"...these S. American breds are a tough bunch!

13 Mar 2010 9:13 PM
Bob Z

I wasn't able to watch the races on NTRA... Did anybody else have a problem?  I wonder how many people were hitting that site all at once?

Regarding both races...

First Zenyatta... it was almost exactly like the Breeders cup with Zenyatta 10 lengths back... The most impressive thing for me was not that she won... which is always nice...

... but halfway down the stretch she was nimble enough to cut left and go around a horse ... in the same way she did in the Breeders Cup only then she did it to the right...

Thats impressive to have a big horse like that be that light on her feet and responsive to the jockeys direction... Kudos to Mike Smith for another great ride..

So Zenyatta is obviously ready...

Rachels situation is a little more involved..

I didn't get a chance to watch it live because I couldn't get it on NTRA... so after just hearing that she didn't win...  

I thought Uh Oh...

Then I watched it on you tube and I have to say that was pretty impressive too...

Granted she didn't win but she ran I thought a great race and ran exactly as I thought she would have.. very similar to the Haskell... just off the pace and then at the 3/4 pole she hit the gas...

Think about this... If there is no Zardana in the race, Rachel wins by 7-8 lengths... and everybody says she's great etc...

This time you had a fresh horse that already had a couple of races under her belt...

So Rachel just got beat by a fresher probably more fit horse...

as far as the running and the strategy I thought it went great...

What impressed me with Rachel was that as Zardana came up to her you could see Rachel dig down a couple of times but just didn't have enough... no excuses but maybe because of the long layoff... not quite there yet... almost but not quite..

"My little filly tried hard," Calvin Borel noted. "She needed the race, that's all. She needed the race more than anything. I wanted to let her run her race early but they wanted me to wait. I wanted to go on past the speed horse early (Fighter Wing). I'd have got by her anytime and my filly could have gone on but they wanted me to wait and not get into her until the sixteenth pole. You know how I know she's a real racehorse? She was beat when that other horse went by her, but she didn't quit. She dug in and fought right back and stayed with the winner the rest of the way. That's the kind of racehorse she is. My little filly tried her heart out. She just needed the race."

I'm not sure if I agree with Calvin about wanting to take the lead early... that would take more energy ... and as it was she didn't have enough at the end.. so I don't understand his wanting to go faster earlier..(?)

"She was strong early and got tired," said Asmussen. "Very disappointing that she lost. You hate to be in that position, but now that it's over you know it's not something we got away with.

"I'm just disappointed she didn't win today. It was a lack in fitness and it's our job to have her there and I didn't do it."

I'm not sure how to look at this...

If Zardana isn't there Rachel wins by 8 lengths... is she "fit" then?

Its only because after she(Rachel) gave a  great effort and happen to get beat by a fresher horse with a few races under their belt that now she's not fit?

This is what I posted about a few weeks ago... assuming Rachel is healthy and rested and has good works between now and the Apple Blossom how do you not go?

Here is the question?  

What did Rachel not do other than get beat by a fresher horse that would keep her from running in the Apple Blossom?

If Zardana isn't there Rachel wins by 8... then its ok to go... but by getting beat it isn't?

It just happened to be that there was another horse in front of her at the end...

If Zenyatta beats you in the Apple Blossom .. she beats you... you'll get her next time...

13 Mar 2010 9:22 PM
Melissa

CV,

I did the same thing after trying to get onto ntra. I just bit the bullet and paid $10 for hrtv for a month. Ah well :)

13 Mar 2010 9:26 PM
jlvssec

I was in tears at Zenyatta's win. The slow pace, the really, really late move, the traffic problems - there were so many times when it didn't look like she had a chance. But she just refused to lose. A tour de force performance.

13 Mar 2010 9:28 PM
Laura

Anyone else find it a little questionable that Shirreffs just "happened" to enter his California-based graded stakes winner in an ungraded race in Louisiana against the horse Zenyatta lost Horse of the Year to, and will be facing in less than a month? Rachel would have had a much easier race without Zardana there. It's not just that she lost, it's how hard she had to run at the end. Zenyatta's race was a cake walk in comparison. I wouldn't blame Jackson if he chose not to run Rachel, considering how much this race likely took out of her. That being said, I am a huge fan of both Zenyatta and Rachel. I was really hoping that they would meet on equal footing in a neutral forum, but now that's not really possible, even if Rachel does run in the Apple Blossom. Thanks for the unsportsmanlike conduct, John Shirreffs.

13 Mar 2010 9:37 PM
Karen in Indiana

I really was hoping that both horses, RA & Zenyatta, would win their races, mainly because I didn't want Jess Jackson to have any reason to pull Rachel out of the Apple Blossom. As it stands now, I'll be very surprised if we see her race in it.

13 Mar 2010 9:44 PM
Linda

After watching RA loose her race, I am a little worried that the woodward took too much out of her and she will never be the same.  She never really relaxed at all during the race and I dont know if they will be able to get her to relax.  She aparently was not ready and they should not have rushed her.  I am hoping they do the right thing and not race her in the Apple Blossom and give her more time to get fit and teach her to relax.  If they push her they could ruin her.

Congrats to Zen and her team for a wonderful job with her.  She is most impresive I hope to see her out of CA more this year.  

13 Mar 2010 9:51 PM
Mary in VT

So .. now that it is over ... as I was saying earlier ... the April 9th race is too soon. Heck, the March 13th race was too soon. Rachel wasn't ready physically. And she wasn't ready mentally either. Even if she does get something out of today's race I would be *very* surprised if Jess Jackson decides that Rachel ought to take on Zenyatta less than a month from now when she came up short for Zardana today. She raced very greenly, pulling like crazy, and used up what little she had fighthing Calvin. Today was a mistake, and I bet everybody feels real bad about it. I know I do.

13 Mar 2010 9:57 PM
Forbidden Apple

Yet again Zenyatta ran a flawless easy race, no surprise. I hope the Apple Blossom is still a go for team Rachel. Either way Zenyatta wins the Apple Blossom in another laugher. I feel lucky to have watched her race again today. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Moss!

13 Mar 2010 10:05 PM
CV

"Thanks for the unsportsmanlike conduct, John Shirreffs."

Give me a break. Racing against Rachel is "unsportsmanlike?" Should they just put ponies in to run with her so she never has to try?

Shirreffs said the owners of Zardana want to compete in the Apple Blossom and were looking for a prep for their older mare. They didn't want to run against Zenyatta in that race, so they chose the Fairgrounds. Neither they nor Shirreffs "knew" they could beat Rachel. In fact, they probably figured they were racing for second place.

Contrary to your comment, being pressed in this race may well have done some good in helping Rachel get more fit. And the same for Zenyatta's contest. Assuming neither horse was injured, both of them should be the better for getting in their preps.

13 Mar 2010 10:20 PM
Josie

Laura,

This was covered elsewhere - Sherriffs isn't Zardana's only connection.  Zardana's not Zenyatta's rabbit - her owners (Wygods) wanted to send her independent of what path the Mosses choose for their mare, and plan on sending her to the Apple Blossom too.  There isn't always some "grand conspiracy" - owners want their horses to face the best.  Did you want everyone to just roll over for Rachel?  How dull.  

13 Mar 2010 10:34 PM
Johnny

Zenyatta has the greatest will to win of any horse in history.

Secretariat couldn't will himself to win against Onion or Prove Out.

Man'O'War couldn't will himself to win against Upset.

We are seeing history in motion here.  There is no trouble, no wall of horses, nothing that deters this great racehorse from winning race after race.

She is truly the greatest female racehorse in history.

13 Mar 2010 10:38 PM
New York Vinnie

Rachel Alexandra has no excuses.

She was as fit as a horse can be.

She ran a good race. Trainer Asmussen did a magnificent job with her leading up to the race.

However, this race truly exposes what every Zenyatta fan has been saying along - the caliber of competition that RA beat last year was marginal at best.

She is NOT in Zenyatta's class.

Her race today was not unlike her 2009 races except she ran into that California shipper Zardana.

Without her, she would of won in a romp.

Which really speaks volumes for the HOY Award.

13 Mar 2010 10:44 PM
seatariat

Really Laura, Zenyatta was carrying 19 more pounds then the rest and facing 7 not 4 horses in a grade 1 race. John Sherriff's was asked by the owner of Zardana to race in that race. John Sherriff has far more class than many trainers, please dont't be so disrespectful. Do your homework before commenting.

13 Mar 2010 10:46 PM
BMCRacing

Zenyatta proved once again today that she is the best horse in North America.  The second best horse in NA is Gio Ponti.  Rachel's stock dropped today and shouldn't even be considered in the top five now.  Somewhere maybe in between 6 - 10 placement and possibly dropping from there...

13 Mar 2010 10:47 PM
Nicky

This Rachel Alexandra humbly acknowledges that Zenyatta is truly the better horse.

13 Mar 2010 10:48 PM
sherpa

Laura, your 9:37 comment was pure sour grapes.  Firstly, JS didn't make the decision to send Zardana to the Ladies' - the race was selected by her owner, Mr. Zetcher. Your accusation of unsportsmanlike conduct is way out of line.  I'm a bit surprised Steve let your comment be posted.

You wanted Rachel to have a "much easier race" obviously, but why should she go unchallenged? Would that make her a better racehorse?

And by the way, Zenyatta's race was no "cakewalk by comparison".  She was giving 15 pounds weight to the runner-up. It's just that she is so good her wins look easy.

You are no "huge fan" of Zenyatta, Laura, and you can drop the pretense right now. AND you should humbly offer apologies to Mr. Shirreffs as well.

13 Mar 2010 10:50 PM
Meydan Rocks!

Laura - Unsportsmanlike conduct? Since when was that illegal to size up your opposition? And why would Mr Zetcher (who owns Zardana) NOT want to have "Beat Rachel Alexandra by 3/4" on her resume when she goes to the breeding shed.

Unsportsmanlike? Please 'splain that one to me.

Having said that, I think Rachel will be hard pressed to be Zenyatta at almost any distance.

There is something to be said for bringing along a horse slowly.

Hello Stardom bound.

13 Mar 2010 10:51 PM
Danny

Can we now ALL agree that Zenyatta, with her brilliant and magnificent race today is not only the better of the two horses, but the greatest female racehorse of all time.

13 Mar 2010 10:58 PM
beauvoir

Bob Z

Even if you took Zardana out of the race it wouldn't haved proved anything. Rachel doesn't win against girls by 7/8 lengths, she wins by 20, so that still proves she wasn't 100% fit. Maybe some fans wouldn't notice, but the trainer/connections would.

She shouldn't run again until her works improve dramatically. Zenyatta's works have been sensational and it showed. She's at her best ever right now and for what. Now will probably not meet Rachel for awhile thanks to the connections entering Zardana..kind of an ironic twist.

13 Mar 2010 11:00 PM
Tammy

I get sooooooo tired of whiners. Zardana did not "just happen" to be shipped to Louisiana, horses ship to races all the time and here is a shock, not all are graded.

an owner, or a trainer has the right  to take a shot if they so choose and it is not like Secretariat was sent to ware her down. And yes perhaps she would have won with out Zardana there. Gio Ponti would have won the Breeders cup if Zenyatta had not run, Alydar might have been a Triple Crown winner if not for Affirmed. That colt in race 6 might not be a maiden if the other colt had raced somewhere else.

Zenyattas race a catwalk? Well the great ones make it look that way. Enough of the bad looser stuff, horses get beaten Rachel is still a great filly. she was defeated not beaten on.

13 Mar 2010 11:08 PM
John

Zenyatta is "scary" good.

No one on this continent has a chance of beating this aged mare.

No One!

13 Mar 2010 11:13 PM
sodapopkid

Hey Laura,

Its called horseracing? You can enter a horse in a race,and if they beat the other horses, thats the name of the game. If your horse fails to win, so be it, its the name of the game.

13 Mar 2010 11:16 PM
Secretariat

Now we'll be waiting for the "pile" of excuses to stack up from the Jess Jackson camp.

Jess,

Just pack up your tent and go home with your tail between your legs.

If you can't beat Zardana, then your sure as hell not going to beat Zenyatta.

13 Mar 2010 11:18 PM
Tim

How is it unsportsmanlike that John beat RA with one of his third stringers? This settles it once and for all. Zenyatta is the best.Period!!!!!!! Zardana is a nice litle mare but she's no Zenyatta. So steve stick with your claimers and Jess eat your crow. Have a nice day.

13 Mar 2010 11:18 PM
heidigirl

Well, Well, Well...the racing Gods have spoken,,,and so wise are they!...the only thing left to say is simply, John Sherrifs knows how to train/condition  a horse. He is a humble and wise man. Assmussen on the other hand can make all the excuses in the world but his veterinarian can't always pull a rabbit out of his hat and simply put, Assmussen is no horseman, and never has been. Arrogance will never keep you in the winner circle. The filly should have stayed with Wiggens. I am sorry she lost but tI am not surprised....the mare will never rebound from The Woodward. Never. They took the wind out of her sails that day and they will surely pay the price from on.

Zenyatta rules and deservedly so.

13 Mar 2010 11:19 PM
sodapopkid

Bob Z,

It will take forever for Rachel to ever beat Zenyatta in a race. You need to go back and watch each race, If Rachel is tired after her long layoff, then she needs to be retired and not face Zenyatta, because my dear, that is going to be the toughest race she comes upon this year. I look for them to retire her now, they don't want to lose twice to a John Shirreffs trained horse.

13 Mar 2010 11:21 PM
Eddie Sweat

Rachel Alexandra has been exposed.

Welcome to the aged filly/mare division, sweetheart.

13 Mar 2010 11:21 PM
heidigirl

To Karen in Indiana,

You hit the nail on the head. The Woodward took everything out of Rachel Alexandra. I watched her after the race and cool out. It was very disturbing to see. Any horseman would have seen it. She may have won that day, but her heart was broken. Sure she train hard, and gallops strong in the mornings but that doesn't mean a thing when race day comes. They broke her As I knew they would. She will never recover from that race and they know it. But they wont admit it.

Arrogance is a terrible price to pay in this business.

13 Mar 2010 11:29 PM
Paula Higgins

Laura, very few posts make me really irritated, but yours did. Calling John Shirreffs running of Zardana "unsportsman like" is utter rubbish and uncalled for. They had every right to run her. Who are you to say they shouldn't run their horse wherever and whenever they want? They are in the business to win and make money. They didn't run the horse for tactical reasons. Zardana is not Jerry Moss' horse. In truth, a well conditioned Rachel would have beat her, hands down. She ALMOST did in the condition she is in. So stop with the paranoia, conspiracy theories and just plain nonsense. Look at it this way, Rachel's connections would much rather get beat by Zardana than by Zenyatta.

Then you have the nerve to call Zenyatta's race a cake-walk. Clearly, we didn't watch the same race. She had to weave in and out, coming from behind, all the while showing a lightness of foot and a quickness/turn of foot simultaneously. You say you are a fan of both horses. I don't think so. If you were, you sure wouldn't have said Zenyatta's race was a "cake walk."

One thing I do agree with you on, they shouldn't race Rachel until they are sure she is 100%. No one should complain if they can't get her up to par by the Apple Blossom. The horse should always come first. I agree that all the racing she did last year against the boys has taken its toll.

13 Mar 2010 11:32 PM
ttimsan

Wow...really surprised at how out of shape Rachel looked. She didn't show that same effortless glide as she did in her prime condition and during the stretch run she was clearly tired. Was really hoping to see her do better and I'd be really surprised to see her in the AB. She's far from fit at this point. Asmussen has a lot of work to do.

Congrats to the whole Zen team on their win!

