Rachel and Jess

“The queen is dead. Long live the queen.” OK, so it’s not quite as dramatic as Charles VII’s ascension to the throne of France following the death of his father. But the way people are talking, one would think Queen Rachel has abdicated her throne after only two months and a “shocking” defeat at the hands of an inferior rival.

Like any good juicy tale of the monarchy, this one comes with the usual intrigue and conspiratorial plots. John Shirreffs, the caretaker of Zenyatta, next in line to the throne, plotted against the Queen by testing her lack of physical fortitude in order to soften her up for Zenyatta’s coup d’etat attempt on April 9.

Well, Shirreffs’ shifty little plan actually backfired from a monetary aspect, as it wound up potentially costing him a few hundred thousand dollars.

So, here we are in the aftermath of this Shakespearean drama with the once-mighty Queen licking her wounds after falling from grace and the Xena-like warrior Zenyatta firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of the people.

OK, time to return to reality. In the realm of Thoroughbred racing, we currently live in a land divided. There are the Rachel radicals and the Zenyatta zealots, as much at odds with each other as the far left and the far right. And then there are the independents who can appreciate the greatness of both fillies.

“See, Zenyatta is the true Horse of the Year and should have been crowned Queen,” say the zealots. “Rachel wasn’t ready for battle on this day and would have sent Zenyatta back to California with her tail between her legs on April 9,” say the radicals.

The truth of the matter is that the Apple Blossom showdown turned into one big mess. Zenyatta certainly did her part with another of her goosebump inducing victories. Some say Rachel did not look like the Rachel of last year following a six-month layoff and no workouts in the first five of those months. Others say her race in the New Orleans was an excellent prep and set her up well for the Apple Blossom.

Should we have been shocked that Rachel was beaten in her first start back? Here is what her owner and trainer had to say before the race:

“We are stretching to get there. But if we’re not in top shape, we’re not going” – Jess Jackson (key on “stretching to get there” and “not in top shape”)

“If they (Zenyatta) beat us in one race, they might just disappear and retire her undefeated.”  -- Jess Jackson (who seemed to be conceding the distinct possibility of defeat and was challenging Jerry and Moss to a return match before the race was even run).

“I think they are trying to size us up. It makes sense for them (to run Zardana at Fair Grounds). They want to catch us short.” – Jess Jackson all but admitting Rachel was going to be short.

“I’m not afraid to lose, but it’s not going to do Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra any good if either one of them are not at their best.” – Jess Jackson already throwing “lose” and “not at (her) best” around. Forget the addition of Zenyatta to that comment; it was merely window dressing.

“I am very concerned about her fitness level.”
– Steve Asmussen

These are not the comments of people bubbling over with confidence. So, if they, especially Jackson, were aware that Rachel would be vulnerable, why all the contradictions between trainer and owner after the race and why the hasty decision by Jackson?

Last year, Jackson was just the opposite of hasty. His decisions were usually made at the 11th hour as the racing world sat and waited to find out where Rachel would be running next.

Now, he has made a complete 180 with two hasty decisions. The first one was announcing Rachel would run in the Apple Blossom on April 9 just days after saying that she wouldn’t be ready for the Apple Blossom on April 3. For a horse whose fitness level was a concern to her trainer, it is difficult to imagine six days making much of a difference. Then he decides to back out of the Apple Blossom an hour or two after his trainer comments how great Rachel came out of the race.

So, what was all this really about? Do Jackson and Asmussen actually speak to each other? Unlike the beloved Cleaver family to whom Zenyatta belongs, could it be that Rachel is part of some dysfunctional family that travels in parallel lines, rarely crossing paths? No one has ever gotten close enough to find out. Only Jackson and Asmussen can say whether it’s one big happy family. In his latest announcement, Jackson said “I decided” when discussing the decision, yet also said “Steve and I discussed this fully and we now regret we tried to accelerate her training.” And perhaps the most telling comment was, “…just as I had anticipated, she is not in top form.”

Well, if that was what he had anticipated, why did he go against his initial gut feeling when he said no to the Apple Blossom, because Rachel was not fit? Was she really going to get fit enough to take on Zenyatta with an extra six days?” Many feel the New Orleans Ladies did indeed help her get fit, but not being around her, that is mere conjecture.

Jackson ended his statement with his favorite line: “She will tell us when her next race will be.”

Did she tell them this time? Did she say she wanted her next race to be in the New Orleans Ladies? Did she say “I can beat Zenyatta on April 9, but not on April 3?” And did she tell them after the race, “I was wrong; I wasn’t ready for this race and I won’t ready for the Apple Blossom?” Is it Rachel who actually is to blame for the defeat by giving Jackson bad information? Why then would he listen to her in the future?”

No, it was not Rachel’s fault. It was not Steve Asmussen’s fault. And, who knows, maybe it wasn’t Jackson’s fault. No one was criticizing his decision before she got beat.

The bottom line is that only Jackson can say what he was thinking accepting the invitation to the Apple Blossom after saying he wouldn’t. Only Jackson can say what he was thinking when he backed out for the second time. But he doesn’t say. He just issues abstruse statements that veil what he’s really feeling. So, that is all we can go by.

Jackson has done a great deal with the magnificent package he purchased last spring, presenting her to the world in a manner that was more common a half-century ago. But despite his lengthy speeches at the Eclipse Awards dinner and post-race interviews, he really doesn’t allow people to see what is behind those words. Individually, they are the right words. But strung together they lose any real meaning.

Some of the harsh criticism directed at Jackson is warranted. Some of it is not. That’s because we have no idea who Jess Jackson is. Now that this fiasco is over, it’s time to look ahead. It’s time for Jackson to speak from the gut and let people in on it. He must remember that if Rachel indeed is capable of saying what her next race should be, she is saying it to Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi and Dominic Terry. They are the ones who have more physical contact with her than patting her on the nose in the winner’s circle a few times a year. It’s OK for Jackson to listen to Rachel, but from now on it would be serve his (and Rachel’s) best interest to use an interpreter.

392 Comments

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Brian Appleon

Good one Steve, I think everyone should be able to appreciate your willingness to see both sides and issue relevant arguments/assumptions. Personally I’m of the opinion that Jackson shouldn’t have gone back on his word and should still send Rachel to the Apple Blossom. Asmussen said she’s doing “great” so why not? The Ladies certainly gave her a good conditioning.

18 Mar 2010 1:23 PM
Elizabeth

Good lord, she lost by 3/4 of a length.  Imagine if Secretariat's connections opted out of the Derby because he photoed for third in the Wood Memorial.  The DRF even memorialized the Wood by saying Big Red "failed to seriously menace".  So obviously  he "didn't look like the same horse" in the Wood yet his connections didn't wimp out of the Derby.

As for Horse of the Year, I never got into that argument because I think it's a silly award meant for the humans.  The horses do not care but since it is an award for humans, if I were an Eclipse voter I'd be feeling like quite the chump about now.  It's not because Rachel lost her prep by 3/4 of a length.  It's because her owner wimped out and refused to enter the starting gate with the HOY runner up.  It appears he doesn't want to settle it on the track.  Instead he apparently wants awards handed to him by voters whom he's allegedly plied with alcohol ;-)  

18 Mar 2010 1:27 PM
Karen in Indiana

If I make a joke, someone will surely jump on me about it. But I can't help it - Wow! Not only can Rachel run, but she can add talking to her accomplishments. Truly, she is great!

My hope is that she didn't get burned out from last year's campaign. It has been troubling to see all the hardware they've been putting on her face - chain through the mouth, figure eight bridle, chain over the nose, a halter and more and that was all at the same time. She had that much on when they were showing her schooling in the days before her race and also in other photos recently. She just doesn't seem very happy.

18 Mar 2010 1:27 PM
Karen in Indiana

P.S.

Golden Gate had a wonderful idea - Rachel could run in a shorter distance race on Apple Blossom day as a prep, Zenyatta could run her race, everyone who was hyped about the match race could still see both of them race, Arkansas would still have the tourist inflow. There's not many things you can do to make a whole state happy to see you. It would be as close to a win-win as could be hoped for.

18 Mar 2010 1:32 PM
keenelandcat

Interesting. In the back of my mind, I keep replaying RA's last two races. The Haskill was nothing short of unbelievable. However, her last race left me with an uneasy feeling because I didn't like what I saw after the race.  She was blowing hard, really hard, and just looked like a very tired, used up horse. Then came the long lay off-was it really all weather related? I always think back to a statement made by RA's original connections.  "She needs plenty of time between races."  Yes, I am a Zenyatta zealot.  No, I really don't want to bash RA or her connections.  But, Zenyatta is what our sport needs-a super horse.  Her connections have managed Zenyatta with the horse's best interest always coming first.  When she was a filly, they waited & gave her time to grow.  Many have been critical because they won't run her on an off track-I personally think that is great & more should follow their heed.  If every owner took as much care planning their horses' campaign, maybe we would have more undefeated horses going into their third year of racing as a six year old. As for those who complain about the races Zenyatta has won,you need a reality check.  The Breeders Cup Classic, the Ladies Classic, and numerous Grade I & II races aren't insignificant races.

18 Mar 2010 1:43 PM
Pam S.

Really good article, Steve, very fair and balanced.  But like most "editorials," you did take somewhat of a stand, and the way I read it was, Team Rachel needs some realignment.  

I think there is a difference when you purchase a horse at auction for a reasonable price or breed it yourself, as opposed to an outrageous seven-figure private sale.  In the latter situation, there might be more of a tendency to forget that it's a horse you bought.

18 Mar 2010 1:46 PM
Paula

I will skip all of the "is she or isn't she" debate about Rachel Alexandra and just touch on the thing that constantly sticks out for me about the entire team: Jess Jackson constantly has to be in control, overseeing this like he would oversee his own business. His word has to be the end of the "discussion," and Asmussen is merely in his "employ," not allowed to truly speak from the heart about the true condition of the filly & what would be in her best interest.

I suspect, though haven't asked, that Jess Jackson has his own "security" staff to keep an eye on Rachel Alexandra, much in the same way he did with Curlin. Now, despite many other millionaires having millions of dollars invested in racing stock, Jess Jackson is the only one I know, in recent memory, to hire his own personal security to keep an eye on his horses. To me, that represents not only a lack of confidence in Asmussen's own staff, but it represents some kind of paranoid megalomania on Jess Jackson's part that someone (anyone) is out to sabotage and derail Jackson's horses.

Like all things, Jess Jackson thinks he knows better than most of everyone in racing. His way or the highway. He has exhibited the same strange "know more than the experts" behaviour that had him suing and maligning people left and right in the Bluegrass within the past 5 years.

Truth be told, it's all just bizarre. Whatever comes of a possible match-up between RA and Z will always be overshadowed by the megalomania of Jess Jackson, who seems to have only one real interest.... creating his own legacy in racing on HIS terms.

18 Mar 2010 1:53 PM
Slew

heheheheheheheheheheh!  Thanks Steve, I needed that after all the rabid comments that have been posted.  They're both champions, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.  Nothing can take away from that.  But I really am confused more so, everytime Jess Jackson issues another ...let's say...opens his mouth.  Enough with the challenges, he's got to muck out his own stall before he's standing knee deep in his own words.

18 Mar 2010 2:03 PM
ainabella

Steve, I have been waiting for your comments as they are the most even minded to be found around. I think that you have found the key to the Rachel problem; ie her handlers are divided and she is receiving troubled care. She is not happy this year and while it is possible that she was over raced last year or that she "wants" to be a broodmare (give me a break, she is a horse and lives in the moment, not for some idea that she can't even fathom), it is evident by her waywardness that she no longer is in harmony with her handlers. Early last year, I don't recall seeing the whites of her eyes as she paraded and headed into the gate, nor even during her races. This year not only is she throwing her head all over the place, almost every photo shows white in her eyes.

It is a shame that the team that handles one of two of the most memorable horses in recent years isn't happy and is passing that to their filly; a filly that it could be argued belongs to us all.

I can understand Jess J's decision to set her up for the ABlossom against his instinct; the carrot was too large to ignore. This was carelessness or hubris on his part. That he pulled her at this point is consistent with his belief that if Zenyatta beat Rachel once the Mosses would not run the two of them again. My beef with Jess is that he doesn't see that the strife within himself and between himself and his employees affects one of the greatest horses to grace a racetrack. Perhaps JJ is better suited to own stallions.