13 Mar 2010 11:37 PM
Jodie

Laura, Why is it questionable?  They have a right to run their horses where ever they want. A true champion can run against any one and the fact that Rachel lost today leads me to believe she is going to have a though time running against better older horses namely Zenyatta.

13 Mar 2010 11:40 PM
Aluminaut

Laura,

Man up.  John Shirreffs was sending Zardana where her owner wanted her to go.  She hadn't raced on the dirt since Brazil.

This isn't grade school soccer, where everyone gets a trophy.  Racing is a sport and horses race for money and prestiege.

Don't worry about Rachel.  She needed the race, and didn't quit in the stretch.  Hopefully, she learned something in this race and she'll improve off of her performance.

How about congratulating Zenyatta and her connections.  I was at Santa Anita today and she was Awesome!  

13 Mar 2010 11:42 PM
wendyg

After today, I doubt we will see Rachel in the Apple Blossom. She is not the super horse that Zenyatta proves she is time and again.  

13 Mar 2010 11:55 PM
wendyg

I thought this was an interesting comment from Mr. Asmussen, he said, "She’s not where I thought she was and if I had thought she’d get beat she wouldn’t run."  I could be wrong, but it sounded like kind of an arrogant statement.  Racing is chance.  Like someone else said, if the mare that one wasn't in there, than they would be crowing, that she is great, and defied the odds, and won even though she wasn't where they wanted her to be.  I personally hope the two girls never meet.  Zenyatta is great.  I hope she goes out unbeaten and healthy.  Today proved enough for me.  

14 Mar 2010 12:13 AM
Carol

I was very disappointed for Rachel.  She is a great filly!  Zardana looks like she will have a wonderful career on dirt in the U.S.  Zenyatta was unbelievable, as usual. The race reminded me of her Breeders' Cup win, also. I don't think that Rachel will go to the Apple Blossom.  Maybe her next race will be on the Oaks undercard.  I'm wondering if Zenyatta will run in the Stephen Foster after the Apple Blossom.  Hopefully, Rachel will get back to her 2009 form, if not better.  But you never know.  One year can be very different from another year.

14 Mar 2010 12:19 AM
tvnewsbadge

I'm a big fan of Zenyatta and no fan at all of Jess jackson, but I sure hated to see Rachel lose.

I said from day one this showdown was coming too early in the season to be good for the horses or sport, but I guess owner greed and the fan's need for instant gratification took precedence over common sense.

Ive never been a big fan of Rachel, but I don't think she had a chance today and I hate that she lost.

14 Mar 2010 12:32 AM
Pasturelands

Asmussen!  your job with Rachel is TOAST, man.  You just "managed" to give the HOY her first career loss.  Too bad for you.  If it was up to me, I'd say I'd fire you.  That horse is the fastest racehorse in North America, for crying out loud!!

If I was Jess Jackson, I'd give Rachel back to HAL WIGGINS, or at least get Hal to "advise" the Team Rachel.  while Blasi and Asmussen are both profs, their work with Rachel is not THAT good .. I think Rachel was a lot BETTER off when HAL WIGGINS was handling her.

I am not that disappointed with Rachel's loss, though..  Zardana could catch her only because Rachel has not trained well for months!  If Rachel was fit and slim, she can race even QR and win!

GO, GO, SUPERFILLY!

14 Mar 2010 12:44 AM
Sue D

Bob Z:  You questioned why Borel would have wanted to go faster earlier...that it would take more energy...she didn't have enough at the end as it was.

Well, I remember reading a few days ago that Asmussen was giving her a figure-8 bridle so that the jockey would have more control...that they were looking to have more control.

I think the answer is this: Rachel wants to run her race (as Borel also said).  If the new bridle gives more control, then it is something she would then have to struggle harder against in order to run her race.  I could see him leaning back, using his body weight to help draw back on the reins (in the backstretch)....and I remember thinking "Poor Rachel has to struggle against that"....because it's not her way to lay back when the pace is slow.

I think she used up alot of energy struggling with their "control", & that if the horse wasn't comfortable with laying back, & fought the reins, he should have been able to let her run her race.  As it was, that's where her winning edge was wasted...down the backstretch...fighting the "control".  She wanted to position herself further ahead, & have less ground to make up near the end.  

I hope the connections will observe likewise, & let Rachel pace herself...she hadn't ever disappointed them, until they got in her way.

14 Mar 2010 1:09 AM
David

Laura,

I think your comment about John Shirreffs being "unsportsmanlike" is absurd. If someone other than Zardana won the New Orleans Ladies Classic, would you say that was unsportsmanlike?  I would think not.  As for Zenyatta's race being a "cakewalk" she toted 127 in her first start since the Breeder's Cup, ran into slow fractions, somehow got into trouble down the stretch and still won in a gallop while never being touched with the rider's crop.  If Jess Jackson does not allow Rachel Alexandra to run in the Apple Blossom (which i doubt he will) they should just retire her as they are ducking Zenyatta on what is a neutral ground and equal footing.  Besides, Rachel Alexandra is not the first Horse Of The Year to get beat in her first start of the year.  She did need the race and that's that.  She will come back a fitter and more prepared horse for the Apple Blossom and these two wonderful, fillies will get a chance to square off.  Back to my original point - calling the trainer of a winner of a race unsportsmanlike because they beat your favorite horse is the most inaccuarate statement someone could make.  

14 Mar 2010 1:26 AM
Cleone

Laura - no, I don't find it questionable at all.  It's obviously okay for graded stakes-winning horses to enter ungraded stakes races - after all, Rachel Alexandra entered this one.  Are we now saying that it's somehow not fair to run good horses against the champion?  When you're #1, you run knowing you've got a target on your back.  

Rachel's loss does not diminish her ability to me.  If great horses run often enough, sooner or later they're going to lose.  It happens. It's no disgrace, it's no shame, it just happens.  Heck, it almost happened to Zenyatta, too, today, when she was bottled up at the top of the stretch.  

But Rachel is still one of the greatest horses of all time. She lost.  She was probably short, and will benefit from the race.  And I'm still looking forward to seeing her race Zenyatta, if not in the Apple Blossom, then later on this year.  It'll still be a fabulous race.  

And now Zenyatta.  I appreciate Rachel intellectually, but it's Zenyatta who's got my heart.  I really did think she might not find racing room for what felt like a very long moment - but then she darted inside and took off.  Wow.  She gives me chills.  Can't wait to see her in the Apple Blossom!  

14 Mar 2010 1:32 AM
Chris

Laura you have got to be kidding me? To call Sheriffs unsportsmanlike is beyond ridiculous. And did you see Zen's race? hardly a cakewalk when 8 lengths off the lead turning for home and run into traffic problems.

14 Mar 2010 3:17 AM
Zookeeper

Zenyatta's win gave me so much joy today! I wish everybody would join in celebrating her 15th victory in a row. What an amazing mare! Mike Smith is the perfect jockey for her and her connections are simply the best. She shows no sign of slowing down and appears to enjoy herself more and more. John Shireffs is an outstanding trainer. Ann & Jerry Moss are the ideal owners. This yearling they purchased was allowed, by them and her trainer, to develop fully and at her own pace. She was never rushed, never asked to do too much too soon. And now we see the result of such a caring, careful handling. Zenyatta is happy, she loves to run and I have never seen her spent after a race. Thank you Ann & Jerry Moss for sharing her with us some more. Thank you John Shirreffs for letting develop to her full potential. Thank you Mike Smith for timing her run perfectly and guiding her to victoy under a hand ride. But mostly, thank you Zenyatta for being YOU ... unbelievable YOU!!!

14 Mar 2010 3:31 AM
Steve

No Laura, I don't find it the least bit questionable that John Shirreffs entered a horse in a horse race.  Last time I checked, that's what race horse trainers are supposed to do.  

Zenyatta's race was a grade 1 handicap where she carried high weight - 12 to 16 lbs more than everyone else.  There were 2 graded stakes winners in her field.  It wasn't a cake walk, she just made it look like one.    

And for reference, unsportsmanlike conduct is whining that a horse should not have been entered in a race because she beat the horse you like.  Had Zardana not been in the race, Rachel would have faced a "field" of 3 allowance horses despite that fact that she's a multiple G1 winner.  Is that what you call sportsmanlike?  A multiple G1 winning Horse of the Year slapping around three allowance horses?  

14 Mar 2010 4:11 AM
GunBow

Being at Santa Anita to see Zenyatta win the Santa Margarita.  He was her typical, perfect self, giving away 12-16 lbs, having to make up 8 lengths in the stretch, and then weaving through traffic to win effortlessly.  Only the greats can run like that.  And only the greats can keep firing bullet after bullet.  To think Zenyatta has never had a New Orleans Ladies in her 15 race career.

Rachel certainly demonstrated yet again how big her heart is.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. However, losing by just a half length is alot better than what I thought it would be after Zardana initially blew by Rachel.

For those suggesting a "Sherriffs conspiracy", it is fairly clear now why Zardana's owner wanted to run her on dirt.  Dirt and avoiding Zenyatta, is why Zardana was in New Orleans.

While Rachel certainly didn't run poorly, she was disappointing.  Zardana is a solid mare, but Rachel should have handled her, even with it being her first start in 6 months.  If Rachel is going to be ready to run one of the best, if not best, race of her life in the Apple Blossom, she will need to run much better than she did today.

It's possible, however, that the race was exactly what Rachel needed, and that she will be alot fitter and more relaxed in the Apple Blossom.  While that is certainly possible, it's also possible the New Orleans Ladies, as her first start of the year, was too demanding and it might knock her out for while.  Personally, I expect the former, but I really don't know.  It's also possible that Rachel will never be as good as she was last year.  I hope not.

Zardana deserves some credit for the NO Ladies result.  While Rachel was not at her 2009 form, she did run well and never quit.  Yet, Zardana was able to match all of Rachel's counteroffensives down the stretch, and was very game in her own right.  

14 Mar 2010 4:18 AM
James

Hey people, it's called horse RACING, not horse cake walk, or horse coronation.  Good horses get beat all the time.  Just ask Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Forego, Citation, etc.  Losing is part of the game. So Rachel lost.  So what?  She's as talented as she ever was, and will probably be better and more fit in her next race.  Sad that people don't want to see as much competition as possible between these two.  If you insist on conditions being "perfect" every time they run, they'll probably end up running against each other once, which is not something anyone should want to see.  6 to 7 to 8 times would be ideal.  And preferably against males at the same time.  

14 Mar 2010 6:40 AM
BlueHen

Laura, isn't that racing, though?  Zardana just happened to get the job done yesterday.  Unless the race was fixed, it's not about Shirreffs -- he didn't do anything wrong.

Golden Gate, did your gelding win??

14 Mar 2010 8:13 AM
Angela

"Thanks for the unsportsmanlike conduct, John Shirreffs."  

First of all, you don't enter a horse in ANY race if your not willing to get beat.  There's nothing remotely "unsportsmamlike" in entering a horse with Zardana'a form against the reining HOY.  The closest you could get to "unsportsmanlike" would have been dropping Zenyatta in.  

Second, Zardana was 8 for 18 prior to beating Rachel yesterday.  Only 1 of which was a graded (GII) race.  At best, she was a mid-level stake horse.

"It's not just that she lost, it's how hard she had to run at the end."

If she had to run "that hard" after Zardana, what do you think it's going to be like when Zenyatta passes her?

14 Mar 2010 8:23 AM
gregg

Sometimes great 3 year olds are never able to compete at the 4 yr old level..regardless of who they beat previously. Rachel lost so what? Zenyatta came back for a third year and won her comeback race. Horse racing is marketing dream because you have owners trying to win at all costs and ratings being made on subjective ideas of partisan voters. How come in any other sport the best is determined by head to head people, or teams meeting to decide. Cmon, the HOY should have been a tie. There was not way to determine who was better and now the cream is rising to the top, I guess. Oh and just so you know, 6 months is plenty of time off to comeback from a race that supposedly took too much out of a horse. Either the horse is hurt or unfit. If either is true, then the owner and trainer is at fault for running. But just remember this, plenty of great horses have had to be sidelined because of one reason or another. The media hype was somewhat deserved, but if you lose, for whatever reason..just stop talking.

14 Mar 2010 8:33 AM
ruffian64

No Laura, I dont find Zardana running in a race where she can obviously WIN to be questionable at all, nor do I think its fair to accuse John Shirreffs of unsportsman like behavior. I do, however, think its sour grapes to throw such a statement out there. This is racing. You run to win, and the owner obviously wanted to run his horse to win. So what if he wanted to claim a victory over Rachel to add to the value of his mare? Is that a sin? Kind of a "duh", don't ya think? They obviously didn't just send out a  horse to wear Rachel out. Rachel ran a heck of a race. She needed it. I think she'll come back and give Zenyatta a run for her money.

14 Mar 2010 8:48 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

Laura,

So now it's "unsportsmanlike" to enter race horses in horse races?  Wow!  First people freak out that horses don't ship from the west, and now you are upset when they do?

This is the perfect example of why fans should never be allowed to determine Eclipse awards and HOTY!  But having said that, it also assumes that the those who do have a vote, actually VOTE.  Sorry Steve...I think you really dropped the ball on that one.  Zenyatta was the best horse last year...period.  If for some reason Zenyatta does not get HOTY this year, and is retired without ever being HOTY, it will be a black mark on the sport.  She's not only better than Rachel - I think she's one of the best race horses of either sex that has ever run.

By objective criteria - criteria used historically to determine the quality of race horses - RA wasn't even the best horse in two of her races in 2009.  Hell she wasn't even the best 3 year old in The Preakness.  She's not going to get the weight breaks and soft fields this year.  And that's the sport...Laura.

I agree with the last point of Bob Z's post.  Rachel needed a race, and she got it.  As long as she comes back healthy and happy, she should progress off that defeat.  If it was too hard on her...can 1:43 and change BE too hard on her?...then what does that say about her constitution, and the wisdom of her 2009 campaign?

14 Mar 2010 8:49 AM
TerriV

I spent hours trying to get on NTRA and never did.  Then couldn't get any race video to run on Bloodhorse either.  What a frustrating evening.  Did read the headlines though and could hardly wait to see the footage this morning.  I just cried watching Rachel's race.  Watching her stalking the pace I thought she would do it but, even though she looked like she tried to turn it on a couple times, she never really stretched out.  There is certainly nothing to be ashamed of here - she did well.  Just needs a little more work.  It was hard for us to watch but may be just what she needs to focus for the AB.  I don't think she was unready physically; she has been off a long time.  She needed mental preparation.

What more can be said of Zenyatta?  She did just what she always does and with heart-stopping agility.  The only thing that could've stopped her was getting boxed in but Mike Smith knows his horse and, my God, was that an unbelievable, courageous move between horses.  Once Zenyatta is loose there is never any doubt.   I never tire of watching her and wish with all my heart that she would come East (at least as far as Kentucky) this year.  I want to see her in person so badly.

To mention another race, I was thrilled to see Odysseus win.  He is just beautiful and that was a great race.  Congratulations to Lookin at Lucky.  I was sad that Dublin didn't do better. It looked like he spent his energy too early.  Except for Rachel (and the fact that there was nowhere to watch the races) it was a fun day of racing yesterday.

14 Mar 2010 9:52 AM
Sammi P

Zen won and looked fab doing it as always. Zen is ready to roll April 9, the same can't be said for RA. I'm not sure RA is as good as she used to be, or her hard year last year took too much out of her. I hope she regains form, if the Z Queen beats her then I want to see Zen beat her when she (RA) is in top form. Also Steve said if he knew she would get beat, he wouldn't have run her. Umm, okay pretty every trainer in the world thinks that when any of their horses loose! She needed the race lets hope JJ doesn't back out now. One way or another see you April 9 Zen, and RA hope to see you April 9, but I won't be suprised if you don't show.

14 Mar 2010 9:59 AM
Karen2

Laura: unsportsman like conduct????? I respectfully disagree. If your the best, your the best....period...no matter who shows up. RA is not fit and she just didn't have it. Furthermore, I am starting to agree with some bloggers that she might have gave all in the Woodward. That we will have to see. So what if RA would have beaten Zardana??? Unsportsmanlike conduct then?

14 Mar 2010 10:01 AM
Beverly Donahoo

Well, we got to watch two great horses run on Sat.  Kudos to Zenyatta and her athletic ability.  Hate to say it, but Smith is going to get that mare beat someday.  Z's connections are lucky she's as good as she is.  There was a real dicey moment there, and if she hadn't been able to get thru on the rail a couple to things could have happened.  Hate to think of what could have been.  Thankfully, the mare came out of the race OK, we all hope.

Rachel may be her own worst enemy.  She doesn't like to rate and runs so hard at the beginning of a race.  With time, Asmussen and her riders may be able to get her to relax a bit more at the beginning.  No one knows for sure how the girl is going to return to form after her layoff, and she did need a few months off after her campaigne of 2009.  The 4-yr-old year of a racehorse is a difficult year for a lot of them.  There's growth, just like skaters and gymnasits (sp) have to adapt after a growth spurt, so do the horses.  Most importantly, rule of thumb in horse training, 60 days minimum to get a horse close to running, if your're lucky and everything goes as planned!!!!  Don't think Rachel had the 60 days and more time is needed to get a horse ready to run a route.  This race, at least, showed how fit or unfit she really is.  Just hope it doesn't knock her out for an extended period of time.  Don't care about the Apple Blossom.  In these ecomonic times, 5 million for a horse race kind of ranks up there with the over-paid pro athletes!  Anyway, who knows what the outcome may have been if Rachel had really been fit.  And it's not like her connections were trying to pull the wool over everyones' eyes.  Asmussen said she wasn't fit.  There's a difference in outrunning a fit hores and an unfit one.  Just hope she comes out of the race in good shape.  Rachel's connections have nothing to be ashamed about in her performance.  She'll be back.

Bev D

14 Mar 2010 10:28 AM
Derbylin

What is unsportsmanlike about running your horse in a race?  Not running and continuing to dodge Zenyatta is unsportsmanlike.  You should be blaming SA and CB

14 Mar 2010 10:50 AM
JAJ

Laura,

Sherriffs has had a real problem finding races for his very good fillies that did not also have Zenyatta in them.  There are only so many races for these fillies and mares to run in.

There is absolutely nothing unsporting about entering a horse in a race they are qualified to run in.  Rachel Alexander had to WIN the race--it wasn't hers for the taking.

14 Mar 2010 11:05 AM
JAJ

Tying up is a muscle disorder--it has nothing to do with digestive cramping.  The cause is not really known, but the end result is a cramping after exercise that can cause muscle damage.  It is quite a painful condition.

14 Mar 2010 11:07 AM
Linda in Texas

 Laura, you asked did anyone else find it a little questionable that

Shirreffs entered his graded stakes winner in an ungraded race? And you further state "that Rachel would have had a much easier race if Zardana had not been there."

I do not find it questionable at all, Rachel Alexandra was running in an ungraded race!! It was a real race and paid a little also.

Were the other horses supposed to

stand at the starting gate and let

RA run the race all by herself?

And to call John Shirreffs unsportsmanlike was over the top and uncalled for in my opinion. You send the horse to the race that you think might have a chance and several other people sent theirs,too. Zardana is not owned by the Mosses, simply trained by Shirreffs.

Just so you know, i am a Rachel Fan and a Zenyatta fan. I have said several times before that "i

never wanted either one of them to

lose because neither one should ever be referred to as a loser."

Zenyatta's race was not a "cake walk," she was totally pinned in and thru sheer guts and speed found a way thru.

And what is "equal footing in a neutral forum" and you further state "that now that is not a possibility." What is the reasoning on that? Had Zenyatta lost and Rachel won, would you have felt that the AB would be equal footing in a neutral forum? I am confused.

And thanks Steve for the diaries, both interesting and fun to ponder. And how 'bout Looking at Lucky?? How did he do what he did

yesterday? A little sudden burst of power just like Mine That Bird was exciting to watch.

What a great year of racing we all get to experience! Thanks to all involved starting at the bottom and ending with the horses in the gates.

14 Mar 2010 11:15 AM
Ragsy

Steve

I just dont believe this was a "stunning upset" of Rachel Alexandra, as most person's would know that Rachel was not ready at the "get go" !!

if, I knew she wasnt ready to race, a novice,  what was her trainer thinking...I would remove Rachel from the Apple Blossom and get down to the serious business of doing his job and train the girl correctly..OR, breed her to Mr. Curlin ( which is what I want)

However, I made a nice bundle of dough on that race...at Bodogs ..sorry Rachel, I still love yaa!!

Guess, I will go to the Apple Blossom anyway and see Zenyatta, no real reason to skip it....and that little lady did not look 100% either...

I just dont like to bet against my favorites and when I do it makes me feel bad...

14 Mar 2010 11:21 AM
GreyK

Laura, I am for Rachel first and always, but it's not unsportsmanlike to challenge her.  She's got to win fair and square, or not.  I'm sure Team Zenyatta got a big kick out of poking Jess Jackson in the eye like they did yesterday, but that's horse racing.  Glad Asmussen stepped up and took the blame for not having her fit.  I hope they don't push her to the Apple Blossom if her mind and body say No. Zenyatta looked great and was so nimble and fit it's hard to believe anyone can beat her right now.    

14 Mar 2010 11:22 AM
Pam S.

I would like to address Laura's comment about John Shirreffs' "unsportsmanlike conduct."  

Remember Smarty Jones?  In the 2004 Belmont he was hounded by Eddington and Rock Hard Ten, who forced him to run too fast.  Had the Pimlico racing secretary foreseen this, I'm sure he would have refused to accept their entries, right?  Very unsportsmanlike.  And then deep closer Birdstone runs past an exhausted Smarty in the stretch... now that's not right.  Smarty was going for a Triple Crown!!  The secretary should have told Nick Zito to take that entry and shove it!  In fact, the race should have been a walkover!

In other words, Laura, Shirreffs and any other trainer had every right to enter Zardana or any horse that fit the conditions of the race.  Exercising that right is not called poor sportsmanship, it's called horse racing.

I really hate the bashing of Shirreffs.  I think he is a wonderful trainer who knows how to get the best out of a horse.  Give him a horse with monumental talent and he will enhance it, not diminish it.  He is proving that with with the ever-so-mighty Zenyatta.

I was at Santa Anita yesterday.  The paddock was PACKED for Zenyatta; it looked about like the BC, which I also attended.  Before the Santa Margarita horses came out of the saddling stalls, everyone watched Rachel's race on the paddock screen.  They gasped when she lost the lead, and many did celebrate when it was over.  But they were not cheering Rachel's loss.  She is a great champion and everyone knows it.  They were cheering for Shirreffs and Zardana.  After all, he was right there, and it was a quite an achievement.

As far as Zenyatta, well, she seemed to be gathering herself as she toured the paddock.  Then she raised her head and surveyed her adoring subjects, posed for their cameras, then went goose-stepping off to battle.  And you know the rest.

14 Mar 2010 11:41 AM
markinsac

Sherriffs continues to impress. He has made all the right moves with Zenyatta and sending Zardana to New Orleans was another great chess move.  This is competion, this is horse racing.  Rachael was the victim of the "Z" sandwich.  Get used to it all you puffy Rachael fans.  Championships are decided on the track, where Zenyatta has shown up, not in the ballot box!

14 Mar 2010 11:41 AM
No Class

Zenyatta's performance brought tears to my eyes; a goose pimples performance.  She could have so been retired - but no - she's back - to bring us more thrilling, beautiful moments.

14 Mar 2010 11:50 AM
Forbidden Apple

Regardless of what some of you have written, there was a horse race at Fairgrounds for $200K and Zardana entered the race and won it. Her owner chose that race, so what. To say that John Shirreffs is unsportsmanlike is just sour grapes. It was a glorified allowance race on a track that Rachel likes, what more could they have asked for? Zenyatta had much tougher competition and more horses to compete with in a Grade I race while carrying 127 pounds. Her race was easy because she is the best horse in the world on synthetic or dirt. It is unbelievable to me that now Zrnyatta gets knocked for winning another Grade I and Rachel gets a pass with many excuses. Horses get beat, that does not make them bad or a bet against next out. I hope team Rachel does not run away from the Apple Blossom and miss their chance to face the Zenyatta train!

14 Mar 2010 12:13 PM
sidekickflats

Laura,

UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT????? for running a filly in a race??  Give me a break.  Zardana is owned by the Zetchers who wanted their filly to race in La. The have a nice filly and they like to see her run and a $200,000 purse is nothing to sneeze at.

It was not John Shirreffs idea.  Are all of the filly and mare owners supposed to keep their horses in the barn so the Rachel can win her debut?  Are the owners and trainers of the 7 horses that ran in the Santa Marguerita against Zenyatta unsportsman like?????   Get a clue.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Zenyatta at Santa Anita yesterday and she was amazing as always.  Running 1 mile 1/8 , after a layoff conceding 15 pounds to the runner up!  

After the race, Zenyatta took a "victory lap".  Mike took her on past the Winners Circle to the middle of the grandstand and let more fans see her up close and applaud her.  She is a class act as is her connections.

I love Rachel too but just because your favorite horse didn't win , don't knock the other.  If any of you get a chance to go to the Apple Blossom go, even if Rachel doesn't show, because you will get a treat in watching the great Zenyatta.

14 Mar 2010 12:16 PM
BK1

It was obvious Rachel wasn't her old self yesterday and that's a shame. She still showed lots of class and heart when challenged, but I agree that the Woodward seemed awfully hard on her last year. Maybe she is not the same, or maybe she is just not ready yet - time will tell. But I disagree that John Sherriffs was "unsportsmanlike". If you're a champion, you deal with the cards that are dealt to you. Yesterday Zenyatta carried 11 more pounds than Striking Dancer, and 16 more pounds than Floating Heart - she had to deal with that hand that was dealt to her. If she had lost, so be it, but as a champion, that was what she was faced with. Rachel should be no different - is everything supposed to be easy for her? She's HOY and has to expect that as such she has a big target on her back and others will be trying to knock her off the top.

14 Mar 2010 12:35 PM
Slew

I'm heartbroken that Rachel lost while at the same time exhilerated by Zenyatta's win.  In the starting gate at Santa Anita, was it just my perspective or did # 9,

Floating Heart (who finished 3rd) look just as big as Zen?????  I thought she might be the biggest threat on the card, since she carried a lot less weight.

14 Mar 2010 12:41 PM
Flora

Well, I guess now we all know that NTRA needs more robust servers! I was all primed and ready to watch those races live, and then crash city!

I don't understand why commenter Laura is upset that John Shirreffs sent a good horse East to race against Rachel - she is HOY and has beat the boys, why is it "unfair" to have her race against a decent filly?! Was this race supposed to be a giveaway to RA's camp? What if  an even more highly regarded horse than Zardana had been entered to race in this UNGRADED (what kind of race is that for an HOY?) race, like maybe Stardom Bound or Careless Jewel? Would anyone cry foul then? Both of them have lost recently, and could have used a race like that to start on the comeback trail. Just because Zardana is trained by Zenyatta's trainer it's somehow wrong?

Steve Asmussen said that he did not have RA as fit as he should have, plain and simple, and the connections of a horse like her should not be afraid of the competition if she is at her best, which she was not.

14 Mar 2010 2:01 PM
CGC

Loved both races!  I thought Rachel looked ok for her first time back and loved how she dug in at the end and didn't just throw in the towel.

Laura - why is it unsportsmanlike for JS to have entered Zardana?  it it because she won?  and if she didn't win it would have been ok?  under that logic, any horse that beats RA anytime must have been entered just to beat poor Rachel.  Wait!  Isn't that what horse races are about?  They say if you can't stand the heat, to stay out of the kitchen; I think Rachel likes the heat just fine I bet we'll see a much fitter gal next time.  

Zenyatta - wow!  I'm so happy to see her continue her winning ways.  She is special!  

What a great weekend of racing!

14 Mar 2010 2:22 PM
Matthew W

If Shirreffs was unsportsman like he would have sent Zardana--Rachel had it her own way the whole trip--an ok horse beat her--end copy--she was short--she'll get a lot outta the race--in fact, I was/am critical for them running Zenyatta 1 1/8 as a prep--think it's too long to prep for such a fast mare as Rachel Alexandra--am also planning to bet on Rachel's nose over the "Man O War" of filliedom, the unbeatable Zenyatta--I think if she's ever gonna lose, it'll be in the Apple Blossom--they had to make a 90 degree left turn because she's undefeated--I'm hoping Big Z comes outta that allright, she's some load, to be jerking her around like that, and for what? a 1 1/8 mi prep, which will take away a bit of her speed, for the big showdown with the HOY--IF Zenyatta gets beat, I think it'll be her only defeat, think she'll get her HOY by way of Churchill in mid-fall--just a freaky horse, worth the price of admission, thats for sure...as for Rachel Alexandra, she's much larger, she got tired but fought back the whole way--I like her right back, think she'll get a big jump on Big Z in Arkansas...but those Cali Shippers! Anyone like what they saw at Oaklawn yesterday?!

14 Mar 2010 2:38 PM
Tweed Coat

What's unsportsmanlike about sending Zardana to Louisiana?  The owners wanted to try their good mare against R.A. and they won!

Good for them.

As for Rachel's connections, they were running a short horse!  After saying the welfare of the horse came first, why didn't they run when she was fit?  I think they just wanted an excuse when Zenyatta beats her in the A.B.

In fact, I'm guessing Rachel will be scratched.  Go Zenyatta!

And thank you Steve for great writing.  Keep up the good work!

14 Mar 2010 4:13 PM
Fahad Malaikah

I know that defeats are a part of the game, but I am so depressed and frustrated today! I have been a huge fan of Rachel for a long while, and I was fortunate to see her live at Monmouth and Saratoga.  Since the announcement of the April 9th Apple Blossom, I have been arguing that it was too early.  The idea that April 3rd was too early for Rachel, but that a mere six days later was okay, was absolutely perplexing to me.

Before the matchup was decided, Asmussen was saying it would be at least April before Rachel even started this year’s campaign.  With the agreement of April 9th, Rachel was forced into a tight training schedule and rushed into a prep race that she would have won easily were it not for a lack of fitness.  Given all they have accomplished, I don’t really want to see either face each other and lose, but I know that it’s a score that needs to be settled.  I have said over and over again that the big matchup needed to be set for Oaks day.  That would be optimal for both camps, and not too late in the year.  April 9th is certainly advantageous to Zenyatta.  She had a very light campaign last year that didn’t really get cranked up until the second half of the year, and she’s been kept in training at her comfortable home-base all along since the BC.  Rachel, on the other hand, had a very strenuous campaign last year that extended back into 2008.  She didn’t just miss the BC because of Jackson’s dislike of synthetics…she wholly deserved a rest! This year, the confluence of events forced Rachel into a tight training schedule and a prep that she needed to have before the Apple Blossom.  In my opinion, she has been rushed into this campaign and was forced into a race that she wasn’t ready for, as opposed to starting off her campaign when she would give her handlers all the signs that she was truly ready.  Asmussen has been hinting that she wasn’t ready for yesterday’s race for the last two weeks.