18 Mar 2010 2:06 PM
JAJ

I really, really want to like Jackson.  I think it was wonderful that he tried to clean up the auction business.

I don't even mind that he buys his big winning horses ready made after they've proved themselves for some other trainer--heck, he's an old man, let him enjoy racing at the top level even if he has to buy it.

It's just that every time he opens his mouth he shows how very little he understands about the making of a racehorse.  Not only is he limited knowledge wise, he doesn't appear eager to actually learn.

It would seem Mr. Jackson is a complete control freak as well.  After Rachel's loss, Borel talked about how he was instructed to ride the race as he did and only let her go at the sixteenth pole.  Now, according to your comments on "And They're Off," Borel has come out to say that was not what he said.  Well, I watched that race.  Borel had his feet planted firmly on the dashboard until about the quarter pole.  He has never ridden that filly like that.  Do you really think he suddenly changed a winning style on his own and then falsely blamed the connections for dictating the ride?  I don't think so either.  Not only that, but the connections don't even have the decency (class) to admit that is exactly what they told Borel to do.

Rachel ran a good race, getting a 100 Beyer with a horrible ride (although, no fault of Borel's).

No horse should have two trainers, especially when the one calling the shots hasn't a clue.

18 Mar 2010 2:40 PM
DBH

I feel sorry for Rachel.

18 Mar 2010 2:44 PM
JAJ

Karen of Indiana,

When you take a horse to the paddock to school, you generally tack them up in the same bridle that they will be racing in, which in this case had a figure-eight noseband added.  All the figure-eight noseband does is keep her mouth closed so she can't open it to evade the bit.

The chain in the mouth over her gum and a halter over the bridle is normal for horses being taken over to school or race.

There was nothing unusual about what she was wearing to school at the paddock.

18 Mar 2010 2:44 PM
Mike Relva

STEVE

Thanks for the well written article. As usual you write w/concise precision. While I've been a fan of Zenyatta/connections from day one I also admire RA,just not the connections! No doubt,Zenyatta is ALWAYS placed first by her owners',I can't say the same for RA's connections. My opinion going back from last year indicates RA ran one or two races too many,fast forward to now and she obviously isn't the same to date. My hope is she will later in the year return to her formal level.

18 Mar 2010 2:50 PM
GJU

Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen have been saying Rachel Alexandra is not 100% fit since the night of the Eclipse Awards right up to her debut race of 2010. If she wasn't ready, why did they race her? Personally, I don't think she ran a bad race. She tried all the way down the stretch until Borel saw she was going to get beat and he eased up on her. She was 11+ lengths in front of the third horse. If John Shirreffs is going to get blamed for Rachel Alexandra losing because he put Zardana in the race, you may as well put equal blame on Rachel's connections for telling Borel to hold Rachel back instead of Rachel Alexandra running her race. From all I've been reading in interviews with Asmussen, sounds like Rachel Alexandra came out of the race great. She's healthy, eating great, no problems so far, thankfully. So why not keep training her towards the Apple Blossom? I've read a lot of comments on blogs where people think Rachel is not the same horse after her first race back in six months. Shouldn't she be given at least one more shot before making a statment like that? I am a Zenyatta fan and although I hope she keeps her winning streak going in the Apple Blossom, Rachel Alexandra or not, I know there is no guarantee in horse racing. Good luck to Mike Smith and the mighty Z. I'll be rooting for them.

18 Mar 2010 2:50 PM
el

Steve--I wonder if you took into account the comments made by Dr Bramledge from Rood and Riddle after it was announced that Rachel's connections did the right thing by giving her an extended vacation.  I believe he said that there could have been disastrous results had she gone to the Breeder's Cup.  While we are all so quick to slam Jess Jackson for his decisions--and I do feel that he should have waited and not entered the filly in the Ladies if she wasn't ready--why is it that he has to clear every move with JQ Public anyway? I for one think he bowed to media and public pressure to run the gal last week, probably against his better judgement.  But he is the final word, after all, and I guess the final blame also rests with him.  Hopefully by taking her out of the Apple Blossom, we'll get to see her run many more times before he retires her to the breeding shed.  BTW, while we are so pumped up about Zenyatta and her 15 wins, let's not forget that she still won only on synthetic in her closed little box.  I think Jeff Siegle said it best when he said that she has been "protected."  When are we going to see her a little less protected?  If we have a rainy, sloppy track on 04/09, I'm sure they will keep the great Z indoors so she won't get her feet wet.

18 Mar 2010 3:04 PM
Is this A Surprise?

I'm not really surprised that Rachel isn't going to the Apple Blossom and I don't think the reason  is that she lost the prep race. Charles Cella indicated that getting in touch with Mr. Jackson last year about the Blossom was difficult. I honestly don't believe this race was ever in the cards for Rachel Alexandra. The connections have said as much themselves: "we regret speeding up her training". As for who's really running the Rachel A. team, it's not the horse, that's for sure. She was screaming "I'm not ready to run" with that funky 6f move on the second. She tossed her head in the work to avoid restraint, she tossed her head in the race for the same reason. She had trouble switching leads in the work, she had to be cued to switch leads in the race. If there were any good indications from that race, it's that Rachel still knows were the wire is. Long after Calvin has wrapped her up, she's still digging for that wire. I hope her connections can have sit down lunch and get on the same page. I would also hope that her team takes advantage of modern technology and gives her fans a little more access - to stop the rumors if nothing else.

As for Zenyatta - "How do you describe perfection? Why try?"

18 Mar 2010 3:07 PM
Kevin

RA needed a race and will bounce back. If she is ready when the connections run her again she ill win.THE JOCKEY BooBoo fits her like a glove keep him on her

18 Mar 2010 3:07 PM
EasyGoerFan

I am also really trying to like Jess Jackson.  When he bought Curlin, it saved us all from having two jailbirds own the HOY.  I couldn't stand those two attorneys so it was great to have Curlin go to somebody else. (anybody else!)

However, last year with Rachel, I noticed a few tiny nitpicky things that really bugged me.  For example, Calvin was usually met in the winner's circle by somebody from the Jackson team who gave Calvin a cap to wear.  One time Calvin was on TV being interviewed and his eyes wandered off to the side and then he took off the cap he was wearing and replaced it with one that was handed to him by some unseen person.

Why?  

Why have somebody do that in the middle of an interview?  Is it that important that Calvin be seen in a Rachel Alexandra cap?  It makes it seem like team Jackson is overthinking, overplanning, and overmanipulating the whole thing.

I worry that Calvin's words, although absolutely true, will get him in trouble.  Those instructions didn't fit the situation and Rachel pinned her ears and pulled.  Therefore,something that was decided on by Jess Jackson did not work and Calvin said it didn't work and was not what he wanted to do.  Calvin was interviewed by Gary Stevens on HRTV well before the race and he said he was under strict orders to hold her back.  He said that was the plan to get her ready for the Apple Blossom.

If Jess Jackson made Calvin take back those words, then shame on him.  He better not be censoring Calvin, but I suspect very strongly that he is.

In other news, Bambera is running in the Rampart at Gulfstream this Saturday.  It will be nice to see her in action.  I really hope the Apple Blossom is a great race.  So many people went to so much trouble to get tickets, hotels, and everything else.

18 Mar 2010 3:11 PM
smartysgal

I'll bet Jackson & Co. would be singing a different tune if Rachel had won.  Imagine that - being first instead of second would mean that she would be "fit" enough to face Zenyatta!  I'm sick and tired of this stupid stuff.  

Just for the record, Zenyatta is a better horse and should have been HOY.

18 Mar 2010 3:15 PM
Dona

Steve, great insight as usual. This whole matter is very distasteful. Something stinks and we know it's not Rachels stall!

I didn't see a happy horse, I didn't see a winning horse, I didn't see last years Rachel and not because she gained 25 lbs, her demeanor wasn't the same, much less her running style: what was that about? Are they really changing her that much because of Zenyatta or does she no longer posses the ability of the Rachel of old. I don't understand the equipment change on a horse of her caliber and at this point in her career and I really don't understand changing her style of running when she had accomplished so much before. Seems like if it ain't broken, don't change it, We're talking Horse of the Year here! Something is amiss.    

18 Mar 2010 3:17 PM
jim

Steve great insights. i have been saying the following for quite some time and you seem to echo on it. It was wrong for both sides(although Zenyattas plan was known) to accept a showdown in both horses second start of the year, as well known for a horse to achieve or be near peak form is after the 3 or 4 race after a vacation.

The rest is simple JJ changed his mind to run in the apple blossom when he smelled money, why is it he did not say no that in the best interest of the sport and the horse it was not the right time to run against Zenyatta and mention that his horse would be ready after "X" prep races.

18 Mar 2010 3:23 PM
Paula

Regarding Jess Jackson "cleaning up the auction business," some of that is to be disputed. Jess Jackson has constantly complained, whether in real estate or at thoroughbred auctions that he was "duped." No...the man was not always "duped," but rather, didn't like the purchase price for the product after he just "had" to have something at a sale. It's his fault for not protecting his own interests and his wallet.

Jess Jackson wrongly sees himself as some kind of "savior" of the sport, yet he chose to employ a trainer, Asmussen, who has, in recent years, served 6 months suspension for medication violations in horses. If anyone who listened to his often rambling, bizarre testimony on racing before a Congressional committee didn't already conclude that Jess Jackson has this over-inflated opinion of himself and the sport & how a trainer is a "merely an employee of the owner," then his latest contradictions to Asmussen's statements should seal the deal.

I fully expect a parting of the ways when it comes to Jackson and Asmussen. Unlike with Curlin, Jess Jackson can't blame the surface at Santa Anita for a loss. This time Jackson steps forth and contradicts Asmussen's own comments and Jackson exerts his "authority" as "the boss."

Someone will have to be blamed for Rachel Alexandra's loss and that blame will either fall with Asmussen, Borel, or unfairly, both.

18 Mar 2010 3:28 PM
jim

Question to everyone, does JJ remind everyone of Al Davis?

18 Mar 2010 3:32 PM
LACS70

Rachel wasnt beaten by some slouch! Zardana is an amazing little mare. Rachel just tired out.  

18 Mar 2010 3:51 PM
RachelSatterfield

I've decided that JJ isn't sending Rachel (not because he's afraid to see her lose) but because he's trying to protect Curlin's earnings mark (which is in jeopardy from Dubai anyways).  Zenyatta has already earned over 5 million in her career.  Add to that the good chunk she would stand to gain from winning the Apple Blossom and it gets here fearfully close to the mark especially with another Breeders Cup win and a few other decent races.  I'm not sure it's because he's afraid to see Rachel lose here.  I think he's afraid to risk letting Zenyatta that close to his stallion's earnings mark (I'm sure he hopes to milk it for as long as possible).  It's a really tricky situation with JJ.  Though he's gotten the better end of the situation the last two years with Curlin and Rachel both beating out Zenyatta for HotY.  He's not about to give anyone more ammo to dis Curlin or Rachel by giving Zenyatta a massive purse earning with Rachel not racing her best.

For that matter, her race wasn't terrible.  If she'd been allowed to open up earlier like she likes she probably would have won by a half length instead of losing by one.

18 Mar 2010 3:52 PM
RachelSatterfield

Oh and to quote someone above "Just for the record, Zenyatta is a better horse and should have been HOY."

This is something that's been annoying me.  Guess what...Rachel Alexandra won Horse of the Year.  She will always be 2009 HotY and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it, so get over it and hope no one comes along to steal it from Zenyatta this year.  Comments like this are stupid.  The voting is over, your horse lost.  Clearly you would have rather had her win, but she didn't.  Rachel is in the record books to stay.  If you want to blame anyone for Zenyatta's loss, blame her connections that treated her like a crystal vase all year and didn't give her a challenge until the last race of the year.  Perhaps they'll do better by Zenyatta this year, because I personally believe she can run any horse running right now into the ground (with the exception of Rachel A at her best and possibly Bambera who might give her a challenge).

18 Mar 2010 3:58 PM
Kate

Steve, thank you!

I'm generally in agreement with you, and I love the way you put things.  I have been trying to explain how I feel about JJ and this whole situation, and your words are perfect.