I am very frustrated.  We are talking about Rachel’s dignity and race record here.  We could also be talking about the health of an animal.  You don’t perform when you’re not ready, simple as that! Look at how slow yesterday’s race was.  That was not the Rachel we all know.  I’ve already seen it a little since yesterday on other forums, and I hope that the Rachel-bashing stops now.  Zenyatta still hasn’t beaten Rachel yet.  All credit to Rachel for showing some serious guts yesterday.  Shout out to Zenyatta (who I almost equally adore), too, for running a great race yesterday.      

14 Mar 2010 4:18 PM
Cgriff

Laura:

I'm just curious as to your definition of "sportsmanship."

Is it unsportsmanlike for a trainer to enter a Grade II winner with a very average win record against a HOY who is touted in the same breath with Ruffian?

Is it unsportsmanlike for an owner to want to take a shot at a good piece of money and a champion who might not be 100 percent?

If so - then Webster's and every other dictionary in the world has the definition wrong.  Because nothing Zardana's connections did was come to race.  No bumping - no rabbit - no compromising RA - they smartly saw that if there was any chance to run with her - this was the time.  

That's the definition of horse racing, last time I checked.

14 Mar 2010 4:37 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

I'm not sure why Rachel's connections wouldn't still go on to the Apple Blossom.  The winning time in her race yesterday, where she carried 123 pounds compared to the winner's 121 pounds, was 1:43.55.

Last year, Rachel won The Fair Grounds Oaks in 1:43.55, carrying 121 pounds.  She essentially ran the exact same race she did last year, she was just handicapped a length or two (0.2 - 0.4 seconds) by the added weight.  Zardana did run Rachel's race from last year...exactly...going 143.55 under 121 pounds.

Rachel ran her race as she always does.  She's gone 143.08 for 8.5 furlongs, but under only 119 pounds.  Add two pounds and that would be about 1:43.48.

In The Fantasy last year, she went 1:43.35 carrying 121 pounds, but the Beyer for that race was a little lower than when she went 1:43.55 in The FG Oaks, so there must have been a slight track variant issue.

But you see the point...she runs about a 1:43 and change 8.5 furlongs consistently.  And she did it again yesterday under 123 pounds.  It's just that she got beat by a faster horse.  Not a better horse, but a fast horse that was only carrying 121.  And that's the point I've been writing about since last year's Preakness.  Rachel's a big horse - especially compared to...say...a Mine That Bird - and she won't get weight breaks this year.  And that will make her vulnerable.  It already has, but she ran her exact race as she always does.  Go to The Apple Blossom...and get your thumping.  It's either then, or later in the year, and there's no better money for coming 2nd than The Apple Blossom this year.  

14 Mar 2010 4:44 PM
Scat Daddy

Looks like Team Rachel will stay in

New Orleans. Don't think they were very keen on losing two in a row.

14 Mar 2010 4:49 PM
maryann727

jlvssec~ really enjoyed how you described Zenyatta's win.  I was also crying as she crossed the finish line, tears of happiness and exhileration at witnessing such greatness.  And she spotted the second place finisher 12 pounds.  Another astounding performance from perhaps the greatest race mare/filly of all time.  The way she wins is beyond sensational.

I'm disappointed that Rachel lost her 2010 debut but I don't think John Shirrefs is unsportsmanlike.  It's called horse racing and an owner and trainer can enter an eligible horse in any race they choose.  As much as anyone I wanted to see RA and Z run in the Apple Blossom but if and when they meet, they should both be fit and ready so that there are no excuses.  There is an adage, "Greatness courts failure" and most of the great race horses have lost races.  Both Rachel and Zenyatta are Great!!

14 Mar 2010 4:54 PM
David R

Borel said he was told to rate Rachel off the speed. He also mentioned that if he had been allowed to let her run she would have won the race. But I agree with Asmussen, they rushed her training in order to make the New Orleans race. There are plenty of great races for her in the summer and fall, no need to mess her up trying to make the Apple Blossom.

14 Mar 2010 5:10 PM
Linda/Maryland

What a BLESSING I just read that Rachel will NOT run in the Apple Blossom!!!

I am not a Race Horse owner or trainer but I am a horse owner and have been for 40 years and it was too soon for Rachel to race yesterday. She had been off too long and was not in top performance. I was shocked when I heard they were going to run her but figured they knew what shape she was in and I think that they did but were a bit greedy. I personally do not want to see Rachel and Zenyatta race at all. They are two different horses with two different running styles. The Horse of the Year does not have to prove anything!! She was the BEST HORSE IN 2009 bar none!

14 Mar 2010 5:18 PM
Karen2

Well...there you have it...RA won't meet with Zen in April. I can't really say I am that disappointed. If she isn't ready..she shouldn't be there. I am just looking forward to seeing RA get back in to the zone....Can't wait...

14 Mar 2010 5:27 PM
Backside Sweetie

Laura,what is unsportsmanlike to put your horse in a race that you think they will fit in and do well in?The trainers do not just stick them in a race to get back at another trainer or to tire the competion for a future race.They do a lot of studying,watching times,distances,works of their horses and others.It involves much planning and concentration and responsibility to do what is best for the horse and to also attempt to please the ownner!!!In  working for a hall of fame trainer,I know its not an easy job,they are very dedicated.And when most peoples jobs are done for the day and they are home relaxing,they may be home but now are on the phone,or doing paperwork or trying to find the right race,jockey,groom, and transportation,not only for the horse but himself plus he still may have another 100 or more other horses and owners to think of and if he has time he may have a personal life!So please go easy on the trainers.  

14 Mar 2010 5:27 PM
Backside Sweetie

Just received News Flash from Bloodhorse,there will not be a race,in the Appleblossom with Zenyatta and Rachel.Zen is still going but not Rachel.As I had JUst written about trainers they truly are dedicated to the horse,so much so,that Rachel's well-being comes before 5 million dollars!I believe that proves my point.

14 Mar 2010 5:46 PM
Mantonetti

What an incredible performance by Zenyatta. In assesing the quality of the field we tend to forget it was a GI she ran in, giving amazing amounts of weight. Like Trevor Denman observed in the last few yards, she played with the competition.

As for Rachel Alexandra, I was very sad to see this incredible filly lacking the brilliance she exhibited all of last year. I strongly disagree with shelving a totally healthy horse for such a long period of time. I only hope the damage is not permanent in the sense that this filly may have forgotten how good she was. The field she faced could't have run with her on three legs last year. May she recover the spark she once had. For the good of racing.

14 Mar 2010 6:32 PM
Meydan Rocks!

Laura,

I love your posts and I swear I'm not picking on you but Zardana is going to run in the Apple Blossom too.

Will Sherriffs be accused of "unsportsmanlike" conduct if Zardana beats Zenyatta? AFter all, they are owned by different owners.

PS: I hope Rachel gets as fit as a fiddle because we won't hear the last of this if they never get to run on the same track!

14 Mar 2010 7:11 PM
Beverly Donahoo

By now, everyone probably knows that the Apple Blossom will be minus Rachel.  I think that was a wise decision on JJ's part.  I agree that she probably was not as fit as she should have been.  Also, if you watch the race replay closely, you can see that she is fighting Borel.  Borel was given different riding instructions that may not have made the young lady any too happy.  Borel has said all along that he lets her do her thing for aways and then is able to gather her up and get her to relax.  He, and Asmussen, have also said that she doesn't like to be rated.  She's young and has to learn things yet.  That was a pretty tight schedule Rachel was on to get ready for the Apple Blossom.  She was laid up for several months and Zenyatta has been in training ever since the Breeder's.  Makes a big difference!!!  In the long run, Rachel will be a better horse.  Only thing, we'll have to listen to JM grouse around some more.  He's still ticked off that Rachel was HOY.

Bev D

14 Mar 2010 7:35 PM
skyfire

Congratulations to John Shirreffs for the excellent training job on both z's.  

Thank you to RA's connections for the sporting try to have her meet big Z  when clearly the AB  wasn't in their original plans.

14 Mar 2010 7:48 PM
Gary

I love those comments that Zenyatta's race was a cakewalk race. The only thing cakewalk was how she made it look. Considering the weight differential and that she always has to go through traffic to win (everytime) is a testament of how great she is. I don't want to take too much away from Rachel she is (or was) great but I still believe if Quality Road ran in the preakness we wouldn't be where we are today in all this.

14 Mar 2010 8:23 PM
Big Red

"Anyone else find it a little questionable that Shirreffs just "happened" to enter his California-based graded stakes winner in an ungraded race in Louisiana against the horse Zenyatta lost Horse of the Year to, and will be facing in less than a month?"

   By Laura

 If you would of done some reading before that statement, you would of seen that it was the Owner's decision NOT SHIRREFFS to send the mare. John is a class act.

14 Mar 2010 8:36 PM
TXLonghorn74

Shame on John Shirrefs for trying to win a $200,000 race for one of his owners!  Are you serious? Give me a break!

Zardana's owner actually claimed on HRTV the race choice was his.  Either way, bravo to her connections for having the guts - and intuition! - to ship to New Orleans and take on a champion when she might be a tad vulnerable.

The "smart" thing would have been to let Rachel Alexadra win easily. Then, despite concerns their horse might not be fit (or good?) enough to beat a Zenyatta, the Jackson camp may have felt obligated to run in the Apple Blossom, making the winner's share of $5,000,000 easy picking for the California mare.

Racing is a sport, and real, honest competition is absolutely essential for the integrity of any sport.

As dissapointed as I am personally after making hotel and travel reservations to Hot Springs and scheduling valuable vacation days to attend the Apple Blossom, Rachel Alexandra's honest defeat is a sign on strength, not weakness in a sport which all too often is subject to claims "the fix was in".

14 Mar 2010 8:48 PM
DELRIOMIKE

Zenyetta is a super horse and what makes her a super horse is that she simply refuses to ever have a bad day. In 15 races she has never had a bad day and that takes something that I thin Rachel Alexander does not have, super horse refuses to be beaten.

14 Mar 2010 8:56 PM
Ray

Laura, are you serious?  Unsportsmanlike conduct?  Really?

Zardana is owned by Mr. Zetcher, not Mr. Moss.  Apparently Zetcher thought his mare could win a $200K race, but preferred not to see Zenyatta in the starting gate.  Judging by the outcome, looks like Mr. Zetcher was right.

You're complaining about Gr.II winner Zardana starting in an *ungraded* race in Louisiana, but somehow it's okay for the HORSE OF THE YEAR to start in the same ungraded race?  Was there an unspoken rule that all owners and trainers were supposed to stay away from the New Orleans Ladies so that it could be a sham race for Rachel's training purposes?

I'm not sure I follow the logic here.

14 Mar 2010 9:39 PM
Johnny

The excuses were starting before the race even went of. You could read it between the lines.

Zenyatta is the best race horse to come around in years no way R.A beats the Big Z last year this year or ever.

Thank you team Z  

Mike Smith after the B.C. Classic.

"I still did not get to the bottom of her"

Thank you Mosses

Thank You to the Moses for giving me this treat of a life time

14 Mar 2010 9:57 PM
Golden Gate

Well my horse lost, Rachel Alexandra ran 2nd but Zenyatta won!!

In a little under a month hopefully I'll be racing my sweet claiming gelding again at Oaklawn but unfortunately Rachel Alexandra won't be racing there in a month.

I am glad all 3 horses came out of their races well and I'm still really looking forward to the Apple Blossom April 9th. I hope that a lot of the nice fillies and mares nominated still decide to come. I was really looking forward to seeing Bambera.

It will still be a wonderful time and the flowers will still be blooming in Hot Springs and everything will still be exciting even though Rachel Alexandra won't be there to join in the excitement.

It wil be grand to see Zenyatta again. I saw her in the 2008 Apple Blossom and loved her even though I had never heard anything about her until that day.

I was blessed and got to see Rachel Alexandra in the paddock at last years Kentucky Oaks too.

Steve, I hope you still get to visit Oaklawn this year even without the invitational in place. The Apple Blossom is and always has been and always will be a special race in and of itself.

14 Mar 2010 10:56 PM
Footlick

I didn't know how you all would react to the statement that it was unfair for Zardana to be running in the New Orleans Ladies.  Thank you for affirming my beliefs.  Zardana belonged in that field.  And she showed it.

15 Mar 2010 12:00 AM
Footlick

Gary- very astute.  If Quality Road was ready for the Preakness it may have been a different outcome.

15 Mar 2010 1:49 AM
Aluminaut

This is really sad.  Lots and lots of attention for Zenyatta and Rachel on the news yesterday and still today at 10:45PM on the west coast. Obviously this promo is taped and the network has no idea that Rachel is out of the Apple Blossom.

I stand corrected; that was just the story lead--as I write there is an announcement that Rachel is out of the Apple Blossom (over footage of both races).

Mr. Jackson, racing is getting such great press right now.  Would have been nice if you could have waited for Rachel's next work before making an AB decision.  I think she got a lot out of her race yesterday.  How about Rachel and Zenyatta at a mile?  That way Rachel has a chance.

Or will Rachel be in her trailer?

(Hollywood expression.)  

15 Mar 2010 1:55 AM
dave

Weekend analysis recap - First off, Rachel didn't run a bad race, she just needed a race and gave a good effort.  As far as her not being ready for Zenyatta, let's face it, I don't think she will ever be ready for Zenyatta.  As far as Zenyatta's race goes, it was just a workout with some obstacles that only a few could overcome for a victory.      

15 Mar 2010 7:01 AM
SweetPea

Doesn't "piling on" draw a flag? Only unsportsmanlike conduct you can really complain about, Laura. Will Jackson bend towards retirement?

15 Mar 2010 7:03 AM
TexSpect

Give me a break. I understand getting a horse fit. With the time before the Apple Blossom, three or more works can be achieved to see where you are with your horse. The is so much double talk about Rachel A. it is sickening. Most horses have missed training time and if they are what we thought they were they usually are successful. The best example of this was Tiznow. The bottomline is the connections of Rachel A. wants no part of Zen. They will always have an excuse. If both horses are entered in a race, they will wait to see if Zen scratches and then race. If Zen gets to the gate, something will be wrong with Rachel. I have stated before, horses that run on the synthetics seem to develop better hind quarters. It is no surprise to see them come from behind with stronger kicks. In the case of Zenyatta, she runs her own races, Smith is just the navigator. If you truly watch her, you will see her sizing up her competition. Maybe its the "Evil Eye."

15 Mar 2010 7:31 AM
Karen in Indiana

So, Steve, what will the decision of Rachel's camp do to your diary? Have you seen Zenyatta run in person? If Bambera runs, it should still be a pretty great race. What other fillies or mares do you think would make it worthwhile?

15 Mar 2010 9:04 AM
Linda in Texas

I am so stoked seeing all of the new posters on this blog. It is a testimony to just how much interest there is in the Two Prima Donnas and i hope all of the horses stepping hoof on a track.

I have been impressed with the enthusiasm of the regulars and envy Pam S being at Santa Anita. I had the same feeling about Zenyatta, she was checking it all out. And so was Rachel. I am sick at heart that she did not win.

I watched on HRTV, after technical problems were fixed, due to the nor'easter where the server is located was the reason for the problems. I got an email from a lady named Buckley who responded to me after i emailed them.

And Laura, goodness, don't go off with your feelings hurt. Looking at it from a fan perspective,  obviously you were rooting for Rachel and i think you were just groping for reasons why she lost and you really did not mean to be disrespectful to John Shirreffs and the owners of Zardana. Learn with us and from us, novice and well educated alike.