I want to give JJ credit for allowing the public to witness some fantastic moments in racing, but I also want him to just speak to us plainly once in awhile.  Fans are important to the industry. I would be far less irritated with the Apple Blossom debacle if he'd just give us a sincere apology or statement instead of his typical wishy washy vague soundbites.

It does seem there may be some tension in the RA camp, and it's too bad.  I love both Zenyatta and RA, and I want to see them shine for as long as possible.  This is racing's big chance to increase public interest, and I wish it were being handled a bit better...

Thank you for another well written and very fair article.  Just enough criticism with praise given where it's due.

*And I love that you don't let things get out of hand in your comments.  I love to be able to read thoughtful commentary without having to wade through bitter and rude posts.  It's so refreshing to see relatively polite human interaction on the internet.

18 Mar 2010 3:58 PM
ThisCatGetsAround

Waoh, lets rewind here. Steve, i totally agree with everything you say. to a T.

Many of you are saying Rachel isn't happy. Have you guys seen the pictures and videos with Asmussen and when she's on the track? She is happy, but a HANDFULL. she'd a firey thoroughbred that has been let down for 6 months. A great break, but, she got bored. The smart ones always get bored.

She wants to get back to work. Too eager, if you ask me. She needed this race to take a bit out of her. a 'blowout' Asmussen style=) He gradually moves his horses up. Slowly building stamina and strength. I respect him greatly for his training ethics.

Also, the reason for the figure eight, is they wanted her off the pace. Why? i have no clue. Borel said several times she wanted to run by the pace setter. The connections (i'm guessing Jackson) didn't want her let out right away.

Steve, did you ever think that maybe this could be used as a training method? Z comes charging towards the end, always. Rachel probably wouldn't be able to hold her off if she was on the lead breaking records(which she likes to do). Maybe they used the Bridle to get her to rate better. Could be a possibility. They wanted to let Rachel out at the exact time as Z would normally make her charge. In my experience, the way to beat a closer like Z is to get your momentum to the same level(or better), and gut it out, or even win going away.

Also to remember: even the greats lose=)

18 Mar 2010 4:06 PM
Joanna

Paula-Rachel does have her own 24 hour security guard hired by JJ. It is the same girl who watched over Curlin. I met her at Saratoga. She seemed to have a good relationship with Steve though and she was helpful keeping the public from Rachel. (At Saratoga you can walk right up to the stalls and touch the horses when no employees are around) I think it's done to help Steve though...the crowds that gathered in the mornings at Saratoga were too big for Steve's employees to handle and still take care of the other horses...It still seems like JJ doesn't really communicate with Steve though..

18 Mar 2010 4:08 PM
Paula

Point of correction to a poster above...

Zenyatta did travel to Oaklawn in 2008 and defeat a horse I loved, Ginger Punch. So, Zenyatta is not a "protected horse" on a synthetic surface. It is just a preferred surface.  She was intended and entered to race at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day, but heavy rains created an off track & when scratches are due, they are due...so it wasn't any fear there, either.

18 Mar 2010 4:20 PM
Rose

OK --STOP --have any of you ever been a runner...I have, and it takes tremendous ritual habit to keep it going-- to the point that you run no matter what ..but about 10 years ago, I pulled a muscle in my chest and the doctor laid me off for 3 months, and then, another 3 months...I started back slowly -but had lost the ommph to keep running and compete at a high level ...the layoff was hard on me, in that it exacted a toll mentally and physically -- not saying this has happened to RA -

but a lot of runners go through this physiological and phychologiical barrier, where the pain isnt worth the reward... maybe, RA liked basking in the sun during her time off ...and just needs time to ramp it back up..

just a thought...

18 Mar 2010 4:22 PM
Karen in Indiana

JAJ, thanks for the info. I didn't know that it was usual to have the halter and the bridle on at the same time when schooling. Seeing the chain in the mouth or the chain over the nose is not unusual, especially with high-strung or aggressive horses, but I don't recall ever seeing both used at the same time.

18 Mar 2010 4:23 PM
Shamfan49

I was at Oaklawn last Sauturday to watch the Rebel. When it was announced that Jackson had withdrawn his toy from the Apple Blossom, the stands were all abuzz. Lots of unhappy folks.

On another note, this whole Jackson/Rachel business reminds me of the stupid-to-me way Jackson handled Curlin going into the Breeders' Cup. First Curlin was to be shipped to France to run in the Arc. With that goal in mind he was entered in a tough turf race as a prep. He ran well, but lost. So Jackson scratched the Arc from his appointment book. Then Curlin was not going to run in the Classic because of the Cushion Track, or whateve synthetic surface was installed at Santa Anita then, hard to keep up with their surface problems. Then all of a sudden, Curlin was flown to Los Angeles to work out over the track in order to test whether or not he liked it. I assumed that he did. Why else would he have appeared in that starting gate? I have always thought that Curlin's defeat that day was more the fault of an indecisive, over-bearing owner who was not talking to his trainer but calling the shots anyway. With Rachel, it looks like deja vu all over again (to steal a line attributed to the great Yogi Berra).

In a way I'm glad. While Empress Zenyatta's star power should attract a crowd, it will probably not be as large or overhyped as War Admiral/Seabiscuit II. I'll probably only have to wait 2 hours on line at the restaurant.

18 Mar 2010 4:26 PM
kat

This seems surprisingly "personal" to me, but perhaps that is the nature of an "editorial".  I have always assumed that JJ was "petitioned" to run RA in the AB, just as he was "petitioned" to run Curlin in the BCC.  IMHO, he did not learn his lesson the first time and listen to SA in the case of Curlin(and probably, RA).  JJ is suceptible to public opinion/perception and the public eats him alive for it (aka, feeding frenzy).  It appeared that with RA's lengthy time off, they were targeting the middle/end of the 2010 season, rather than the early spring.  This is not unlike what they did with Zenyatta last year.  At the time, questions were also raised about why Z had so much time off. . .  In retrospect, John Sheriff was declared a genius at the end of the year.  Unfortunately (as it appeared to me), JJ allowed the Apple Blossom Special to roll right over him after his 3 race proposal was belittled, he should have said NO, but he succumbed to public pressure.  There was always the caveat that it would depend on whether or not the horse was ready, for some reason, that no longer seems applicable.  Perhaps the New Orleans race cemented what was already obvious in her works???  Not only has there been an analysis article here saying RA is not the same (at this time compared to last year), but it has also been noted that her works have not been the same leading up to the race.  Just because RA comes out of the race OK (appetite/soundness/etc) does not mean that it is possible to have her 100%in 3-4 weeks.  Steve A commented on how she came out of the race, not whether or not she would be ready to race in the AB.  These are not the same.  JJ and SA "conferred". It seemed entirely appropriate that they would announce ASAP whether or not they were going to the AB if there was any question.  To do anything else would have been incredibly rude.  I really don't get it.  Why would anyone want them to race if they both aren't 100%?  Perhaps that question bears repeating.  And as it has been noted in multiple places (including here), RA doesn't appear to be 100%.  Whether or not she will be in 3-4 weeks is a judgement call, and they have made it.  Good grief.  However, great way to generate blog traffic, LOL!  

Paula - JJ is approx the 500th richest person in the world, his entire "estate" is guarded, it's hardly unusual.  He's even richer than that guy in the Godfather. . . .  

18 Mar 2010 4:36 PM
rachel'salterego

Steve,

Good article!

I am surprised it has taken so long to put the responsibility for this mess where it belongs--on Jess Jackson. This is a man who has collected the HOTY award three years in a row and has thrown his money around, maneuvered, and manipulated mercilessly to get it. Rachel's performances last year had much more to do with Hal Wiggins than with Steve Asmussen.

Rachel certainly remembers being switched in the Woodward to keep ahead of Macho Again. She was overworked to such a degree that it's no wonder she's tossing her head and being rank during training and racing. She's pulling hard to get away. I'd almost bet on it that she hates the racing business at this point. Horses are not stupid, certainly not the two mares in question here.

And then there's Zenyatta, a truly happy horse. She loves racing and her ears tell us so. Zen trusts all of her connections, as well she should, because they have her welfare at the top of their list. And just look at the result.

The one I feel sorry for here is Calvin Borel. If Rachel races again, and I have some doubt that she will, I imagine a different jockey will ride her. Why? Because Calvin told us the truth.

18 Mar 2010 4:36 PM
JAJ

Paula,

I'm sorry, but some of the hidden deals that went on in the auction business were pretty horrific for the naive buyer.  I think Jess Jackson helped make it all a little more transparent.

Unconscionable dealings were common practice, such as a buyer's agent (who is paid a commission BY THE BUYER) arranging secret deals with the seller (and taking a cut) and then the seller and the buyer's agent driving up the price.

Here's how it works:  Agent/trainer wants to buy a certain yearling and approaches seller.  Agent/trainer and seller agree on a sale price BEFORE the sale and also agree to drive the actual auction price up well over the agreed upon sale price.  The agent bids against the seller (the reserve price).  The agent and the seller share in their windfall at the expense of the buyer.  People should have gone to jail for some of the shady dealings that went on at auctions.

I think Jess Jackson's lawsuits helped clean up that part of the auction business.

I think Borel will take the fall on this one.

18 Mar 2010 4:37 PM
Rachel'salterego

And BTW, John Sherriff's was not the instigator in sending Zardana to New orleans. Her owners made that decision, and as it turned out, it was probably a good one for all involved. To heck with the money.

18 Mar 2010 4:48 PM
Steve Haskin

El, regarding you comment: "I for one think he bowed to media and public pressure to run the gal last week, probably against his better judgement."

Who's fault is that? The public? The media? If there is anyone who is his own person it's Jess Jackson. Only he can tell you why he agreed to run in the Apple Blossom.

18 Mar 2010 4:51 PM
vikingblood22

Rachel won the HOY fair and square. I trust the voters did their comparisons/no favoritism. You can't keep a horse in CA, run the mare against the boys once and expect HOY when you have two great horses running in the same year. Without Z there would be no Rachel and vice versa just as without Affirmed there would have been no Alydar--another case of two great racehorses in the same year. Was War Admiral any less of a great racehorse because he lost a match race to Seabiscuit? No. It is sad that some Z fans cannot accept the HOY defeat, but I can understand disappointment because I wanted to see Rachel race "her race" last weekend & did not enjoy watching her lose to a ringer. Z was retired and then all of a sudden she was back in the race (Brett Favre) so maybe the Mosses don't know which end is up either, not that I am defending JJ.  The Mosses probably brought Z back because she loves to race. Rachel may be losing her competitive edge because she is at the age when she is physically and emotionally ready to be a broadmare. So I agree that JJ should stick with stallions. JJ didn't "smell money," he doesn't need the money.

18 Mar 2010 4:52 PM
Springsmom83

I said last year and I still maintain;  the Woodward was an extremely rough race for Rachel and I am worried that she will never be the same again.  She gave her all from gate to wire and got hit nearly 40 times down the stretch for her efforts.  If you watch her, she actually seemed to lose interest when she was hit in the Ladies Classic.  I fear that a fabulous filly was ruined in the quest to beat older males for the HOY honor.  If Jackson wants to blame anyone for her loss he needs to look deeply at himself and the campaign that he carved out for the filly last year!

18 Mar 2010 4:55 PM
rubyreddress

Good article Steve.  I hope that Rachel is going to be okay and comes back with that fire and ability from last year.  It would appear that they did bring her back too soon, and I remember thinking the same about the 6 days difference in the Apple Blossom running date--what difference is 6 days?  As a Rachel fan (not that I don't appreciate Zenyatta and cheer her on) I find Zenyatta to be the kind of horse that scares me to death, in a race.  She is as stated above to have had a protected career, and her running style is such that she just doesn't use herself up.  Or am I incorrect.  Not to mention her size and I can only imagine her stride--how would any hores beat her?  I would like to see her beaten just to see what it would take.  Call me a chicken, but I would prefer Rachel never met Zenyatta.  I don't want to see her heart or spirt broken. And as I think more about it--how would you beat Zenyatta without any racing tricks?  Thanks for letting me ramble.  And the best to the both of them.

18 Mar 2010 5:08 PM
wendyg

Did anyone catch the jockey's words?  He kept saying he would have let her run "her" race, but "they" told him to wait. I suppose "they" are Jackson.  Even Calvin wasn't comfortable under his rulership, and probably knows his days are numbered on Rachel if he would do anything against the mighty Mr. Jackson.  