Laura,we all are dyed in the wool horse and horseracing fans here, and Steve is the best in his field. So please keep reading because you will learn so much from him. Horseracing needs new and more fans so don't feel 'beat up on,' learn from it as i am sure you have after reading all of the posts. We all learn from our mistakes.

And Golden Gate is so right. Arkansas is a beautiful state, and you won't be disappointed in the least. Plus there will be some pretty fine horses running as $500,000 is no small chump change!!

Racing - Ya' just gotta love it !!

15 Mar 2010 9:11 AM
Shane

Just to comment on Rachel and the new bridle....You could see that she was running with her ears pinned at the half mile pole....she did not like the constraints and seemed to be running on the bit instead of relaxing....I'm kinda upset with Assmussen and the fact that he did not consult Borel for his opinion about controlling this filly.....maybe that is why she lost with hernandez on her back....LET the DANG filly run her race Asmussen!

15 Mar 2010 9:22 AM
Fran Loszynski

Glad to see Jess Jackson is keeping Rachel out of the race. He knows that she is worth more than 5 million. I hope people that always criticize racing can see that we also love racehorses they and are like family. Not to mention the beautiful and fast foals she will deliver someday. Thank you Steve A. and J. Jackson for loving your great racehorse. I personally think Afleet Alex and Rachel would make a great couple!!

15 Mar 2010 9:25 AM
Karen in Indiana

TexSpect, Zenyatta does do that. You can really see it in the Breeders Cup Classic. She dropped back and then you can see her turning her head to see where all the other horses are. It's pretty cool.

15 Mar 2010 9:40 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

Footlick...

Regarding QR and The 2009 Preakness, if "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, you might have something to snack on.  Let's hope he is beyond his star crossed past, and won't need anymore excuses in 2010.  I'm still not a "true believer". Is he as good at 10 furlongs anywhere in the country as he is going 9 furlongs at Gulfstream?  I'm from Missouri on that one...he'll have to show me.

15 Mar 2010 9:58 AM
Bob Z

Sodapopkid,

you wrote:

"Bob Z,

It will take forever for Rachel to ever beat Zenyatta in a race. You need to go back and watch each race, If Rachel is tired after her long layoff, then she needs to be retired and not face Zenyatta, because my dear, that is going to be the toughest race she comes upon this year. I look for them to retire her now, they don't want to lose twice to a John Shirreffs trained horse."

I agree Zenyatta will be the toughest horse Rachel faces this year.

So because she happen to lose in her first race back after a 6 month layoff ... she should be retired?

At the wire she was 11 lengths in front of the other horses... so she is expected to be in front of every other filly by 20 lengths in every race?  and if not she should be retired?

I think they need to go back and reevaluate this figure 8 bridle... In an earlier post someone said that they saw Rachel fighting the whole way...

Maybe Calvin was right... they should have let her run ... if they had done that that means that Zardana would have had a much further distance to make up...

If you look at the video you'll notice that as Rachel starts to take off... Zardana mirrors that move and is pretty close coming around the far turn...

Maybe they should have let Rachel run her race... (?)

Regarding the NTRA... in another blog I mentioned that I hope they have enough bandwidth to handle all the requests for the race...

I guess not... which doesn't make the technology department at NTRA look good...  Maybe they didn't add any bandwidth for the race... maybe they just wanted your email address so they could start flooding your in box with subscription offers...

15 Mar 2010 10:21 AM
Fran Loszynski

I will always respect the trainer of a racehorse, but who rides her at 50-60 mile an hour speeds! Calvin Borel is the first one I would listen to. He has a bond with Rachel. Why try a new bridle in a big race like that? I wish consistency would prevail in racing, same jockey, same trainer, same harness, same workout. A racehorse has enough to contend with just balancing on those little ankles! I wasn't aware of the new bridle--whole different story. Rachel should have won.

15 Mar 2010 10:54 AM
Ragsy

The UNSPORTSMANSHIP charge goes back to the Eclispe Award ceremony as, far as, I am thinking...which was ugly behaviour of the Moss camp..and can unfortunately carry over to present.

Very strange, I have different feelings toward Zenyatta and her owners/trainers now, and its not so good..have to figure that one out...horsey hugs to Rachel....

15 Mar 2010 11:27 AM
CV

Bob Z,

You're right, NTRA.com was a no-show for me. I couldn't log on to watch the race and site wouldn't even load by the next day!

In contrast, I was able to sign up on HRTV and get right into the live coverage, even though they kept scrolling about severe weather that might interrupt the Webcast. Thankfully, it didn't.

I can't believe a Web site of NTRA's stature couldn't handle the access requests they knew they were going to get for these races.

Steve Haskin,

I hope Bloodhorse.com is thinking about a server upgrade, too. I got the "Server Busy" message here for hours and hours after Saturday's races.

15 Mar 2010 11:42 AM
sodapopkid

Ragsy, Quit hating Zenyatta for winning her race, she done what she was supposed too, on the other hand, Rachel flunked...

15 Mar 2010 11:48 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

A little more comparison of Rachel this Saturday and from her races last year.

By my calculations, her race Saturday was a length faster than what she ran in The Fairgrounds Oaks last year on the same track and at the same distance (earning a 103 Beyer), and just two lengths slower than her win in The KY Oaks, where she earned a 108 Beyer.  Now, I'm not using a track variant, just the times of those races adjusted for weights.  But still, it seems to me that she's pretty close to last year's form, and she should only improve off that race.

Is it just that she got beat, because the times put her right there?

15 Mar 2010 11:53 AM
Zookeeper

I've got news for you folks! 2009 is over. Let it go already! Talk about "pitbull-like jaws".

There's so much going on RIGHT NOW why stay STUCK in the same old rut? For crying out loud, move on!

15 Mar 2010 1:19 PM
Midway Sue

Oh how the tide turns! It was ok to keep Zen in CA last year because her owners knew what was best for her but now regardless of her fitness some in here think Rachel should show up at Oaklawn. And I really love the comment about Rachel fans whinning. You could hear the Zenyatta fans outer space last year with their whinning. Congrats to Zen on her win but I hope her fans and her owners do remember last year. You can't hide in CA, not run against the colts, more than once, and win the Eclipse Award. If a colt jumps up this year and does well in the older or three year old division and it rains Breeders Cup day at Churchill she better be there to run not just march around the paddock and get back on the plane. Its still a male dominated sport and an Eclipse winning colt who goes to the breed shed is worth a whole lot more than a Eclipse winning broodmare that produces one foal a year. Sad but true.

15 Mar 2010 1:29 PM
TerriV

Rachel really did not run a bad race.  I think most of her problems were mental focus.  She was concentrating on fighting against being held back.  I really do think a boatload of credence should be given to the opinion of a jockey who has ridden the horse consistantly well for a long time and has a close relationship with the animal.  Another point I'd like to make is that a set-back after a long layoff is very common and especially for a 3 year old filly coming back.  Zenyatta stands outside the normal in everything she does.  Does that mean she can't be beaten? No, any horse can be beaten; but Zenyatta is so above and beyond every other horse in the way she runs a race - it's uncanny to watch her.  Her focus is absolute, her desire to win unmatched, her fire and spirit show in her every movement, she glories in her achievement. She just brings me to tears every time.

15 Mar 2010 1:57 PM
Elizabeth

Maybe the Moss camp didn't behave perfect at the Eclipse awards, but that's sure not an excuse for accusing John Shirreffs of unsportsmanlike conduct because he ran a horse in a horse race.

Gee Laura and Ragsy, if Rachel had not run in the Preakness last year, Mine That Bird would have won.  Then if Summer Bird and Dunkirk had not entered the Belmont, Mine That Bird would have won the Triple Crown.

So now I'm going to stomp my feet and whine and cry because the evil unsportsmanlike owners/trainers of those horses robbed us of a Triple Crown winner.

I hope ya'll think I sound silly for saying that, because ya'll sound just as silly for whining about Zenyatta's connections now.  

15 Mar 2010 2:21 PM
dave

How about they (JJ camp) give Hal Wiggins a call for some consultation?  Or do pigs have to fly first?

15 Mar 2010 2:25 PM
liinkfamnh

Win or lose Rachel was not going to make the Apple Blossom...Jess Jackson just has a "reasonable" excuse to pull her out now! I would highly doubt the "Race for the Ages" will ever happen.

15 Mar 2010 2:25 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

I just finished reading your excellent article,"Analysis: Rachel Not the Same". As always it was a thoughtful, logical recap of the 2 AB prep races that nearly eclipsed the 3 KD preps. I particularly liked the comparison of Zenyatta to a "stampeding wildebeest". In my most fanciful imaginings, I would not have come up with that one. Priceless! Your evaluation of Rachel, and all things and people connected with her return, was also right on!

I hope you write a last chapter to the AB diary. It will go with all the other ones in a special folder to be revisited later and enjoyed all over again. Love you! Love your writing!

15 Mar 2010 2:28 PM
markinsac

Ragsy, you bash the Moss' but what about J. Jackson?  Last year he ran Rachael into the ground, now she will never recover.  The Jackson/Assmussen camp has been credited with "Brillianly Campaigning" Rachael in 2009.  Now look at Rachael, i can't think that campaign was "Brilliant" after all, meanwhile the "lightly" raced Zenyatta keeps on winning like the energizer bunny.  When it comes to horses, owners and trainers in the Zenyatta and Rachael camps, you're right, there's no comparison!

15 Mar 2010 2:39 PM
vikingblood22

Rachel was and will always be Horse of the Year 2009 and she earned it. Period. End of story.(HOY is not just about consecutive wins or Zenyatta would have won it.) HOY is also about breaking history over and over again, which Rachel did in 2009. NO ONE can ever ever take that Award away from Rachel. How many times does it have to be said?

I knew Zardana was going to win the race. I felt it in my heart when I first heard she would be in the race. But Rachel never gave up trying to beat her. Rachel was not ready 3/13/10. Praise the Lord she won't be in the Apple Blossom.  Give that race to Zenyatta, unless of course Zardana might take Rachel's gate.  There is always "a new kid in town."

As a Rachel fan, I am glad she lost. I didn't like when Jackson bought her for, in my opinion, his 15-minutes of fame. Perhaps now Mr. Jackson will find something else to occupy his time since his money doesn't appear to be giving him much pleasure or ego boost.  

It is time for our classy HOY lady to retire, and there is no disgrace in that, be sold to a great breeding farm and have some beautiful colts. I think she would make a great Mama with her sweet disposition. Rachel is one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever laid eyes on. Her eyes are mesmerizing and there isn't anything evil about them. I like Z also for her prancing & dancing and being the diva she truly is. Bravo for her winning her 15th race in a row--the other jockeys didn't make it easy for her.

It is too bad both ladies raced in the same year, history repeating itself with just one other example Alydar and Affirmed.

That said, I agree that the Woodward took everything out of Rachel--it kicked her petite filly butt. As a horsewoman, I saw it as I watched her cool down after the race.

Poor Google Me, his grandpa was Affirmed, but it didn't make him a race horse.  God rest his soul.  He was just a baby.  Bad start to the day at Santa Anita 3/13/10.

Happy horsing around People and thanks for "listening!"

15 Mar 2010 2:45 PM
Meydan Rocks

A reader sent in an email to Joe Drape's column at the NYTimes.

“Sometimes fillies want to be broodmares and lose their competitive edge,” it read. “Zenyatta looked like a tiger and Rachel looked resigned to me, but time will tell.”

You can read the article in it's entirety here...

www.nytimes.com/.../15racing.html

15 Mar 2010 2:49 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Steve,

I just read your latest on Rachel, and while her attitude was different - and a little troubling - her times really weren't.  At least not for a first race back.  She is amazingly consistent with the times of her races.  Let me list them (times, pounds carried and Beyers)for those who doubt me:

Golden Rod  1:43.08 119  99 Beyer

FG Oaks     1:43.55 121 103 Beyer

Fantasy     1:43.35 121 101 Beyer

NO Ladies   1:43.70 123 100 Beyer

Adjusting for weight, the time for the Golden Rod would have been in the 1:43.48 ranger!

If we look at her KY Oaks performance, carrying 121 pounds, and assume she came home that last 1/16th in 6, the time for the 8.5 furlongs was 1:42.87.  This performance earned her a 108 Beyer...the highest for her up to that point, and one of her best lifetime.

But if we pack a couple more pounds on that performance, and use 1 pound equals 1 length in a route race, and 1 length equals about 0.2 seconds, then if she runs that race back her 8.5 furlong time is 1:43.27...just two lengths better than she ran last Saturday.  Right in that consistent wheel house.

Zardana went 8.5 furlongs in 1:43.55 under 121 pounds (the exact same time that RA went last year in the FG Oaks under 121 pounds).  Rachel was 3/4 of a length back of Zardana Saturday, crossing the wire in about 1:43.70 under 123 pounds.  Under 121 she probably finishes in front with a final time of 1:43.30...one of her better lifetime efforts for 8.5 furlongs.

Weight makes a difference.  She's running her race.  If you and others are saying that she is not 100% back, well that's fine and probably true.  But how much room do you think she has to improve?  Two lengths?  Ten lengths?  I say, on most tracks, she's already within 2 to 4 lengths of the best she can be...or at least...the best she's ever been in the past.  It's just in those races last year, she got the weight break.  Saturday was the very first time she was the highweight in a race.  Compare this to the diminutive Mine That Bird last year, where he gave her 5 pounds in The Preakness, and 11 pounds to the two runners who beat him in West Virginia.

Not all horses progress from 3 to 4.  Mentally, Rachel may need some time, or maybe she won't ever be 100% back.  But she ran her characteristic race on Saturday.  The difference was, she was the high weight and she had a good filly opponent for a change.  The times don't lie.    

15 Mar 2010 2:58 PM
MonicaV

I went to the NTRA website and it wasn't working.  I went to the HRTV website and subscribed so I could watch the races.  It is a sad statement when major races are not televised even on cable.  I see all sorts of sports coverage on things I'm sure don't get any ratings.  Horse Racing has been around for centuries and has always been a part of American sports yet there was no coverage of these two races with these two great horses.  That's criminal.

15 Mar 2010 3:00 PM
Fahad Malaikah

I stand by my comments above that this race was too early for Rachel, and that she was rushed into a tight training schedule and prep.  It denigrated her race record and was a risky move in terms of safety, given that Rachel is the type of filly that runs hard gate to wire.  I don't think that this weekend's race can be used as a reflection on her ability either this year or last year, or used to gauge whether she has regressed or not.  Only time will tell that, after she has run when she is truly ready.  Nor can it be used to say who is/was better between Zenyatta and Rachel either this year or last year.  They haven't raced against each other yet, so it's all opinions right now, and I think it's fair enough to request that we see whether Zenyatta can handle the regular dirt again after her one (albeit brilliant) victory over the surface.    

The idea of comparing Rachel's 8.5f times from last year to her most recent effort effort is problematic.  First of all, those are races from early in her 3yo campaign.  She was practically a baby.  Plus, she was hand-ridden in those races and could have arguably run faster.  Second, you are completely forgetting about her 9f times later in the year as well as the internal fractions of those races, versus the race this past weekend:

KY Oaks (hand-ridden): 1:48.87.  

Mother Goose: 1:46.33.

Haskell (on a sloppy track): 1:47.10 (by the way, she beat Summer Bird by six lengths, who went on to defeat Quality Road in the JCGC).

Woodward (after grueling fractions):1:48.29.

Go back and look at those final times and the fractions and the way she won the races, and you may think twice about that comparison.  I can't say for certain that Rachel is as good this year as she was last year, but she wasn't prepped properly or given the opportunity to show whether or not she is.  So enough bashing her current or previous form based on this most recent performance.  It was a bad idea to rush her into this.  Zenyatta was in excellent condition for her race, in contrast.

And again, great job, Zenyatta!

I love both girls so much!    

15 Mar 2010 3:57 PM
Shane

Gary, I understand where you are going, but you are comparing races that she just turned three years old. Mother Goose was a way better split than 1:43 for 8.5. I think trainer tactics and preparedness did her in the other day. Coming home she wasnt even striding out her strides were shorter and choppier. She did not run up to her later season races. So if your saying she runs like this when she is gearing back up for a campaign I agree, but if your saying this is her best. I totally disagree, totally.

15 Mar 2010 4:29 PM
Dave Johnson

Gary at Rough Creek,

You hit the nail right on the head!

Excuses and "only" excuses are being made for Rachel Alexandra (including this article by Steve Haskin).

Steve Haskin,

"Observe" the fractions of her three "mile and a sixteenth" races at the Fairgrounds.

Rachel Alexandra ran her race and she got be on the square.

We found out something in this race:

"You look her in the eye, and she's a different animal altogether"

Zardana looked her in the eye from the quarter pole to the wire.

15 Mar 2010 5:44 PM
Dieter

Shane,

"Gary at Rough Creek" is stating the facts. It's hard to take the facts but you should. Rachel Alexandra ran her race.

15 Mar 2010 5:47 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Fahad and Shane,

Thanks for the thoughtful critique.  In response let me say that, the races I used to judge Rachel's return to the races were part of her amazing HOTY campaign.  

If they were good enough then, and she arguably ran faster than several of those races in her first back under 123 pounds, what's the big deal?  Did her connections, or anyone for that matter, state before this first race that Rachel had to run a 1:41 and change race or she would not go on to The Apple Blossom?

My point is NOT that she ran her best race on Saturday.  My point was, and is, that given her 123 pound impost - the most weight she's ever carried - and the final time of the race, that the race was pretty much the best race she could have run first out...with regard to time.  It is safely within the range of times that she ran last year.  

To say she ran faster in a few races is obvious.  But, how much did the track or the moisture of the track contribute to those times?  It's debatable.  

Had she run a 1:44 and change race last Saturday, I would say that - objectively - there may be a serious problem.  But she went 8.5 furlongs in 1:43.70 under 123, which I argue is roughly equivalent to 1:43.30 under 121.  If the times she ran last year were good enough for being voted HOTY, and the time she just ran in was better than some of those times, then what's the big deal?

I think the real issue is, she got beat.  And as the weights get higher and the competition gets a little stiffer, I predict that she will be beaten again, and maybe again.  

The argument that she was a baby last year as an early three year old holds no water with me.  Speaking strictly about biodynamic efficiency, some horses are best at 2, others peak at 3, some can peak at 3 or 4, and some can continue on at the top of their game until they are much older.  There is no guarantee that Rachel will be better as a 4 year old than she was last year...mentally or physically.

My point was in response to the general gnashing of teeth from some corners.  How fast do you think Rachel can race?  I think the evidence shows that she pretty much runs as fast as she can in every race.  The internal fractions in The KY Oaks and The Preakness (two of her highest Beyers) don't suggest that she can pop a 1:41 and change 8.5 furlongs.  

I for one, am just surprised that the expectations were that she would have to run one of the best races of her life in order for her to go on to The Apple Blossom.  I think that's unfair, irrational and fishy to say the least.

15 Mar 2010 5:57 PM
Slew

Folks, with all this back and forth bickering between the RA and Zen camps, we seem to have forgotten that Zardana ran a damn good, strategic race.  Give her some credit please.  Mr Zetcher said he ran her in the NOL to:

1)get an invitation to the Apple Blossom

2) just to go to New Orleans. (It's worth the trip)

Also, before the NOL, it was believed RA's hottest competition would come from Clear Sailing, whose been a star at the Fair Grounds.  After not firing in the NOL, checked out by a vet, she was found to have a lung infection.  So who can say what might have been.  The fact was, I did not see the same Rachel I had seen all last year...but she tried.  Zen, herself, was perfect as usual.  Will Rachel be fit enough to race at all this year?  I don't know, I just hope she can....but I can't tell from the race I saw.

15 Mar 2010 6:02 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Fahad Malaikah,

I forgot to add this to my earlier response:

I don't think that race analysis and comparing times is "...bashing her[Rachel's] current or former form...", and I resent that comment.  I'm trying to add objective, quantitative analysis to a discussion that often lacks it.

My point is that Rachel often ran in 1:43 and change last year for 8.5 furlongs, whether in 8.5 furlong races or longer races, and she did so again last Saturday under 123 pounds...the highest weight of her career.  

I didn't realize that she would have to run one of the fastest races of her life first out in 2010 or they would skip The Apple Blossom altogether.  Seems a bit unreasonable of the connections, if Rachel came back healthy and happy as reported.

15 Mar 2010 6:29 PM
My Juliet

   Ragsy, I saw that as well,as I recently viewed the Eclipse Awards video. Jess and Steve have gotten a lot of criticism on these blogs, Zen's connections painted as perfect. There was anger, not disappointment, very different. I also think they have set the neg tone some Zen supporters have. I like Zenyatta, she's not my favorite but I root for her, lately in spite of,her connections.

   Laura, if the situation were reversed, Zenyatta lost to a Steve A-trained horse, maybe some would feel the same. I've tried to ignore that fact, of course any horse can be fairly entered, they didn't do anything wrong, but I do think it's fair to say the loss was a little harder to take because of it. To those Rachel fans that didn't mind at all, you were a bigger person than I was that day.

   Bob Z, I've thought of that too-if Zardana wasn't entered, Rachel wins and maybe it's off to the AB. I think there might still have been reservations that she wasn't 100% fit yet, it still might have been cancelled. I do think they can use what happened as a 'gift'-this was a prep only, it showed what she needs to be in top form again.    

15 Mar 2010 6:30 PM
Rachel

Steve I love yah! You are the only writer/commentator who mentioned that CB had to force Rachel to change leads...you have a very good eye for stride ('member MTB?LOL)

15 Mar 2010 6:50 PM
Ragsy

Steve I read your article about Rachel and wish you had written it 3 weeks ago..

I had enough of Rachel bashing last year so enjoy..

Hate Zenyatta!  What a joke, I plan on taking a ton of pictures,video's of her and others at the Apple Blossom..

Feelings, are just that,feelings..

..my second love is the powerful Zenyatta...( I dont have to like owners, who are unable to be gracious and if you did not watch the Eclipse Awards last year you dont know what I am talking about...)

(Markensac) And you may be right, 8 hard fought races last year for beautiful Rachel may very well have been Rach's undoing, but

I would not be suprised to see her come back, would rather she be bred to Mr. Curlin...I did not like Zenyatta's owner/trainer's behaviour at the Eclipse Awards..

Elizabeth are you that hard up for a Tripple Crown Winner??

 .... I never said, Zardana was not welcome at the race.

15 Mar 2010 7:55 PM
sidekickflats

Hey Midway Sue,

It's funny.  Zenyatta was "hiding" in Cal. this past weekend and 7 fillies managed to find her and race against her.  I wonder how many will find her when she goes and "hides" at Oaklawn?

15 Mar 2010 7:56 PM
PMAC14

Elizabeth,

I just read this whole blog and could not believe this comparison was not made.  And then I read your post. Well said, I was gonna say it if I got to the bottom and it was gone unsaid.  John Sheriffs is a class act and Rachel was short.  Bottom Line.

15 Mar 2010 8:37 PM
Michelle

I am not surprised that Rachel is out of the Apple Blossom.  Mr. Jackson starting making excuses at the Eclipse Awards that the Apple Blossom was too soon.  IF IF - Rachel is not right, I applaud them for keeping her out of the race but I have my doubts.  There were just too many excuses along the way.  They tried something different with Rachel Saturday and it did not work.  It is as simple as that.  You don't take a home run hitter and make him change his stance before the playoffs.  Rachel likes to be on or near the lead.  Zenyatta is a closer.  To try to change that is just dumb.  I hope we see the Race for the Ages someday but I really doubt we ever will.  I love them both and just want them to continue to be healthy and sound.    

15 Mar 2010 9:30 PM
Shane

Also Rachel was not allowed to run the race that she and her jockey wanted. She was FORCED to rate by the bridle change and the TRAINERS instructions. I think Borel knows the horses' running style better than anyone. So when he disagrees with how it should be run I would listen. She wanted to run on and would have made Zardana either move earlier or make a stronger move later but either way she was running with ears pinned the whole second half of the race. which is totally not her style. So I still dont just break it down to running times for an explanation of her race last week; there were too many other factors that contributed to her getting beat but I mainly put it on not listening to the man that rides her and not getting into her in the mornings. If she wants to run give her a nice stiff workout 3 weeks out from the race....MAKE her come back blowing to open her lungs. not a trainer but I play sports and your first time back you get a nice rough burn in those lungs, she will be fine with better tactics and letting her run her race.

15 Mar 2010 9:30 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Gary at Rough Creek:

First, I didn’t name names and I was not responding only to your post.  Sorry for the confusion.  So when I was talking about denigrating Rachel’s record, I wasn’t referring to you, although in retrospect I think it’s really unfair of you to say that “she ran against a good filly [actually, mare] for a change.” You should go back and read Haskin’s post-Woodward analysis.  Much of the competition she faced came back and flattered her last year.  And aside from good fillies, she ran against some very good boys more than once, who also came back and flattered her.  Summer Bird, who defeated Quality Road twice, is a good example.

Second, your use of weights to make hypothetical claims about her final race times last year is, in my opinion, very questionable, especially with this caliber of horse.  It’s pure conjecture.  And again, like I said, many of those races were completely in hand, and she could have arguably run faster.  It is true that those races you mention were part of her amazing HOTY campaign, but no one would have given her HOTY on those races alone.  Take away those three races you mentioned in your original post, and RA ran the same number of races that Zen did last year, three of them against males.  In fact, if I’m not mistaken, she ran those three races you mention before Zen ever even started last year.  It was the second half of RA’s campaign that really had everyone abuzz.  There is little doubt that Rachel got bigger and better as the year progressed.  So, while Rachel may not be as good as she was last year (which we don’t know yet), and while it is true that some horses are better at 2 than 3, she was undoubtedly better later on last year than she was earlier in the year.  Again, as for this year, we have no clue if she’s as good, and an unfit RA over the weekend can’t be used to gauge that question.

Third, I never claimed that RA had to run a certain final time to make it to the AB.  Who claimed anywhere that only 1:41 and change, however you came up with that benchmark, would take her to the AB? That is a straw-man.  That said, there is a lot more to this game than final race times.  Her handlers are looking at the internal fractions, her anxiousness, and the way she ran and finished the race.  She did not look like the same horse.  Even Asmussen hinted that she wasn’t ready prior to this race and earlier this year he wasn’t even expecting to start her until at least April.  So, let’s take up the issue of race times.  You did not really address my point about her 9f races.  Let’s assume that she came home her final 1/16th in 6 seconds (as you hypothesize in your post) in all four of her 9f races.  Considering she was on or near the lead in virtually all of them at the 8.5f mark, that means she ran faster internally in all of those races at the 8.5f mark than she did this past weekend.  Add that to her earlier 8.5f races, and that means she ran faster than this past Saturday in more than just a “few” races.  That makes five races last year, six if you count her last outing as a 2yo, and one we can’t even consider because it was a mile.  As for your comment about track and moisture, that is not adding any quantitative/objective analysis or making an argument.  That is called poisoning the well with pure conjecture.  

In my opinion, there is nothing about this past weekend that came even close to any of her best races last year in terms of time, performance, or appearance.  Really, there is so much more to this game on the backside than final race times.  I can assure you that Asmussen is considering much more than the final time of the race in his decision to stay home.  The big deal is not simply her time or that she lost.  It would be a bad idea to run any horse of her caliber in a race like the AB after the performance.

To all, I can sit here all day and listen to people who say that Zenyatta is one of the greatest fillies and mares of all times, and guess what, I will completely agree with you.  I will not tolerate, however, people who claim or even slightly hint that RA is a mediocrity or a “phony” who has finally been exposed.  If this past weekend is the best that RA can offer this year, then she simply isn’t as good as last year.  

Respectfully,

Fahad        

15 Mar 2010 10:08 PM
KitKat

Absolutely love Zenyatta. I follow her religiously. Rachel A is an awesome filly as well.

I find interesting that Jackson has decided not to run Rachel in the Apple Blossom. In the New York Times on March 3rd, Jackson said "Rachel Alexandra did not have to win that prep race, only come out of it healthy and growing stronger. If she does, they will continue to pursue what Jackson hopes is only Round I of Rachel Alexandra versus Zenyatta."

Her trainer said yesterday she came out happy and healthy from Saturday's race. He goes on to say “I’m not afraid to lose,” in the Apple Blossom. So what gives? I think Jackson is more afraid than ever of racing against Zenyatta. I know they must do waht's best for Rachel. And maybe she's not the same. But I think something is up. I think he's always hedged a meeting with Zenyatta. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he arranges it so that the two never meet up. There's always an excuse.

15 Mar 2010 11:03 PM
Golden Gate

Ok if ya'll want to throw eggs at me fine...but I have a suggestion.

There are so many people who were coming to the Apple Blossom not only to see Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra race eachother...but some were coming to get to see them live and in horse person.

What if...now just what if??

Rachel did come to Oaklawn that day April 9th and ran in a shorter length race than the Apple Blossom since her contacts say she is not really up to the longer distance.

She would still be there even though it is not the race for the ages and the fans would not feel as cheated and would get to see them both run??

This scenario wouldn't hurt any of the horses and would still let the fans who bought tickets get to see them.

There has to be some good rearranging in the schedule Pat Pope could do with Charles Cella's blessings.

I am believing that Asmussen and the Jackson decided to forgeo the Apple Blossom for the good of R.A. but in over 3 weeks time would she not be able to run in a shorter race so we could still get to see beautiful her?

15 Mar 2010 11:16 PM
CV

Does anyone know if Calvin Borel has had anything more to say about Rachel's performance and fitness? I would love to know what he thinks is going on with her, beyond the brief statement he read after the race.  

15 Mar 2010 11:18 PM
Tim

Zenyatta and Vitali Klitschko are two of the greatest of all time in their respective sports and most people don't want to acknowledge that. It's time for the average Joe to stop hating on great athletes because of animosity. It's not their fault that they are so great there is no competition for them. Stop whining and enjoy the privilege of watching the greatest.

16 Mar 2010 5:36 AM
Karen in Indiana

Golden Gate, awesome idea! I hope someone who can make that happen is reading because you are so right - it would be a win-win. People would be able to see both horses, Rachel could continue working her way to top fitness, Zenyatta entertain the crowds with her dancing.

16 Mar 2010 9:04 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

Fahad Malaikah,

Thank you for your thoughtful explanations.  I've looked at several of Rachel's 9 furlong races from last year.  You may discount the effect of carrying added weight, but that flies in the face of handicap racing and makes no sense.  I cannot therefore follow you there.

I believe that Rachel's first race back on Saturday, while not perfect by any means, was still only 4 to 5 lengths off of her best possible effort based on her performances from most "fair" tracks last year, either at 8.5 furlongs or farther.  I throw out that Monmouth race...others may disagree.

My main point Fahad is to give Rachel some credit.