18 Mar 2010 5:12 PM
DinkyDiva

Dona, I totally agree with you.  Rach did not look like a happy go lucky gal!  Her ears were never forward, they were always back.  Borel had his feet planted and she was all over the place.  I just dont understand why they would change anything with her unless she's really changed that much in 6 months.

So what, she lost a race.  She's lost races before.  No big deal.  Let's give her a bit of a break,its not her fault!

I also think you guys are right with Borel's situation.  He had originally said, it was his instructions then, later, recanted and said, that's not what he said.  I think that JJ has his hand in everyone's (the camp) pockets and they are afraid to go against what he has to say.  It is of course, his decision on what does happen!  

Here's an idea: Maybe, he should re-pay Oaklawn back for all the advertisement that they did and all the money they put up in order to get the two Super fillies and the public together and the individuals that spent hundreds and even thousands to get to Oaklawn for the showdown?

18 Mar 2010 5:12 PM
wendyg

I sure respect Zenyatta's connections, they don't blame, or make ridiculous excuses.  We don't hear a lot from them at all.  They just prove it on the track.  Zenyatta always looks happy, and is fun to watch.  I've watched her videos, and it looks like she turns and looks at the last horse she passes before winning each race.  I kind of laugh when I think of her winking at them as she runs by.  Very cool mare, and one of my all time fav's.  

18 Mar 2010 5:16 PM
I FEEL FOR RACHEL

Steve~

Thanks for another well written article!

Jackson should take a deep breathe and count to 10 before speaking! I have to admit, I'm not a fan of Jess, however, I respect and love RACHEL. I wish she wasn't in his barn.

I'm not a horse whisperer, but I don't think RACHEL is happy. Whatever the reason, she is TELLING THEM! Open your eyes Jackson and Asmussen.

RACHEL: I look forward to you coming back to the track healthy and strong! If not, then be HAPPY!

18 Mar 2010 5:18 PM
Funny1991

I have a funny feeling in my gut that Rachel Alexandra will be taken away from Asmussen and given to another trainer and that Borel will never get to ride her again. I hope that I'm wrong and I just hope its a feeling that will never come true.

I think that Jess Jackson is making the right call by taking her out of the AB because she is not ready, but give the guy some credit he did try to get her into the race. I think the call about not going was not on the fact that she lost, but on the fact that how she was fighting with Borel on the backside and just not seeming to be the same horse. I think in a month or two she will be back in a race and be allowed to do her own thing.

I am also a big fan of Zenyatta and hope that she will be getting her 16th win on April 9th. When and if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta meet in the gate I will not root for a single one of them but watch two magnificant race horses coming down the stretch togther and battling it out and hoping that they both cross that finish line togther safe and sound.

We should apprieciate what we have two great race horses not one male or female, not both males, but two great females racing has ever seen. Someone plz tell me when that has ever happened because most of the time you hear about the males being the best and not the females, but these two females has shown to the globe that some females are better than the males. So let us enjoy and watch these two horses race.

18 Mar 2010 5:23 PM
Oldie

I appreciate the balance of your writing over and over again, Steve.  While I think Rachel looked unhappy by the end of the race and spent most of it fighting for her head, I was wondering whether they are trying to teach her an alternate running style because they think it will improve her ability to compete with Zenyatta - in other words, they don't trust her natural running style.  I thought had she been given her head sooner she would have won the NO Ladies, but shortchanged the training they are trying to do.  She isn't ready for the AB regardless, and I agree with those who feel she ran a race too many last year - she looked exhausted at the end of her season, which isn't how I personally think you want to start a 3 year old's layoff.  Any horse really, but in particular one who is still a youngster.  It could be she simply needs a trainer with a different approach and more time for her.

18 Mar 2010 5:27 PM
wendyg

HOTY is the only win Rachel will get over Zenyatta. lol.

18 Mar 2010 5:33 PM
Speedball

I wasn't surprised that one of these two superstars lost.  Figured it would be Rachel since she'd been off longer, and the insinuations coming from Rachel's connections didn't sound good.  I felt sorry for Rachel as she became the victim of all this human nonsense.  I hope that the next victim isn't Calvin for speaking the truth about the situation and losing the opportunity to ride her in the future.  These regal characters in the Jackson camp seem very fickle to me.  Zenyatta is such a superior athlete and is surrounded by superior people.  Anyone taking her on had better be in tip top shape if they expect to win.

18 Mar 2010 5:39 PM
Amanda

I am a die hard east coast Zenyatta fan but also think RA is a great gal. I just wish she was not connected to JJ. I have posted this question before but just think if Zardana was not in the NOL, RA would have won by 11 1/2 lenghts over Unforgotten, I wonder would she still be going to the BA?

18 Mar 2010 5:45 PM
Bob Z

Steve... exactly to all you said..

Al Davis... yes...

The whole... "Rachel will tell us when she is ready to run..."  has outlived its usefulness...

I think I would do this...

I would find a race for Rachel at a 1 1/16 in about a month... and just let Rachel and Calvin run...

.. get rid of the figure 8 bridle.. forget about Zenayatta and just go kick some ass running the way she wants...

I think that would tell us a lot... and then you go from there..

18 Mar 2010 5:47 PM
Greensward

el,

"...If we have a rainy, sloppy track on 04/09, I'm sure they will keep the great Z indoors so she won't get her feet wet."

Well, which is it? 1st you laud Rachel's connections for doing the right thing and giving her time off instead of running in the Breeders Cup, and then you deride Zenyatta's people for choosing to err on the side of safety in not running her on a hard sloppy track. Huh??

And a note to many in the media and general public. There are so many intangibles that go into the decision that a trainer makes as to whether a horse is truly ready to run or not. It's often a guessing game trying to read the signals, and is a big part of what separates the really great trainers from the ordinary ones.  So on the one hand you have many uninformed people in the media and public clamoring for these horses to RUN!! and yet if the unthinkable were to happen and something goes drastically wrong, there will be outrage and picketing and calls for a ban on racing (by many of the same people in all probability!)

Let the owners and trainers make decisions that are hopefully in the best interest of the horse without all of the noise from people, who, it is probably safe to say, do not know the horses as well as those directly involved with them do.    

18 Mar 2010 5:48 PM
Steve Haskin

Rachel'salterego (come on people use shorter names :), the Shirreffs comment was satirical, not meant to be take seriously. I was making fun at the conspiracy theorists.

My comments about Jackson were aimed at his lack of communication with the public and his trainer and his hasty decisions this year. We should all recognize the good he's done. But just think of all the travel plans that were ruined or the battle on ebay now with people wanting a refund on tickets. No, that's not Jackson's concern; only Rachel is and rightly so. But he has to realize that every decision he makes regarding her is going to set off a frenzy of activity. And plane tickets are non-refundable. All he had to do is let everyone know he's pointing Rachel for the Apple Blossom but it's subject to change if she doesnt run to his expectations and gets beat. Then it's up to the people to do whatever they want. It's no longer on his hands. But by admitting she wasnt fit for this race, people were led to believe that all she had to do was get a good prep race in her, which she apparently did according to Asmussen.

18 Mar 2010 5:54 PM
JAJ

Karen in Indiana,

You saw both a chain over her gum and a chain over her nose because she had two grooms walking her--one lead shank on each side.  Each lead shank has about 24 inches of chain--you have to put the chain somewhere so it tends to be crossed over the nose and snapped on the high side of the halter.

Horses who are getting fit for a race--and don't let anyone kid you, Rachel was fit enough--are pretty energetic and can be quite a handful to gallop and walk.  Sometimes they change from 3 years to 4 and get pushier as they get older and more confident.

Someone mentioned that they thought they saw the whites of Rachel's eyes this year but not last year, somehow inferring that she was showing fear or whatever.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rachel has white ringed eyes.  Some horses have the white part pigmented brown so they almost never show the whites of their eyes.  Rachel doesn't have that pigment, so she is always showing the whites of her eyes except if her eyes are almost half closed.  Don't read anything into it.

18 Mar 2010 5:55 PM
Paula

JAJ, I KNOW how the auction business is conducted. I am not a member of the "My Little Pony Club," some naive gal-come lately to racing.

But, that being said, do you honestly believe that Jess Jackson was always maligned in all of those claims he made? Many people were incredibly maligned.    And many settled to make it all go away because there is no rationalizing with a megalomaniac who believes he's been wronged.

How "naive" was Jess Jackson and how naive does he expect us to be? Why would an extremely successful and savvy businessman suddenly become an idiot in the sport? Ever heard of buyer's remose, too? JJackson should never take the word of one person and expect that to be gospel in this business. Would he have run his own winery businesses that way?

I agree with Steve Haskin that no amount of public pressure forced Jess Jackson's hand on the Apple Blossom commitment. In fact, I recall Jess Jackson crowing about the match up in a rather long and grandiose statement. In fact, Oaklawn even changed the date to accommodate Jess Jackson's concerns about the timing of the race, stiffing hundreds (maybe thousands) of fans who bought advance tickets for the April 3rd Apple Blossom, only to have the date moved back 6 days.

I will say this again, this great savvy businessman is approaching racing like he's the boss of his own company and is finding now that he can't control racing perhaps like he's been able to control forces within his own organization. No public pressure makes this man do what he wants. I doubt anywhere in life this man ever succumbs to any form of peer pressure. Get inside that mind of his and look through his eyes... he's still thinking he's doing us all a favour just by being.

I am not ungrateful for his contributions, as he's bought some nicely made horses & let them run, defying some convention. But all of his crowing about "racing's ills" flies in the face of his training choices. Well, now he'll have an excuse to back off Amsussen and likely the jockey, who's a good guy, is also going to get thrown under the Ego-mania bus.

18 Mar 2010 5:56 PM
Tiznowbaby

Cleaver family. Heh. For some reason, that made my day.

18 Mar 2010 6:00 PM
ThePixiePoet

This article is HILARIOUS!!!

Saying that Rachel's owner and trainer don't talk to eachother -- like a dysfunctional family; and saying that Zenyatta's owner and trainer are like the ideal Cleaver Family on TV... all make me love Rachel more.

More people can relate to Rachel's connections because I am pretty sure 90%+ of us come from dysfunctional families!!!

18 Mar 2010 6:06 PM
rilharreguy

Disclosure: Zenyatta FAN!!!

Okay, now that you know where I come from, let me start by saying that in my opinion the loss last weekend takes nothing away from RA's 2009 campaign. Nor did Z's win add anything to her 2009.

Steve, I wish more journalists and turf writers were asking the same questions. Why is that SA and JJ are not even on the same page? Do they know that something more is amiss and are unwilling to say so? Do we have another strange incident like the one with Sweet Catomine before the SA Derby? Unfortunately we don't know because JJ wont tell us anything, except what RA is not doing. I think if more were known about him and how he does business a lot less people would be selling a horse to him when he comes calling with other peoples money.

However, even with the defection of RA from the Apple Blossom we still may have a matchup of the two of the best females in the world (Goldikova is obviously not running, and Vodka was just retired). Bambera does not look like a slouch, maybe even the female Invasor, or a second coming of Bayakoa or Paseanna. Yes, for all those RA crazed fans, I did just insinuate that Bambera is a better horse than RA.

18 Mar 2010 6:10 PM
Rowner

I agree with some of the other posts that RA doesn't have the same demeanor as last year. I tend to believe CB that he was instructed to hold her back and his candid comments got him in trouble with JJ. I think the RA camp got caught trying change her running style for fear of a closer of Z's prowess. A weakness we may have started to suspect after the Woodward. I wonder if CB had let her run from the gate instead of pulling her back as he was instructed to do would the race turned out different? Maybe she would have relaxed on the lead and pulled away as she had in her races last year. JJ is to full of himself and an overbearing know it all. I think he is in charge of RA's training not SA.

18 Mar 2010 6:21 PM
JAJ

Steve,

I'm not sure I agree with you that Jackson should be more aware or concerned of the public being inconvenienced by his decision not to race Rachel in the Apple Blossom.

I mean, really, the man has a history of being pretty flaky.  First he won't run Curlin on "plastic" then he does.  The Arc, not the Arc.  Rachel in the Apple Blossom, now out.  Are you surprised?