My question then becomes: how fast was she supposed to run?  I don't see as much pulling, fighting and looking to the side in her race as others do.  But she obviously needed a race.  She may have been keen because she hasn't raced for so long.  Now she has, and again I ask the question...how fast does she have to run to be "ready" to tackle Zenyatta?

Is she continues to carry heavier weights than her opponents, and she should, and this reduces her final times, she may not be ready to tackle Zenyatta for months...if ever.  I don't believe Beyers take weight into account, do they?  

That makes them somewhat misleading in my opinion, if that is correct.  But by my reading of them, taking into account the weight carried, Rachel ran about the 6th fastest race of her life on Saturday.

You know what's different?  Two things are different.  This is the first time that Rachel had to give weight to her opponents, and this is the first time that Rachel ran a triple digit Beyer and lost.  I'm well aware of who she beat last year, and I know how many pounds she got from them.  I can't agree with you about the fillies she ran against...they were a paltry group at best.  And I don't buy the argument that she could have run faster in some of those victories...I think she pretty much runs full out every time.

I hope her 2009 campaign did not take too much out of her.  And I hope that she can round back into TOP form.  But I don't think her effort on Saturday was more than about 5 lengths (1 second) off her best times from all of least year, and better than some of them where she earned triple digit Beyers.

16 Mar 2010 9:36 AM
Ragsy

Fahad Melaikah

For once, on this blog, one person told the truth and shamed the devil. Your statement makes more sense than any I have ever read..

Thank You

16 Mar 2010 10:57 AM
Meydan Rocks!

Tim -

GOAT?!?!

Zenyatta yes... a resounding yes!!!

Vitali Klitschko.... GOAT aka Greatest of ALL time?

Wow!

Who woulda thunk!

:)

16 Mar 2010 11:22 AM
Pam S.

I am impressed by the intelligent discussion being conducted by Gary and Fahad, but I have to go with Gary on this one.  What did they have to see on Sat. to continue on?  They said she didn't have to win.  By all appearances the prep served its intended purpose.  It seemed to be a step forward, not a step back.  So I still don't fully understand why they backed out of the AB.  Does she need another 6-7 months?  More works?  Allowance race?  Different jock?  Time on the farm?

Having said that, I know that when in doubt about your horse you should err on the side of caution.  And I guess there is no shortage of doubt here.

16 Mar 2010 1:44 PM
Zookeeper

Fahad Melaikah & Gary at Rough Creek,

You two may have different opinions but your posts are a pleasure to read. You make intelligent, rational comments and make me look at things from a different angle. Thanks to both of you and everybody else who actually contribute SOMETHING to the discussion! It's refreshing!

16 Mar 2010 2:20 PM
Shane

OK Gary, Are you stating that Zenyatta ran at equal weight with the older males in the Breeders Cup Classic?

16 Mar 2010 2:33 PM
Bob Z

Golden Gate,

Brilliant...

Have Rachel run in a shorter race ... the fans will get a change to see her at Oaklawn...

Rachel is healthy and fit ... just not ready for Zenyatta... understandable after the long layoff...

So the disappointment is already known.. having Rachel run in a lesser race would go a long way from a sportsmanship perspective...

I wouldn't bet on it though...

they would say that it doesn't fit in with their plans to make Rachel fit..

16 Mar 2010 2:47 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Gary from Rough Creek:

Okay, let me explain more about the weight issue.  First of all, you’re trying to make a quantitative analysis on weights based on a difference of 2 and 4 pounds, respectively.  To begin with, I don’t know what basis you were using to make those time-difference calculations.  We’re not talking about a difference of 10 pounds or more here.  We have no idea whether or not Rachel has the ability to carry the heavy weights, as many great champions have done in the past with ease, and I don’t think you can use Saturday’s race to argue otherwise.  You are isolating one cause of her defeat that seems the least likely to me.  Remember, you also predicted that she would get beaten again, and maybe again.  You are talking about 2 and 4 pound weight differences, which I would argue is negligible with a filly of this caliber who won many of her races in hand.  Physically, you are talking about a negligible weight-difference with a filly that grew a lot over the course of last summer, and who by all accounts, has grown over 100 pounds since last September.  Look at pictures of her in the Haskell or Woodward versus pictures of her prior to the KY Oaks.

What do you define as a “fair” track, and why on earth would you throw out her race at Monmouth? What does that even mean? I saw her live at Monmouth and Saratoga, and I would argue that she was at her best last year between the Mother Goose and the Haskell.  It is very difficult, in my view, to knock a filly that won at seven different racetracks last year in both the Midwest and the East, and try to play the “biased/fair track” card.

As far as the appearance of Saturday’s race, you should look at her previous races, listen to Borel’s post-race comments, watch this one closely, look at the internal fractions, and do some comparison.  As Haskin noted, Borel also had to force her to change leads turning for home, which is completely un-Rachel like.  As far as how fast she was supposed to run, I don’t think anyone set any kind of benchmark.  Again, this was about more than her final time, which even it was sub-par, particularly in regards to the internal fractions.  Even her works leading up to the race were too slow.  

Again, this weight argument is completely unsubstantiated.  I don’t see how you can use Saturday’s race as a basis for an argument about her weight-carrying ability and to make predictions about future races.  This is one race, off a long lay-off, where I argue she was unfit and unprepared.  Plus, I think we’re talking about a negligible amount of weight with a much larger filly.  If we use her performances from last year when carrying an extra 2 pounds (from 119 to 121), I don’t think we can yet make a case about an additional extra 2 pounds this year, since there are other factors that can be contributed to her loss.

Also, I don’t see how you can claim that her race was representative of even her previous form.  Let’s look again at times and take the Mother Goose, which you did not “throw out.” Take that time of 1:46.33 and subtract your benchmark of 6 seconds, then look at the number you get.  I don’t have the form in front of me and I don’t know her final 1/16th times either, but in many of those races, 6 seconds may be faster than she went the final 1/16th, which means her internal 8.5f times were even faster than what I’ve suggested.  If this were all about times (which it’s not), and we were talking about a difference of 1-2 seconds (5-10 lengths), then we are actually talking about a very substantial number, believe it or not.  I don’t want to give the impression that time is meaningless, because it is absolutely very important, but in this case, her final time is not the only cause of her absence from the AB.  By the way, if we simply use your 6-second benchmark (“12” for the Preakness), then she ran every race last year plus her final 2yo outing faster (considerably, in some cases)at the 8.5f mark than she did this past Saturday, including her mile race if we tack on 6 seconds.  Also, why are you referring back to Beyers in the last paragraph when you just stated above that you might find them misleading?   Finally, I don’t agree with you that she could not have run faster in some of her races.  She was completely in hand and in my opinion could have run faster had she been pressured.  I watched her win under wraps more than once last year, and in some of her races such as the Haskell, Borel got over-excited and made it look harder than it probably was for her.  

As I’ve stated before, I feel like Rachel was rushed into a tight training schedule and prep.  As Asmussen recently stated, he is going to let Rachel tell them when she’s ready, not the other way around this time.  They are making a good decision for the safety of an animal.  If she was rushed into this race and is sub-par, it would be silly to keep her on the AB track.  I mean, hey, they are passing up $5 million here.  They may face Zenyatta later in the year for a substantially reduced purse.  

Gary, like you, I also hope that she returns to her top form and even improves.  Think about a 2010 with a better Zenyatta and a better RA.  That’s the stuff of dreams.

Respectfully,

Fahad          

16 Mar 2010 2:49 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Zookeeper...

Thanks.  I love all performance horses - yeah, plow horses too!  What I don't like are horses getting either too much credit, or too little credit.  It doesn't mean I don't respect and appreciate Rachel if I say I think that Zenyatta is one of the best race horses of either sex - ever.  I think by all historically relevant criteria, Zenyatta did more last year than Rachel and deserved HOTY.  Rachel is a very good filly and deserves to be a champion.

Shane...your post fits in perfectly here.  I don't have the PP's before me, but if memory serves, Zenyatta carried one less pound than the older males in The BBC, and 3 more than the three year old males.  She won at 10 furlongs by a widening length I think(?).  But the way she did it...she could have blown past them under more weight.  She looked like she hadn't done anything galloping out.  Remember, she beat two deserving champions in that field at their proven distance.

Compare this to Rachel in

the Preakness and Woodward...all out to hold off closers while in receipt of 5 and 8 pounds respectively.  Put weight on her this year, and she will not win as she did last year.  I hope I'm wrong, but I think Rachel's running style makes her more vulnerable to getting cooked in tough competition.  She just goes all out.  I hope her desire to perform lasts another year, and her physical attributes too.  

16 Mar 2010 3:36 PM
Aluminaut

Gary at Rough Creek and Fahad Malaikah,

I also enjoy both of your posts.  Gary, interesting comment about Beyer's figs not taking weight into account.  I'm not a Beyer's handicapper although I do look at the figs.  According to straight Beyer's, Zenyatta had no chance to win the BCC.

Re Fahad M. post; Weight for age and less weight for F/Mares is meant to even out race advantage.  It is our responsibility to look at the individual...Examples:

Rags in the Belmont and Zen in the BCC and then make handicapping adjustment based on the horse's physical/breeding, etc.

Past blog posts have critisized Zenyatta for not running in the mud.  Has anyone wondered if RA is primarily a "mudder?"  

Racing is fascinating to those of us that have some background and enjoy research; be it pedigree, international racing, surfaces,

etc. etc.

No, I'm not auditioning for The King & I.  

Let's not let this marketing opportunity for horse racing evaporate.  Racing needs to be more user friendly. The horses are the heroes nomatter what McCarron used to say.  

16 Mar 2010 3:59 PM
Blood-Horse Staff

Just an FYI on Zenyatta's weight carried in the BC. Zenyatta carried 123 pounds, 3 pounds less than older males, 1 pound more than younger males.

16 Mar 2010 4:45 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Fahad Malaikah,

I am not making up any quantitative relationship between weights and lengths and times in handicap racing.  I got my information off of a British website which described the meaning and history of Thoroughbred "handicaps".  On that site, it explained that the idea of a handicap is to assign weights such that all the runners should cross the wire together...one can see how this would make wagering more difficult but more interesting.

On that site, weights and lengths were designated thusly:

- 1 pound in a route race equals 1

 length of distance;

- 2 pounds in a mile race equals 1

 length of distance;

- 3 pounds in a sprint race equals

 1 length of distance.

As far as times go, I have often heard that 1 length is roughly 0.2 seconds.  You can correct me if this is wrong.

Am I saying that every horse will be affected equally by the same amount of weight?  No.  Am I saying that weight matters?  Absolutely.  Am I trying to quantitatively - consistently - figure out how much weight does actually matter to the outcome of these races?  Absolutely.

If you are an owner that doesn't agree with that, I would like to run my horses against yours, but give me the weight break!!!

To another point you bring up...I hope you would agree with me that certain tracks are more or less conducive to certain running styles than are others.  If not always, then at least under certain weather conditions or on certain days.  Monmouth, with a wet/tight track, is a better surface for a speed horse than a closer.  Trainers who knew first hand told me that...it's not just my opinion.  This might fit into the heading of "common knowledge", similar to the historical speed bias at Keeneland pre-synthetics.  So last year in The Haskell, Rachel caught a track that was optimal to her style, and not to Summer Bird's.  And SB's folks tried to adjust, putting Summer Bird much closer to the pace than in any of his previous starts.  But was that track at Monmouth that day more or less speed biased than other tracks around the country?  I'd say it was more speed biased, so I put less emphasis on Rachel's time that day then at - say - The Fairgrounds, where she actually raced two years in a row.  Can races from different years and track conditions be compared directly?  No...of course not.  But to try to hold up Rachel's race at The 2009 Haskell as something she should be able to replicate first out this year at the Fair Grounds (or more accurately...a performance she should get close to replicating) is absurd. It's not logical and it's not fair to her.  I understand your point about comparing times year to year.  I say comparing times and performances track to track can be just as problematic.

The only reason I invoked Beyers was to introduce one of the only "industry approved" quantitative measures that try to take into account the track variants of which I just wrote.  Beyers may be a tad more appropriate than just talking times in this regard, but they do not go far enough in my opinion (trip length? and weights carried?, etc).

My basic point was not to say that Rachel ran as fast last Saturday as she ever did last year.  She obviously didn't, and I didn't say that.  My point simply was, adjusting for the added weight, her performance was better than some of her victories last year, and within a few lengths of most of them last year (yes even some of the later 9 furlong efforts). So to me, if she comes back healthy and happy, she could have just needed a race to get back in the swing of things.  I don't think it was as bad as many make it out to be...but my hands and eyes are pretty far from the horse.  The whole story may not be out yet.

So are you saying that Rachel had to run as fast as she did in her  best efforts last year in order to move on to The Apple Blossom?  I think if that was the criteria going into the race Saturday, there would have been much less expectation of her going to The Apple Blossom.

I think the bigger issue is that she was beaten.  As others have said, what would the story line be had Zardana not been in the race, and Rachel wins by daylight with a triple digit Beyer? But in a weak field, as she often faced last year!  Would she have moved on to The Apple Blossom then?  If she's happy and healthy and trains well after this race, why not go?  If she tries to take on tough company this year, especially at 10 furlongs, she's going to be beaten again probably.  If she acts happier in the mornings after the race than before, then as an owner who doesn't have the deep pockets of a JJ, I would like to go for at least a piece of the $5 million.  Aren't race horses supposed to race?

16 Mar 2010 5:10 PM
Gary at Roughg Creek

Blood-horse Staff,

Thanks for the correction.  I don't know which blog I sent it to, but my memory of the weights in The BBC were backwards.  

16 Mar 2010 6:09 PM
Ragsy

Gary & Fahad

what teachers you both are many thanks for your insight..

16 Mar 2010 6:56 PM
Michelle

Golden Gate - GREAT IDEA!!!!  Please someone, ask Mr. Jackson to bring Rachel to Oaklawn that weekend anyway.  I would be happy just to see her paraded around and I think a lot of other fans would too.      

16 Mar 2010 7:23 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Gary at Rough Creek:

No, I am not saying that weight doesn’t matter.  To state this again, we are talking about 2 and 4 pounds, respectively, which I believe is a negligible amount of weight for a filly of this caliber that has grown in size/strength and won many races in hand.  It would help, when making a reference to a website, if you posted the address.  If you are trying to establish how much weight “matters” and you recognize that weight doesn’t matter for every horse, as you say, then I think it is difficult to make a case for Rachel or predict her future based on her one comeback race off a long lay-off, which she wasn’t prepared for, in my opinion.  If you want to conduct a study or make predictions to see if weight does matter for RA, you might want to look at her times and weights from last year and the year before, and start there.  Crudely stated, did a 2 pound increase slow her down any last year?

While I certainly have my opinions and feelings about certain tracks(for instance, that Laurel seems speed-biased), I have never done any thorough statistical analysis to back up my opinions about track bias, and so it’s not something I can state with confidence about any track, much less Laurel or Monmouth.  Have you ever done or seen such an analysis that you agreed with? You would have to look at more than just anecdotal evidence or even the percentage of front-running winners at a track as well as cross-analyze tracks, as I’m sure you know.  As for Summer Bird, his connections had repeatedly stated that he was capable of rating closer to the pace, which he did successfully after the Haskell at Saratoga (also on a wet track) and Belmont.  They didn’t want to let Munnings or RA get out of sight, simple as that.  So I don’t think your argument holds much water there.  Go back and watch the races.  By the way, I did not hold up Rachel’s Haskell as something that she had to replicate last Saturday.  I never said that, and I’ve stated more than once that there were no benchmarks set for her based on time.  What I do know for sure about the Haskell is that I personally witnessed a breathtaking performance.  The filly took over the field turning for home in the blink of an eye, no exaggeration.  By the way, let’s say that RA did run a grueling 1:41 and change or faster last Saturday, as you mentioned previously, then as an owner I would be worried that she took too much out of herself before the AB.  