And do you blame him?  Zenyatta ran like a monster--who would want their horse beaten up by Zenyatta second start off a race that she was gutted in?

Getting a horse to a race is not as easy as you would think.  The tighter you wind them up, the more likely they are to be over trained and spike a fever at the most inopportune time.  It is a miracle that so many horses make it into the starting gates of races they are being pointed to.

I travel across the country whenever my horses run in a stakes race.  I never expect them to start when I buy my plane tickets, but I sure hope they do.

18 Mar 2010 6:36 PM
Exterminator

Steve Haskin,

I'm glad those plane tickets are non-refundable.

This will allow those Rachel Alexandra fans to witness the immortal "Zenyatta" at the 2010 Apple Blossom.

Who who you rather see, Steve? The princess (Rachel Alexandra) or the Queen (Zenyatta)?

Here's a few links to keep you busy before the Queen dismantles her opposition in the 2010 Apple Blossom:

en.wikipedia.org/.../List_of_undefeated_Thoroughbred_racehorses

en.wikipedia.org/.../Breeders'_Cup_Classic

18 Mar 2010 6:42 PM
Edward

i think Jackson is full of himself. That race RA ran was right with-in her career range and looked an awful lot like what most trainers call a great prep race for a horse that hadn't run in 6 months. jackson saw how easy Zenyatta won again and realized that even if Rachel runs her race she is facing an animal that runs faster than she does.

18 Mar 2010 7:07 PM
sidekickflats

I'm one of the ones that have non refundable plane tickets as well as hotel reservations for the Apple Blossum.  I got those  knowing full well the risk that one of the filles may not show.  I had seats to another "Race of the Ages" put together by Arlington Park in hopes of getting Sunday Silence and Easy Goer together at 4. Unfortunately, both retired prior to the race and I got to see Beau Genius win. Not quite the same.

Anyway, I would love to see Rachel but I am looking forward to Zenyatta going for 16 in a row.  And I've never been to Oaklawn before so next month is the time.  

No matter who's fault is what, in my opinion, the ball is now in Rachel's court to come and race Zenyatta.  The big Z was planning on going to the Beldame but Rachel went in the Woodword, The big Z raced in the Breeder's Cup and Rachel stayed home.  Zenyatta is going in the Apple Blossum and Rachel is staying home.  Nobody should say that Zenyatta is hiding from anything. Let Jess and his crew come and take on Zenyatta where ever she chooses to go.

And hat's off to Charles Cella for giving this thing a shot.  

18 Mar 2010 7:10 PM
Enough

Get off Jess Jackson.  This man has done more good for this industry than most give him credit.  Yes he litigated a digusting part of our industry and put it out there for all to learn a lesson.  A thief is a thief, no matter how all the good old boys have done it over the years.

Why di he agree to run her in the Apple????  Because the slimy media hacks wouldnt leave him alone.  He made the right decision by the filly and you guys need to take a break!

18 Mar 2010 7:14 PM
Ckmdvm

I suspect that jj painted himself into a corner with the apple blossom.  Remember all the comments about how two horses of the stature of zenyatta and ra should only be running for purses in the 7 figures?  Well Charles Cella made that happen.  Then there was the "gosh we'd love to if the race was only a week later" protestations and then the ab was changed to suit him (not both camps as has been suggested elsewhere) and there was likely no way out while saving face.  Once his horse lost that was it.  

The Mosses are indeed a class act and we should be so lucky to have folks like that in racing to balance out the ridiculousness of he jjs in the game.

18 Mar 2010 7:24 PM
RachelSatterfield

Springsmom...you totally lose your credibility by saying that Rachel lost interest when hit by the whip in the Ladies Classic...because...she wasn't in the Ladies Classic.  Come on now.  Clearly you don't actually watch much racing.

Rachel only got hit about 21 times in the stretch of the Woodward, not "over 40".  Do you work for PETA?  I'd bet so.  Don't worry, Rachel will be back to win again.  She just ran a super comeback race against a horse that had previous great form on dirt tracks (and horrible form on synthetics) with bad jockey direction, bad equipment changes, a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, and clearly not working as good as she had be before she was forced to not do jack for 4 months by her owner/trainer.  I'm sure emotionally she's confused and angry and physically she's out of shape.  She doesn't need to face a monster in Zenyatta in her next start...so she isn't.

18 Mar 2010 7:28 PM
Tracy

I feel like Zenyatta is loved and cared for and exudes that in her personality,Rachel seems more like a business decision,I just hope somebody tells Rachel that she is loved and losing in the grand scheme of things is in no way a gauge of her abilites nor accomplishments to this point.

18 Mar 2010 7:37 PM
MTBFan(still)

I too, was swept up by all the hype, but this has taught me a lot about horses and horse racing and how carefully they need to be trained. Moving on, I think Borel and Rachel's exercise riders are the ones who REALLY know the filly and should work with Asmussen for a great team. But I've read Dick Francis long enough to know what rider, jockey and sometimes even trainer opinions count for to owners. I won't repeat the redundancies about Jackson. What I think is that Rachel needs time to be a horse; put her out to graze for a few weeks with some light workouts and bring her back slowly to top form in time for early summer. Let them work as if 'retraining', see again how she likes to run and let her play a little. Then she'll be relaxed. The boredom and the sudden workouts after lack of fitness need to be reversed. ('end laptop training')

18 Mar 2010 7:45 PM
dr fager01

The synthetic polytrack debate is tired, and besides the older mare division in 09 was far superrior than what rachel beat in 09. You people with the polytrack comments makes no sence, we all know Zen is great, who says you cant scratch a horse if you think the surface can harm that animal, maybe if we had more owners and trainers who are looking at a horses best interest we might see the likes of a Zenyatta come around more often. A horse is not just a paycheck.

18 Mar 2010 7:57 PM
Mike Relva

RACHEL SATTERFIELD

Regarding your remark that Zenyatta's connections treated her like"a crystal vase",maybe that EXPLAINS WHY AT SIX SHE'S NOT COOKED like RA probably is. Did that ever occur to you?

18 Mar 2010 7:59 PM
Sammi P

Something I'd like to add as far as comments go is that Calvin said she was really tired after the race, and I've heard rumors (and remember this is a rumor) that RA wasn't in great shape and breathing heavey after the race. Now, Steve said she came out great and just blew. Am I the only one confused? After what has been said, I'd faster believe Calvin and the rumors. I have stoped believing by now anything really said about her and how she is doing (heck, they had been saying she was training great, she just wasn't as fit as they really wanted her, but on race day they said they were confident yet everything they said hinted they were worried)For me I hope she runs I again, I hope she races the real Queen of racing, and I hope that Queen Z will beat her, however I'm just waiting for RA team to say she is retired.

As for Zardana, I truely belive that it was her owners choice to run her in that race, not Johns, but just like Z, he did have her ready to run when she needed to.

18 Mar 2010 7:59 PM
Linda

Perhaps Mr. Shirreffs had a hunch this was his only chance to run against Rachel.

18 Mar 2010 8:14 PM
Matthew W

Steve I thought it was a terrific prep for Rachel--add to that Zenyatta having prepped at 1 1/8, and I thought Rachel would've had a big chance to win the Apple Blossom....I think Jess's ego got too involved, I mean, race her allready! Maybe he thinks he'll get Zenyatta later on in the year--methinks he won't! As for Big Z, I hope they run her in the Vanity at Hol, for her final West Coast race--then go out to Saratoga, then Belmont, finally Churchill Downs, for a repeat in the Classic! Enjoy her, I saw it two years ago at Del Mar, a track she doesn't care for, and she inhaled them in a matter of a few (very few) strides--"Po-et-ry in mo-tion"..."un-be-lie-va-ble"!

18 Mar 2010 8:16 PM
Paula Higgins

Hmmm... I think people are being very hard on Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen with unnecessary speculation. To hear you people tell it Jackson is a combination of Machiavelli and Elmer Fudd. Trying to work the game/horse and making a mess of it. I don't buy that at all. I think Jackson's biggest concern is the welfare of his horse, for a variety of reasons. Some of them altruistic and some of them monetary. Ditto Steve Asmussen. I also think they did not want to see her lose to Zenyatta. They were pressured to run her against Zenyatta and we all know that. Was it their decision to agree to the Apple Blossom? Yes and they tried to step up to the plate by sending her but realized it was a no go when she didn't run up to speed in New Orleans. I think their view is that even though it was a prep race, and she didn't run badly, she was never going to beat Zenyatta in this form. They are trying to maintain her reputation and I understand that completely. Frankly, I would not want her to run against Zenyatta in less than great shape. What kind of hollow victory would that be for all of us Zenyatta fans? It took guts for them to back out because you can be sure they knew they would see blogs like this and comments depicting them as clueless, inconsistent, control freaks..... The list is endless. Unlike some of you, I am unwilling to attribute the worst possible motives to people without significant proof. I am not Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm either. I wasn't born yesterday. But there has not been one thing said on this blog that makes me think they have anything other than the welfare of their horse in mind. The minute she came out of the Woodward and it was clear she was played out, they gave her a mini-retirement. Until then, she was running well and tolerating the schedule well. I don't think for one minute Steve Asmussen and Jess Jackson wanted to run her into the ground. I think we need to be grateful they are still trying to get her back into form without pushing her and that they haven't retired her.

You know the bottom line is that they treat their horse well, she  has a significant place in racing history, and she hasn't been retired (yet). Personally, I would like to thank them for that, not berate them for imagined mistakes and cancelling a race because it was in her best interest.

18 Mar 2010 8:19 PM
Midway Sue

Tracy since you don't know Jackson or Rachels' crew don't assume she is a "business" decision and treated as such. She is loved every bit as much as Zenyatta. Her "security" is a lovely girl who adores the animals she cares for. And Paula, for your information Jacksons' need for security is not unfounded. If your not a member of the "pretty pony club" you'd know about the sponging at Churchill and other positive drug tests on horses that everyone at the track knows the trainer was not guilty of. Please get your hands dirty in this business before you second guess someone. Lots of tracks are wide open for anyone to drop something in a feed bucket. If I owned a horse like Rachel I'd do the same thing. The one I have now is no Derby horse but I keep on top of everything just like he is. Your a fool if you don't.  

18 Mar 2010 8:36 PM
Suz

As a person that is partial to Zenyatta... it pains me to see a horse like RA being put through so many changes in order to run against a horse that has such different running style.  It seems that the connections have lost sight of what makes her so special and are trying to stratigize a way to turn the tables.  To keep this horse happy IMO the trainers should take into consideration that as trainers...you are to cultivate what the horse does best and not change them for a particular race or opponent. I, personally was excited to see this race because of the differences in the two girls. As we know...anything can happen and it usually does...that is what makes this sport so wonderful.  If horses only went in races that they were sure to win...hmmm...would anyone be interested???  If the connections are so intent on "listening to Rachel" then why didn't they let Calvin do what she was comfortable with??? I'm sure if she could talk as they say she can...I'll bet she would have said "Hey Calvin...just let me go to the front...then I will settle...I promise"  Soooo they didn't listen to her obvious pleas to make her move...look where it got them.  Maybe that is why the said they will listen to her now...she is obviously as smart as she is talented!! I hope theycan get past these tremendous egos and figure out how to make her as happy as Zenyatta.  Her connections have created an environment that she has flourished in and her pre race warm-ups are her way of saying thank you!!! It makes me proud to be in this buisness when I see a success like her...she knows her job and enjoys doing it...YOU GO GIRL!!!

18 Mar 2010 8:36 PM
Assault

Steve Haskin,

It appears as if Zenyatta might surpass the legendary "Eclipse".

All-Time Undefeated Thoroughbreds:

en.wikipedia.org/.../List_of_undefeated_Thoroughbred_racehorses

When all is said and done, they are going to have to rename the "Eclipse" award to the "Zenyatta" award once Zenyatta surpasses 18 wins.

18 Mar 2010 8:50 PM
90Proof

Steve:

Great article!  A few things I don't understand, I do not get the figure 8 bridle change. SHe never ran in it before, this was at worst one of the 3 or 4 best horses in training in the world. To run her in that bridle was a huge gamble. Then her body language Rachel like most horses especially Zenyatta have a distinct body language. Rachel didn't look interested in a whole lot before the race, and for the record it can be argued of all the races she won during her win streak the worst was her previous at Fair Grounds. If she was 80% like SA said she was and received a 100 BSF shen at a 100% percent in the AB she would  run around a 110 to 120 which makes her on the level with any horse in traing anywhere in the last 20 years. I suspect Rachel's issues are more mental that anything and I suspect Zardana if kept on dirt will be a real factor in the distaff division all year. Have you look at her PP's on real dirt she's a nice horse whom is undefeated on dirt. I think JJ needs to quit medaling and let SA and crew call the shots.

18 Mar 2010 8:57 PM
Michelle

EL -

Zenyatta won the Apple Blossom in 2008 (she blew the doors off Ginger Punch - you know the Breeder's Cup Winner).  So she was not "protected" that day.  Also, she was taken to Churchill Downs to race last year but scratched due to a sealed race track.  I heard Jeff Seigel on HRTV, who is also a owner of race horses, say that he did not blame them for scratching Zenyatta because a sealed racetrack is "TREACHEROUS" and that he doesn't like racing any of his horses on sealed tracks.  Steve Asmussen and Jess Jackson believe they are "protecting" Rachel by not racing on synthetic.      

18 Mar 2010 8:59 PM
Diane

I was wondering before her last race if there was a problem with Rachel. I wondered if the change in owner/trainer after her campaign started, has not affected her.  After all, I give alot of credit to her original trainer whose name I have forgotten.  He started her. Now she has had a long layoff and is starting again with people who did not start her last year. Just a thought.  There are similarities in the RA and Curlin pattern here.  

18 Mar 2010 9:17 PM
Karen2

Suz....great post. I agree 100%..I was always a little sickened over the thought of these two meeting. They do have such different running styles. How do you change a free runner? That seems to me like asking a sprinter and a cross country runner to meet up in the middle and run a race. Anything can happen. My guess is they thought they could change her. Thought maybe they would start her back off her lay off and ask her to do things different. Change equipment...work her with a workmate...make her rate...hold her back. It's not her style. Calvin knows it and so does she. Maybe they will get through to the ones making all the decisions. I saw an article on a blog called "reconstructing Rachel" and I thought it was a very fitting headline.

Jess wants to be in the spotlight. Of course I don't know him so this is pure speculation..but when I see him, even in pictures..his ego practically jumps off the page. I'm fairly certain he doesn't feel even remotely obligated to Rachel's fans in the least. Ego's and horses don't really mix. Hopefully he will learn how to communicate with his trainer so we can get the Rachel we all know and love back. Who cares if she ever races Zen. She has nothing left to prove and neither does Zen.

18 Mar 2010 9:27 PM
Rachel O

OK, so I'll change my name, Steve, so you won't have to complain about that. There seem to be a lot of Rachel's around.

Steve, you seem fickle. Jackson has made himself a pretty big target here, and the comments have been coming in strong against his shortcomings. You prompted the comments. Now you seem to be making excuses for JJ.

It's time that someone does something for racing. It sure needs it. But I don't think Jackson has done much more than pander to his own ego and control mania.

I love the two horses involved here and feel sorry that the human connections, especially Rachel's,  have brought so much criticism upon themselves. That does nothing for great horses like Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. they are the ones that have done great things for racing.

18 Mar 2010 9:28 PM
Forbidden Apple

Steve,

Is there any chance that Jess Jackson will bump his head again and change his mind? Is the showdown between Rachel and the Zenyatta train still a slight possibility?

I believe the $5 million had something to do with him saying yes in the first place. And now I think that Mr. Jackson's little ego is a bit hurt. He is embarrassed at the loss and is covering all bases to prevent two losses in a row.

The sad part for me is that Rachel skipped the 2009 Breeders Cup and Zenyatta was left with running down a 4 time Grade I winner in Gio Ponti. People act as if Zenyatta's victory was lucky, she beat Gio Ponti who was the Champion older male and Champion turf horse in 2009. Gio Ponti would blast any of Rachel's competition from 2009. My point is that this showdown will never happen. The 2009 Breeders Cup was the only chance to see these two females in a prize fight. And team Rachel ducked out because of a self proclaimed plastic surface.

Please racing gods, do not let Mr. Jackson purchase Eskendereya.

Next stop for the Zenyata train is AR!

18 Mar 2010 9:33 PM
melissa

 why can't we have two queens? one of dirt and one of polytrack. do you really want to see another Ruffian race to shatter our hearts.  match races don't always turn out like we hope, i would hate to see either one of them get hurt or put down. maybe rachel isn't in her top form and maybe she won't ever be but she is still my QUEEN !!!!

18 Mar 2010 9:37 PM
Paula

Sue...I do know about sponging and people mishandling horses, and it shouldn't be happening in top tier barns at top tier tracks but even Godolphin had a horse mishandled and sponged at Gulfstream.  For ANY barn.... Hire better night watch crews and don't let the hired hands sit around and drink all night. (Walk through Keeneland and look in the trash cans near the barns some morning.) Unfortunately, I guess in this case with RA, the "hired security" has to be there at the barn... no one should have to have extra security on a secure complex with track security, though. Maybe pay grooms & night watch staff more so their loyalty is to the trainer and not a case of beer.

On the main topic....Had Rachel Alexandra won at Fairgrounds with the same 100 Beyer, would we really be questioning her fitness level?

Finally, no one here should take Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta criticism so darn seriously unless you work for one of the camps.

18 Mar 2010 9:50 PM
Freetex

Thank you Steve, for making so much sense out of the whole mess.  Yes, I'm sure a lot of racing fans who put up the money to attend the Apple Blossom are fuming because of the way Jess Jackson handled it all.  

Who knows what will happen next for Rachel, or for that matter, anyone connected to her.

18 Mar 2010 10:00 PM
Paula Higgins

Midway Sue, I agree with you completely. Having security for a top race horse is not out of the norm at all. How is that a neagtive anyway? I mean, geesh. I also agree that she is loved very much by her trainer, owner and all the people around her. Just because some of you think Jess Jackson is a cipher and he doesn't share his nearest and dearest thoughts with you, does not mean he doesn't care a great deal about his horse. Some people share their thoughts and feelings freely, and some don't. It doesn't make them bad people. He was perfectly gracious and warm at the ECLIPSE AWARDS and that should be acknowledged.

Ann and Jerry Moss are easy to love, as is John Shirreffs. They are just the epitome of what it means to be a true sportsman/woman. I totally agree with that sentiment. They are really fine people. But I am a Zenyatta girl with a deep appreciation also for Rachel and think her connections deserve respect as well.

18 Mar 2010 10:27 PM
txhorsefan

Wonderful editorial, Steve, and I think you are hitting the mark on all points, and saying it so well.  I love the phrases Zenyatta zealots and Rachel Alexandra radicals, but perhaps that could be because I'm one of those independents who loves them both.  Thank you once again for writing a great article and allowing us to share our comments.

18 Mar 2010 10:35 PM
90Proof

Steve:

I want to know your honest opinion, based on Zenyattas career to this point and thats is all of her wins but one being on synthetics in one state. Where would you rank her if she were retired. I personally am skeptical of her 08 AppleBlossom and am very excited about seeing her run on dirt multiple times this year. I absolutely don't think she'd be undefeated with that style on dirt for her first 15 starts. Do you? Admit that there is at least a slight possibility she is a synthetic specialist?  I mean her 08 Apple blossom she blew by Ginger Punch but nobody mentions so did Brownie Points. Admit I could be right! Though I admit I could be wrong!

18 Mar 2010 10:50 PM
beauvoir

So many posts about how "happy' Z is compared to Rachel. Rachel never had that spirit or fiesty behavior like Z...they are just 2 different personalities.

It's called genetics...personally, I think if Z went with another trainer she would be the same and vice versa for Rachel. I do agree that they need to just let Rachel be a horse. Some animals feel the pressure of being "the great horse" and start acting up. Just treat her like everyone else in the barn and maybe she'll settle.

I know from experience it happens in show dogs when treated a little too special!

Also, Rachel had a bad day at Saratoga (Woodward) from early on in the day long before she got in the gate and I don't just mean flipping Calvin off in the post parade. Knowing that, it was no surprise that race did her in so much.

Even "Z" reacted big time going in the gate at the BC which wasn't typical for her, but she managed to over come it. MTB was practically on valium in the post parade Derby day, but by the the Belmont he was alot more difficult to handle. I believe the same happened to Funny Cide. These "big dances" get to these horses and Rachel had alot of them for a 3yr old filly.

18 Mar 2010 11:00 PM
John T

There is no question the major race for Rachel Alexandra this year

is the Breeders Cup Classic so therfore everything else concerning

the horse is centered around that.

After she lost her first race the

Apple Blossom is out of the question because of the way Zenyatta won her race. Win or lose

think how much it would take out of Rachel this early in the year.

So now it is time for Rachel to re-group,at this time of year we have no idea what the 3 year olds are going to be like come Breeders Cup time,for all we know we could be talking about another superstar

like Sea The Stars and perhaps this time he would be trained in the U.S.A which means he would be pointed to the Breeders Cup Classic.So the best things for the

connections of Rachel is [1]find a race at 10 Furlongs [2] have it at

Churchill Downs against males,and nothing looks more appealing for her than the Stephen Foster in June.As for Zenyatta,never in my lifetime did I think I would see another female horse to match Ruffian,but after watching her in

the last two races she ran she sure

has done a lot to convince me.Good

luck to her in her next race to tie

the likes of Citation and Cigar.

18 Mar 2010 11:03 PM
Rita

I am glad that Zenyatta's people treated her like a crystal vase but I would think more gold than crystal because I know that she is worth more than her weight in gold to them and they didn't care what people thought about her racing schedule.It does not matter if she were to lose all her next races I don't think she will but she'll still be one of the greatest race mares of this century and so beautiful with a big personality.Bet you can see I love this horse.

18 Mar 2010 11:06 PM
Jodie

Jackson paid big bucks for a horse and than campaigned her hard for HOY.  He now has his HOY but no horse. Rachel got revenge.

18 Mar 2010 11:38 PM
SusanW

Jim, no Jess Jackson doesn't remind me of Al Davis, with all his talk about Rachel talking, I've started thinking of him as "Wilbur", of course, of course. How much more anthropomorphizing of Rachel, which is getting downright silly, can we get?

Why does everyone keep saying she is so beat from LAST YEAR, much in the same way Rags to Riches was "ruined for racing" by the Belmont? Why doesn't anyone say Mine that Bird was ruined by the Derby, since he hasn't done a thing since....

I don't even think the Mosses want to play his on again, off again games anymore. I think they will go for 20, passing Pepper's Pride and retire Z.

18 Mar 2010 11:39 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Steve,

As always, thank you for your thoughts.  I really thought highly of Jess Jackson last year because he took so many gambles by taking this filly on one heck of an adventure.  I personally thanked him the day after the Woodward.

I really don't know what on earth is going on this year between her connections, but one of your comments nailed exactly what I have been saying from the minute I heard the announcement of the April 9th race.  

That is, why in the world would they (or he) agree to April 9th after saying 'no' to April 3rd?!? As if 6 days would make any difference whatsoever.

Asmussen said earlier this year before the matchup was decided that it would be at least April before she even started.  With the April 9th date for the AB, they were forced into a tight training schedule and a March prep race for a matchup with Zenyatta, who benefitted from a late-starting campaign last year and the fact that she's been kept in training since the BC.

Of course, Rachel didn't run a horrible race this past weekend, and I don't think she has a "horrible" race in her, but that was not my dear Rachel last Saturday.  They should make sure she's fine and let her tell them when she's ready to start again.  

What a frustrating state of affairs!

Best,

Fahad

18 Mar 2010 11:48 PM
Fahad Malaikah

By the way, if there is anyone who is now cancelling their plans to go to Oaklawn for the AB and would like to sell (or better yet, give away) their tickets, please let me know through this forum and we can go from there.  I would still like to see Zenyatta in person.