This is my main point about RA and last Saturday.  Even prior to the race, when the April 9th Apple Blossom was first announced, I have argued that both that race and the prep were too early.  I argued that an optimal time for both camps would have been on Oaks day.  Asmussen even hinted prior to this race that she wasn’t ready, and before the matchup was announced, he stated that she wouldn’t start until at least April.  With the announcement of the race, she was put on an accelerated schedule.  I think it was very risky in terms of her race record and her physical health, especially given how hard she runs gate to wire.  Asmussen has even stated since Saturday that she may not be as good as last year.  Now, considering that the race was sub-par, that they realize now it was a mistake to rush her into the prep, and with the possibility that she may not be as good as last year, RA’s handlers have every right to not run in the Apple Blossom a mere 4 weeks down the road.  With or without the final time or Zardana’s presence, she just didn’t look the same and she wasn’t prepped properly for this or the AB.  Her prior works were sub-par too.  If Zenyatta has indeed improved, RA’s connections have every right to wait until they are sure that RA is back and ready before the big matchup.  That’s not admitting defeat, nor is it a technical victory for Zenyatta.  The race hasn’t run yet.  Yes, horses are meant to race, but health, safety, and her integrity come first and we are talking about no ordinary horse.

Best,

Fahad          

16 Mar 2010 8:29 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Gary at Rough Creek:

Let me state one more thing just to clarify my “crude” question above, in anticipation of what you might argue.  Yes, I recognize the role of handicaps, but your initial argument treated weight as if directly correlated with time.  That is, you took it for granted that weight “mattered” for RA, and in so doing, you gave a hypothetical analysis as if each additional pound would make her slower by a specific time given a specific formula.  Again, is there any evidence that, on its own, increased weight slowed her down last year?

Respectfully,

Fahad

16 Mar 2010 8:57 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Good morning Fahad,

Well, Rachel ran her fastest 8.5 furlong race last year under 119.  She ran her slowest 8.5 furlong race of her life this year under 123.  Am I saying that this is cause and effect in action?  I can't say that...it's just coincidental at this point.  what I am saying is...weight matters, especially if a horse is short.  Weight will slow them down.  that's what it is intended to do, and - I think - it contributed to Rachel's loss and time last Saturday.  If you ask me how much, guess what I'll say?  That's right, about a length or two, relative to when she carried 121.

17 Mar 2010 7:54 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

Fahad,

You can google as easily as I can, if you really want to know the truth.  I just found another, different site than the one I found last year which has similar, though slightly different correlations between weight and distance.  It was through betfair.

It stated that, for flat racing:

3 pounds equals a length in sprints;

2 pounds equals a length in 8 - 9 furlong races;

and 1 pound equals a length in 12 - 16 furlong races.

Which is hard to understand, since it leaves out 9 - 11 furlong races altogether.  But you get the point...I ain't making this up...racing secretaries are!

Part of the problem in assessing this situation is the remarks made by RA's connections.  If she really came back healthy and happy from her race, perhaps happier now after a race, then that's one scenario.  If she goes back to the track and is rank and keen, than that's a different story.  My only point Fahad was that her race, compared to her body of work last year AND adjusted for the added weight, was not all that horrible.

17 Mar 2010 8:10 AM
JAJ

Gary at Rough Creek,

In actual practice, weights don't play out the way a handicapper wishes they would.

To illustrate, let's use Zenyatta's race on Saturday.  She ran 9f in 1:48.20 under 127 pounds.  Suppose she carried 112 pounds, 15 pounds less.

By your charts, that would gain 15 lengths (one length per pound at a route distance).  At 5 lengths per second, she would be three seconds faster.  Does anyone really believe she would get 9f in 1:45.20 seconds?  What if we dropped 25 pounds, could she get 9f in 1:43.20 seconds?  I doubt it.

Horses have a top speed that is not affected as much by weight as many suppose, certainly not by 2 or 3 pounds.

17 Mar 2010 12:00 PM
Shane

Also by your weight analysis Zenyatta would have lost under equal weights. I can accept that. lol

17 Mar 2010 1:42 PM
Ragsy

Now, with Rachel Alexandra shipping this past Monday to Oaklawn, perhaps, I will still get to see Rachel and that mighty Zenyatta.  It doesnt matter that Rachel is missing this race, for me to be able to take pictures and video's of both Zenyatta and Rachel is good enough....Ya just gotta love the girls...

17 Mar 2010 1:43 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Gary at Rough Creek:

Let me state, just to be clear, that I think weight is generally significant in this sport.  In Rachel’s case, like many horses of her caliber, I would argue that weight is much less significant, and is negligible at 2-4 pounds in the 119-123 pound range.  I really doubt that an additional 2 pounds caused her to run two lengths slower, especially given her own growth.  She did everything she was asked to do last year, which was a lot, and neither track nor weight kept her from doing it.  In the case of RA and Zenyatta, we are not talking about ordinary, completely predictable horses.  I think it would be unwise to try and pigeon-hole either of these great horses into some kind of rigid, conceptual, quantitative box.

I would agree that you haven’t discovered any cause and effect relationship, much less a relationship that corroborates your specific original formula (1 pound=1 length), which is exactly why I would caution you about making any predictions about her future races (when she is NOT short) based on weight.  I don’t have the form in front of me with her weights, but I can tell you that her fastest 8.5f race last year was the Fantasy Stakes, which was also her last 8.5f race last year (prior to the Oaks), at a time when she was really beginning to blossom and also gain national attention.  Aside from her 8.5f races, you might want to see if either of your specific formulas “holds up” in her 9f races if you want to try and find a causal relationship, which I think will be very hard to do.

Sure, I can Google, but I may not find the exact same website that you are referencing, which makes it hard for me to corroborate your source.  I also am very skeptical about certain kinds of web-based research.  Add that to the fact that this “different” Betfair website you are mentioning says something different from what you stated about the previous website.  Furthermore, I have no idea if racing secretaries are familiar with the two different websites (or findings) that you are referencing.

Yes, RA’s connections stated that she came back healthy, thank goodness.  I have no idea how she has been training recently or even when she returned to the track.  I would never say that her previous race was “horrible.” In fact, I give her a lot of credit for showing grit.  What I would say, however, is that she wasn’t given enough time and preparation for the prep or for the big race in April.  Her connections recognize that, and her last race shows that that may be the case.  Thus, they have the right to skip the race, and I commend them for doing it, especially given the purse at stake.  

Respectfully,

Fahad        

17 Mar 2010 1:50 PM
Ragsy

www.neworleans.com/.../352589-rachel-alexandra-comes-back-fine-will-ship-to-oaklawn-monday.htlm

news from 3-15-2010

17 Mar 2010 1:55 PM
Fahad Malaikah

JAJ:

I think that another interesting question to pose to Gary at Rough Creek, simply using his own formula, would be this:

If Zenyatta was carrying 3 pounds less than runner-up Gio Ponti in the BCC, and each extra pound would slow her down by 1 length, would she have still won the BCC carrying equal weight, or would she have finished 2 lengths behind him?

Best,

Fahad

17 Mar 2010 2:48 PM
jpsbman

JAJ I don't think Gary is saying the relationship between time and weight is linear, only the simplest distance/time relationships are linear. However if you take a short piece of a big curve you can approximate the curve with a straight line.  However you can only do that over a well defined short length of the curve so going to extremes (out of the defined co-ordinates) do not at all invalidate a formula that was never meant to cover such cases. Weight time is a rule of thumb use at your own risk.

Since Gary is taking flack, I just wanted to add that I think he is correct. I'm sure other factors were at play but I thought Rachel ran a very good prep race. 1:43.5, 100 BSF, second by less than a length to a good older (wiser)  horse. I do not see that the problem is.  

17 Mar 2010 3:08 PM
Aluminaut

Fahad,

As handicappers we all know that variables exist and affect the outcome of a race.  Gary is mentioning guidelines.  If the same race could be run over and over, there would be different scenarios.  We all know that Zenyatta's talent has allowed her to create her own luck on many occasions.  You don't need to make him say it.  I appreciate both of your posts.  

Rachel's race on Saturday was fine; she needed the race. Zenyatta is in such a zone, if I had a good horse with a rep like Rachel's, I wouldn't want to see her lose at Oaklawn.

17 Mar 2010 8:30 PM
Karen2

With all due respect Fahad...NO!!!!!!!!!!! Gio would Not have  beaten Zen last year regardless of weight. I am a simpleton and logic tells me if she were carrying 3 extra pounds and if one pound is equal to a length Mike Smith would have rode just a slightly different race. He would have put her where she needed to win.....Zen is that good.

17 Mar 2010 8:41 PM
Karen2

Fahad: I do agree 100% with your statements about Rachel. I have probably gained a little more respect for her connections because of their ability to pull her from the race knowing she is not ready. Although prep races are necessary...I still feel she should have been fit for her prep race and she wasn't. That is unfair to RA. I am also struggling with all the RA bashing going on on these blogs. I am beside myself. I feel she turned in a gutsy performance. She has worked 6 times in 6 months. On paper she should have collapsed with that kind of work out schedule. But she dug back in and still battled. Rachel has the heart of a champion. I am a little worried everytime I check this website that there will be an announcement she has retired. I will keep waiting and watching. All I can say is I hope everyone can give her the respect she deserves. She gave us an incredible season last year and she doesn't deserve to get beat up over this race.

17 Mar 2010 8:50 PM
Fahad Malaikah

jpsbman:

I have a couple of problems with your analysis and a couple of the underlying assumptions in your first paragraph.  The conclusion of your first paragraph was a bit unclear to me, so I deeply apologize in advance if I am misrepresenting your intended positions.

First, I have a problem with your assumption that Gary was not positing a direct/causal relationship between time and weight.  I think he might have backed off of this a little and he certainly ceded that the relationship is different for different horses, but initially he was making hypothetical claims about RA’s times and making time/weight adjustments given a specific time/weight formula (1 pound=1 length) to further his argument.  Maybe you read that specific part differently, but it appears that he’s trying to establish a precise relationship there without even considering the role of handicaps or other factors.  If he were considering handicaps, he would have to account for all of the other individuals with the formula.

It was unclear, but you seem to be suggesting that there is in fact a weight/time formula.  I would argue that there is no objective formula that has been scientifically verified that can be used to make hypothetical weight/time adjustments.  If there is such a formula, what is it, and what are the “defined coordinates?” Where do the coordinates begin and end, and how and when do you apply the formula? And where did you get the formula from? I would argue that there is a relationship between weight and performance, which can and may translate into a weight/time relationship.  The overarching problem here is that we are talking about biological entities that do not perform precisely like, say, mechanical entities, and so it is very difficult to establish a direct, precise, and causal weight/time formula.  Again, we can’t package these animals into rigid, quantitative boxes, and I think that’s even truer of horses like RA and Zenyatta.  If we are handicapping, we can try and design such formulas to aid us in our efforts, but we know they are never going to be full-proof.  Moreover, it becomes difficult to establish when (age, size of individual, etc.) and to which individuals the formulas apply.  Stemming from my question above to Gary about the BCC and Zenyatta’s time, does it apply only to RA and not Zenyatta?

So, again, I agree that there is a relationship between weight and performance (note, I’m not talking about a precise weight/time formula), but that the relationship is in fact more (in some cases, only) significant at the extremes.  Even if you are positing that there is a precise weight/time formula, then it would seem to me that the more extreme cases would have a more significant impact on time.  So, despite what the so-called formula was meant to cover, whatever that is, I would argue that even bio-dynamically speaking, only the more extreme cases are significant in terms of performance.  Please let me clarify with a crude example: say that we are talking about Zenyatta.  Let’s say she was initially weighted with 125 pounds this past weekend, but that someone changed their mind right before the race.  Do you think there will be a more significant impact on her performance (and/or time) if she is carrying 127 pounds instead, or 150 pounds instead? For that matter, do you think there will be any impact on her performance (or time) if she carries 127 instead of 125? Or what if it was decided that she was to carry 100 pounds instead? And of course, it would seem that distance does matter in this relationship, so you have to account for that.  I would argue that (maybe only) the extremes would have a significant impact on performance, while Gary might try to come up with a precise time based on weight adjustments.  In fact, I highly doubt that the 2 pound difference would be significant at all.  While the extremes don’t invalidate the defined coordinates, as you say, it is the defined coordinates and the formula themselves that are the problem when are talking about these non-mechanical animals.  In other words, it is the defined coordinates (assuming they are 2-3 pounds) that are insignificant, in my opinion.  Conversely, assuming there is a precise causal relationship, do the defined coordinates (which I don’t think have actually been defined) invalidate the extremes (which are also not defined)? So, while I won’t tell you that there is some precise formula that can be used to predict or “adjust” her time based on her weight, I would argue that one of those extreme weight-differences will have a significant impact on her performance while the 2 pound difference would be insignificant and negligible.  I haven’t done a study to corroborate my opinion, so it remains just that, but it’s one of those opinions that I am pretty confident about.  

Believe it or not, I found your second paragraph less problematic.  While I don’t agree with your opinion (for reasons stated elsewhere), I find it less problematic because you are not trying to pass off your subjective opinion as if it was an objective, scientifically verifiable truth.

Again, I apologize in advance if I misrepresented any of your intended positions.

Respectfully,

Fahad        

17 Mar 2010 9:53 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Aluminaut:

My post to jpsbman is similar to what I am about to say.  I won't go on and on, but you are exactly right about different scenarios and factors.  I don't get frustrated by opinions, even if I think they are totally unfounded.  I get frustrated with subjective opinions, which might be motivated by bias, that are passed off as "objective," scientifically verifiable truths.  Gary's attempts are noble, but this specific formula he used to make weight/time adjustments for RA to further his argument seems full of holes to me.  If he thinks this formula has worked for him as a handicapper, wonderful for him!  

Karen2:

The question about Zenyatta was a rhetorical one.  I agree, Gio would have probably not beaten Zenyatta even if they were carrying equal weight, and even if Zenyatta was carrying 3 pounds more.  She's a big, awesome girl, isn't she?

Best,

Fahad  

17 Mar 2010 10:14 PM
Zookeeper

Karen2,

You are absolutely right! But you can't stop the childish rants against RA any more than I can stop the bashing Zenyatta gets, even when she wins.

I understand how you feel. This blog is mild compared to the other ones. I think that Mr. Haskin deletes the real obnoxious comments or that the lunatics who visit here are on their best behavior because they know he won't tolerate it. They don't stick around though. They scurry back to a blog who lets them spew their venom at will. In time, they will forget all about RA & Z and start tearing down some poor other horse who won't deserve it either. None of them do.

17 Mar 2010 10:18 PM
Slew

Ragsy, because Rachel is not in the AB, she did not ship to Oaklawn.  Check Nola.com for updates.  From March 17th, "Rachel Alexandra has resumed training. She galloped a mile Wednesday, said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. … "  I really don't know about this info tidbit...to me it seems very soon after the 3/13 race to start working again.  Can anyone confirm this?

18 Mar 2010 12:23 PM
Karen2

I'm with you Zookeeper. I wish people would lay off both these amazing horses. I get so disgusted. According to Steve's latest blog..I definately fall into the "independent" category. I love them both.  Steve's blog is the most mild which is one of the reasons I hang with him. I can't take the other blogs. I start to read them and it's the same old posters...with the same story.... I love all the horses to much to read that.

18 Mar 2010 9:13 PM

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