Best,

Fahad

18 Mar 2010 11:52 PM
Golden Gate

Diana it was Hal Wiggins who trained Rachel Alexandra before Asmussen here is a link so you know about how wonderful a trainer he was. He just retired.

www.bloodhorse.com/.../trainer-wiggins-joins-legacy-bloodstock

Sidekickflats I'm glad you and the other fans are still coming to Oaklawn. The Apple Blossom is a very special race...it is where i first saw the mighty Zenyatta...before seeing her Ginger Punch was my number 1

18 Mar 2010 11:54 PM
Caitlyn

I will admit to having a preference of Rachel over Zenyatta, and I will admit that's got a great deal to do with the fact that a) I've been waiting years for a filly to win a triple crown race-- when Rags to Riches won the Belmont I was in NYC and couldn't watch the race. b) I've been watching Rachel since her 3yo debut went up on the Kentucky Oaks 09 website. I'd already waited four races to see her run against boys by the time she finally won the Preakness. I'm partial to her because I've been on her team a long time. But I see and acknowledge how marvelous Zenyatta is as well. It's harder to cheer for her because her fans, in my experience, can be downright obnoxious. It's silly, I know, to let that bother me, but it's kind of like when you can't bring yourself to like a good team because the fans are so obnoxious and disrespectful. But I do admire and cheer for Zenyatta. She's spectacular. Anyway that's all I have to say on that.

Steve, I like that you tend to keep your head and look at things so objectively rather than judging anyone. It's so refreshing and I thank you for posting this.

Furthermore, I am 100% completely, utterly, and entirely tired of speculating. I've stopped caring if Rachel Alexandra ever races Zenyatta. And it's not because I think either will lose. It's because neither victory will shut up the other side. I'm just sick of hearing judgment and guesswork. I want to know when Rachel will work again. I want to know what Steve Asmussen is doing to get her back into the shape she's supposed to be in. I want to know if not the Apple Blossom, where is she headed now. I'm tired of the heat being thrown at Jess Jackson.I'm done trying to point fingers and analyze what's been happening over the past couple months. Because honestly what good is it? It

is not getting anyone anywhere. I'm tired of being stagnant on this. I want to know when Rachel works again and this time I want them to get it right.

18 Mar 2010 11:55 PM
Forbidden Apple

Paula,

I agree with what you are saying, but I know for a fact that on track security here in NY is nothing to count on. They pay security very low wages and they are not of high quality. Rachel gets the same 24 hour security that Curlin had. I would bet that the private security for her makes more $ than the grooms do. And as far as night watchman go, some trainers are to cheap to pay for one. So yes, the employees pound beer all night long and then go to work in the morning somehow. To go even further, grooms and hotwalkers do not get paid well. A lot of them can not speak english and do not know their rights. You hit a few sore topics for me in the horse racing game. How could any trainer feel good about paying some workers $5 per hour?

19 Mar 2010 12:17 AM
RS

Maybe the reason Jackson agreed to run Rachel in the Apple Blossom was because he thought Zenyatta might not be as good this year as she's been the past 2 years, but after her win last week he knows she is and doesn't think Rachel will be able to beat her. He might've thought the Breeders Cup classic win took a lot out of her, but it didn't and she's as good as ever.

19 Mar 2010 12:23 AM
Kat

There were many comments made about Charles Cella holding his breath last Saturday and what the consequences might be if one of the horses lost.  It came to pass.  Perhaps the reality is that although the original idea was good ($5 million on the 3rd if both horses showed), changing the date was not a good idea at all.  If Cella had refused to do that (JJ said he nothing to do with that, does that mean SA?), there would be a lot less issues with the "general public".  I do agree that it would be good if JJ made an apology for how things have turned out relative to Rachel and acknowledge that people are disappointed.  But others bear some responsibility in this "mess" also.  Regardless of where the date change came from, Oaklawn agreed to it and they are the "sponsors". The risk was acknowledged even before the weekend.  It might be better if people started looking for a way to make some lemonade in this situation given all the doom and gloom about racing these days.

19 Mar 2010 1:00 AM
tvnewsbadge

Folks are making too much of this.

Jackson lost focus because visions of a nice chunk of 5 million clouded his eyes and the modern racing fans who want instant gratification regardless of the cost to the horse played to his considerable ego.

And he's absolutely right.

Zenyatta's connections will NOT give him a re-match if she loses, so he'd be a fool to run Rachel when she's not 100 percent.

19 Mar 2010 1:13 AM
Aluminaut

Trivia:

Zenyatta and Kinscem both trace back to Family 4 (tail female).

19 Mar 2010 1:38 AM
Aluminaut

Enough,

Strange for me to be saying this; but I agree with your statement.

Also, in this case there's no 20/20 hindsight.  Horse racing is horse racing.  It's always interesting, and often unexpected.

19 Mar 2010 1:42 AM
secretariat7273

This debate seemingly will continue for some time, but in my opinion it's pretty clear. Rachel Alexandra was most deserving of her HOY award. Her owners were adventurous, bold and daring and whatever they asked of her, she achieved in perhaps what may be the finest career of any three year old filly ever. However, I have otherwise always had an inkling that if they faced each other in a cleanly run race, Zenyatta would prove to be best. Time will tell, but I'm starting to have my doubts that they will actually ever meet. In any event, as much as I was for Rachel to win HOY last year, I am now hoping for Zenyatta to the same this year. They are are both too great to have one of them overlooked as the best.

19 Mar 2010 1:53 AM
DinkyDiva

Wow, such strong blogs here!  Thank you Steve for the article.  You made it right to the point and very clear!

Now about the topic of Rach's Security guard.  I've had a few of my horses stolen from my family ranch when I was a kid.  Out of 4 we located 1 three years later.  Thanks to the Pinto Horse assoc. and the Thoroughbred assoc...  Along with a very nice Sheriff! Since, she was double registered and later found out that she had actually won a few races in her day.  I've had a show horse's grain messed with etc.....

They were not horses worth millions of dollars and when we went to out of State shows, we had to always have someone near their stalls to keep an eye out and to mix their grian right there at feeding time.  So, yes, people love to savatage other's happiness and so, yes it is a GREAT idea that they have security just for Rach!!  Remember, Phar Lap and what happened to him: Tragic!

Forbidden Apple:

I have been thinking the same thing since I heard the news Sunday about Rach not going to AP.  JJ is so wishy/washy, can this be a decoy or something?  Will he change his mind?  I bet that we'll know something in the next couple of weeks.  What do you think?

19 Mar 2010 2:20 AM
Susan

Steve - Your Shakespearian drama did a good job of capturing the ridiculousness that some people have been expressing. Very entertaining! I wanted Rachel to win, but her short loss wasn't surprising given the fact she'd been off 6 months and her work times leading up to the race.

19 Mar 2010 6:02 AM
el

Steve-evidently you missed my comment that, bottom line, it was Jackson's fault if Rachel was run before she was ready.  I think it was a very poor decision to allow her to race if she wasn't ready. After all, he signs all the checks, including the one to the insurance company that pays out if something happens to the filly.

Greensward-obviously you're not a horse person.  ANY horse can run in the rain.  MY horse--15 yrs old and 9 months pregnant--can run in the rain!  There is a huge difference in running a horse who is so physically fatigued that she could break down and running a totally fit horse on a sloppy track.  You need to remember that Z ran only 5 races, not all of them tough challenges, to R's 8.  According to Larry Bramledge, DVM, they did the right thing by keeping her out of the breeder's cup.

Michelle-if sealed tracks were so "TREACHEROUS," no horse owner in his right mind would allow his horse to run over them.  Horses run over sealed race tracks all the time. It would be heartless and cruel, not to mention an incredible waste of money, to set your own horse up for disaster.

19 Mar 2010 8:00 AM
Jefrus

I, too, am an "independent" who loves both Zenyatta and Rachel. My immediate impression of Rachel's race was that Calvin didn't persist with her in the final eighth in order to save her for the Apple Blossom. I was therefore surprised to hear Gary Stevens' comments on HRTV that he thought Calvin really put her to the test. Well, this is nothing like the way Calvin persisted with her in beating Macho Again and the others in the Woodward. And others have made a good point that Secretariat's loss in the Wood did not keep him out of the Derby (thank God). Rachel's campaign can't help but be compared at least slightly unfavorably to a perfect career 15-0 but, oddly enough, after being on the fence about HOY last fall, I feel more clarity now in that I think the voters were right in making Rachel HOY. Her campaign was far tougher than Zenyatta's, beating males 3 times vs. once, and at only age 3. I just hope that Rachel is in as good shape as Asmussen said she was. And I don't see any reason why a meeting had to be pushed for so early in the year. Racing is looking to these two as saviors; the problem is, saviors can get nailed to a cross.

19 Mar 2010 8:12 AM
Mike Relva

PAULA HIGGINS

You "nailed" it regarding Zenyatta's connections. Too bad some that must live miserable lives have nothing better to do than to slam them and their horse!

19 Mar 2010 8:14 AM
Breezin'

As a horse owner, I would never bash a trainer or owner for scratching a horse when the track is sloppy.  Wet tracks are slippery and create much more pull on the tendons and suspensory ligaments.  Remember George Washington braking down in the mud at Monmouth?  One bad slip and you have a tragic ending.  Everyone wants to keep their horse around for another day!  If Z's connections didn't want to run her in the mud, good for them.  I would rather see a decision made for a horse's well being, not purse money.

19 Mar 2010 8:20 AM
Fran Loszynski

I have to disagree with you Steve about Jess Jackson's contact with Rachel- I hate to disagree with you because you are usually right but here goes-  To some,an owner may not train or evaluate workouts and races but I think they do-I've seen owners get up in the morning, call their trainers before a cup of coffee and more-Jess Jackson is a quite man but his pat on the nose for Rachel is an acknowledgment "She is the Best" Those saucer eyes captured the hearts of many and I'm sure his heart also- she had a bad day with that new bridle pinning down on her ears. I know I can't wear earmuffs in the winter! Racehorses are sensitive kings and queens of the racetrack- they can feel a small pebble inside their shoe--their ears are like windmills that need to circulate the air around them for balance-don't worry Jess Jackson follows every little thing about Rachel. I applaud him for not running her in the Apple Blossom; maybe "Eight Belles" is running through his mind and since he is of the old school- "Ruffian" (I know people are getting sick of hearing about Ruffian's mishap but it's there and a safeguard for us.) But I'm sure he would never let us know that he cares so much because he is a businessman afterall and why should he. He calls the shots. Thank you Jess Jackson for loving Rachel A.

19 Mar 2010 9:10 AM
Citation

Mike Relva, you appear to be saying that treating a horse like a glass vase is the best way to keep them sound at age six. By the standards of historical runners and even modern-day claimers, eight races is by no means a campaign that should cook any normal horse. Carry Back ran twenty-one times as a two-year-old, and it didn't ruin him, because he came back the next year to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. As for the age six thing, John Henry was extensively campaigned, and he had one of his best years at six. Forego and Kelso also won Horse of the Year at six, despite having had long campaigns in the years before. I don't mean to insult you or anything, and I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your post, it just irks me to see people saying that treating horses "like a glass vase" is the best course of action. Claimers and Australian horses can put up with short breaks between races and long seasons, so I don't see why high profile American horses can't do the same.

19 Mar 2010 9:26 AM
Serena

I'll be the first to say that I'm no expert in any of this; just a fan.  I think Steve's column is terrific as usual and one thing stuck out to me that I'm a firm believer in: Rachel had six months off and didn't begin training again til the last month leading up to the N.O. race.  As evidenced by some of her recent photos, she put on some weight as part of her natural growing up process. Any athelete who ceases regular training and packs on some pounds is going to need alot more than three or four weeks of training to return to peak physical condition.  I also noted that she was not ridden in the usual style.   Whether you love or hate JJackson, he is the primary owner and is going to continue calling all the shots. And because he is a successful business man, he is a master at public speaking and, as some may say, double-speak.  I don't think he's the most likeable guy in the industry but he has (as Steve points out) made some positive contributions to the business of racing.   I am not that crazy about Asmussen and wouldn't be surprised if he is replaced as Rachel's trainer.  He was presented with a rare gift with an unbelievable talent when he got Rachel.  It's quite possible any bona fide trainer would have had the same success with her.  It's not like he inherited a maiden with issues and turned her into a superstar.

I'm disappointed that Rachel didn't win but I think she made a great effort in defeat and clearly not being at her best.   Zenyatta, on the other hand, never really "retired" and remained in training up until her race. There is no surprise that she was able to win. She is magnificent and proved it again.    I love both these mares and utterly despise the whole "who's better than who" debate.  The mudslinging and negativity really bother me but I'm afraid that it's just this kind of malarkey that is the hoped-for result in these blogs.

I also feel that if Jess Jackson was a warm and cuddly guy who is more approachable and reaches out to the fans and employed a genial and 'nice guy' trainer, he would be far better regarded.  I think it's HIM that the Rachel naysayers are more bothered by!

Personally, I'd love to see Rachel in someone else's barn.  

19 Mar 2010 9:57 AM
Footlick

Breezin'- thanks for saying that.  I've tried to get that point across with no success.

19 Mar 2010 10:00 AM
wondering

Is there any truth to the rumor that Rachel spent most of the fall at Rood & Riddle? Or is that old news?

19 Mar 2010 10:17 AM
suz

Well as I read the comments...it seems that the same safety issues are viewed very differently depending on who is commenting on which horse.  When Z was scratched from a RACE due to a sloppy track it was considered an "excuse"...so why is team RA using an off track as a "reason" for not training RA???  I hope that when Z wins the AB...RA fans can give her the credit she so obviosly deserves without tainting it by saying "well if RA would have been there..." That is a mute point...you have to get to the race to be a contender.  It would be like saying "If Ruffian would have been there..."  If if was a skiff...and all that stuff.  The bottom line is Z is ready...RA is not...plain and simple. As i wish that I could have witnessed 2 totally different running styles and how that would have played out...it would not have mattered WHO won...because who didn't win would have lost nothing in my eyes!!!  Well with or withoout RA...I am certain Z will show us on dirt this year...that synthetic was absolutely NOT an issue either.  YOU GO GIRL!!!

19 Mar 2010 10:21 AM
vikingblood22

Fahad, you will easily get tickets now to the AB as, believe it or not Z fans, there are a lot of people who are no longer interested in going . . . just to see Z?  Not!

19 Mar 2010 10:42 AM
Nancy

Steve,

Thanks for your article and the comments on 'And Their Off'.  As always well balanced.

I'm one of the independents who love both fillies!  I think all the humans in Rachel's life failed her before the race and during the race.

If she had to be restrained with all the hardware described above, had to fight Calvin during the race and looked unhappy after the race something is clearly amiss.  We can speculate all we want as to what went wrong and none of it could be spot on right.  We all just have to have patience and see how she responds going forward.  It could be she needed to have works during her layoff to keep her mentally fit.  Maybe she suffered 'burnout' with her three yr. old campaign?  Maybe she wants to be a Mom?  It could be she had some minor physical issue that was undetected, or something not considered as vital to her performance by whoever was privileged to notice a discomfort and failed to report it to the trainer, as was the case with Secretariat which led to his losses.  We will really never know at this point in time what the issues were - until some writer in the future has access to those unknowable facts.  

Personally, I don't like match races.  So what if Zenyatta and Rachel never meet!  Remember Ruffian!  Remember Eight Belles!  I don't want to read similar news about Zenyatta or Rachel.  That's the bottom line for me.

19 Mar 2010 11:11 AM
Pam S.

Citation,

Some horses apparently respond well to heavy racing and training.  It would seem Rachel didn't.  Mike Relva's point, I think, is that if anybody out there is still belittling Zenyatta's connections for the decisions they made, they shouldn't be.

19 Mar 2010 11:15 AM
GailG

I like both horses.  But I feel they should not be paired against each other.  I am quite sure with her age and experiense Zenyatta will defeat Racheal Alexander.  Just look at the race Zanyatta just won.  It was the "older" horses that finished ahead of the "younger"ones.  Age makes a difference alright.  Like a fine wine, sound horses get better with age. And don't put down Zardana, she is a really good horse.  I've watched her run her races and I wouldn't fault her.  I thought Calvin was holding Rachael back so no one would be able to tell just how much running she actually has to make it more difficult to judge just how much fight she would give Zenyatta.  I also thought it was illegal not to allow a horse the opportunity to give a race his/her all.  The fact she was being held back was obvious, at least to me.

19 Mar 2010 11:24 AM
tvnewsbadge

Mr. Haskin said

El, regarding you comment: "I for one think he bowed to media and public pressure to run the gal last week, probably against his better judgement."

Who's fault is that? The public? The media? If there is anyone who is his own person it's Jess Jackson. Only he can tell you why he agreed to run in the Apple Blossom.

Yes, it IS the fault of the public and the media because they just couldn't wait for this race, they had to have their "instant gratification".

If the fans weren't yelling for this race and if he didn't have a good chance of walking away with a nice chunk of 5 mil, he wouldn't have done it.

19 Mar 2010 11:32 AM
runner

JJ being "new" to horse racing was out horsed by John S. sending in Z2. RA ran a good race with all other considerations, beating the field by 11 - 12 lengths. However, Z2 was primed for this event and would not be denied, her 110% beat RA's 80 - 90%.

JJ may have been trying to do "something" for horse racing, but, his moonwalking now, as in, he believed in the headlines before the race and not his horse, now after the race he's going to listen to her! Per Cool Hand Luke (RA) - "..what we have here is a failure to communicate (with your horse).."

And forget the money angle, Mr. Moss and Mr. Jackson do not race for money. This was one upmanship, as in, John Shirreffs #Z2 can beat your #1 HOY horse.

19 Mar 2010 11:50 AM
TSmith

Nice writing Steve as always. Thanks for being the voice of reason. I consider myself one of the 'independents' that can appreciate both Z and RA for the champions that they are. That said...I'm really tired of hearing Jackson talk. Prefer to hear from the professionals SA and her jockey Calvin.

From a local standpoint (Arkansan) we are all thrilled to get to see Z race in the AB. There is disappointment but so many here expected Jackson to bow out. However seeing Zenyatta run, no matter who she runs against, will be one of the most exciting events of my life.

Steve, any chance you still plan to come to the AB? I know the Oaklawn and the fans there would love to show you some southern hospitality!

19 Mar 2010 12:45 PM
Ghostzapper

There's only one "super" horse racing at the moment and it's not RA or Zenyatta. Try Quality Road. Put him on a dry track and he just likes to set track records.

19 Mar 2010 12:58 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Forbidden Apple,

You stated: “Gio Ponti would blast any of Rachel's competition from 2009.”

I guess it depends on what you mean by “blast,” but I think we have to be careful about making such broad statements.  We actually have an example that we can use to evaluate that statement, namely Summer Bird.  If I’m not mistaken, the only other example that we can use to definitively evaluate that statement is Mine that Bird, who I would argue was at his best in May 2009 and really was not a fan of the California synthetics at all.

If you remember, Rachel Alexandra handily defeated Summer Bird by 6 lengths in the Haskell.  Summer Bird, arguably a better dirt horse, did in fact run in the 2009 Breeder’s Cup Classic.  Gio Ponti, primarily a grass horse who arguably would not have run in the race were it not on a synthetic track, finished only 2 lengths or so in front of Summer Bird, who ran a game fourth.  My own gut tells me that even by that time, the 3yo Summer Bird was a little tired after the Haskell, Travers, and JCGC, and I really don’t know what his connections were thinking in regards to the Japan Cup, where unfortunately he was injured training for the race.

The above is not an argument about margins from different races, but I don’t think Gio Ponti blasted Summer Bird, one of two of Rachel’s 2009 competitors that he did actually face.

Respectfully,

Fahad    

19 Mar 2010 1:14 PM
Criminal Type

Great article Steve and very interesting posts. I had a really good chuckle over some of them. You gotta wonder about the thought precesses....This article echos a lot of the sentiments I've had about Jess Jackson and Steve Assmusen all along. Although I am partial to Zenyatta, no one can argue Rachel ALexandra is a great filly who has accomplished many things in her career. My problem with her all along has been her connections.(I've said this in previous posts) They have plotted her racing career to garner the most exposure (ditto Curlin) possible by racing her against colts in classic races.

I think it is extremely commical that Jess Jackson let's the horse tell him, and speaks for Rachel. I dont think he really has a clue what kind of work caring for her and training her really requires. I am sure he has never spent months or even days with her learning her personality and quirks. I doubt he knows how much she eats or even what she eats. and to think he knows her mind. Pish!

That being said, Mr Jackson sure got exposed on this issue. He should be contrite and deeply appologetic to those people who spent their hard earned dollars to make plans to see Rachel race Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom. Im sure their dollars are a lot less easier to come by then Mr Jackson's.

As far as the chains and halter go, I've seen many horses geared up similarly at the track and on TV. Curlin was also decked out in a similar manor, as were Big Brown and Quality Road. I believe I've even seen Zenyatta with the halter, bridle and yards of chain. I am sure there are a lot of highly bred, excitable horses that require such restraint just to keep them from hurting themselves by getting loose. I have an Arabian colt who I have to use chain on. Hopefully as his training progresses he will get easier to handle and I wont need it forever.

The figure eight is added for a measure of control and in some cases added on horses that are biters. I read recently about one horse that was required to wear it because the starter was tired of the animal biting his gate crew. I do not think Rachel is a biter, but if she has become one, there is a reason for it. My horse is a biter and he wears a figure eight.

Clearly Rachel was not happy on Saturday. I don't know if it's because she has something wrong physically or mentally or she just ourgrew her urge to run like the freakin wind, but she was not the Rachel of last year. It happens to a lot of successful horses. They just lose interest in racing.

All I can say is that I hope Rachel does bounce back from her lose and her connections and meets Zenyatta one day. People need to get over their phobia's about so called "match races". I think the vision of Ruffian is the first to come to mind when thaat term is used, when the fact is, match race or not, every time a horse steps into a pasture or onto a race track there is a chance they will be injured and even die. You cant blame the track, owners, fans, trainers, jockeys or the way the grass grows in the field. And if Rachel does not bounce back and we have seen her best, then we should all consider ourselves fortunite to have done so. She will go to the breeding shed and hopefully be blessed with exceptional offspring with a variety of good stallions, not just Curlin. As good as he may be, I don't think he is worthy of her.

19 Mar 2010 1:16 PM
Criminal Type

Dinky,

Phar Lap died of Arsenic poisoning, the source of which was a linament used on the horse. He was exhumed a while back and tests were done. Apparently the use of poisons/drugs in liniments were fairly common back in those days. His feed was not poisoned. Why, even coca cola had cocaine in it back then.  

I didn't mention the security in my previous post because I think if the owner believes the horse is valuable enough to have security who cares ?  I don't think there is any question that the horse is worth it. Things can happen in the barn area, remember a couple years ago Larry Jone's stable pony was found loose and had sores like burns around its mouth when found.

I agree the sad part of horse racing is the backside workers, they make peanuts and it IS sad, however, that does not justify the alcohol. That is not acceptable from an employee anywhere at anytime when they are supposed to be performing a job.

19 Mar 2010 1:40 PM
sidekickflats

Vikingblood22,

If you can't appreciate the quality of both of these fillies you are missing a treat.  I have had the pleasure of seeing some great fillies in my time - Personal Ensign def. Winning Colors, Go For Wand, Bayakoa and Paseana, etc and Zenyatta has moved to the top of my list. Yes, I was hoping to see both and yes, since it's spring break, it works out for me to go. I would have gone to see Rachel if Zenyatta wasn't there and I'm going to see Zenyatta.  If you can't appreciate what kind of amazing horse she is , perhaps you should switch to Nascar or something. It's your loss.  

19 Mar 2010 1:41 PM
Kate

@ tvnewsbadge:  It is JJ's fault for "caving" to public pressure.  He makes the final decision, the responsibility is his.  Certainly the media and the $$$ might have influenced his decision, but it is their place to try to encourage this meeting - it is JJ's place to turndown the meeting if his horse isn't ready.  He did that, but unfortunately, it was a bit late.  Hindsight's 20/20 and all that, but their foresight seemed pretty clear and accurate all winter, so I'm not sure why they opted to ignore that.  Media pressure is not an excuse.

Yes, the public is all about instant gratification, but if they could have had a race in, say,  June to anticipate, they would have been happy enough to wait and happy that RA would have a better shot to be 100%.

And for those calling this a "match" race, it's not.  It was going to be a nicely filled race with the same chance for breakdowns as any other race.  Ruffian breaking down was a horrible day for racing, but that could have happened in any race.  And Eight Belles broke down in the Derby, not a match race.  Nobody wants to see a breakdown, but I don't think the odds of that happening really increase all that much by having these two ladies meet.

It frustrates me when people think you must be all for using up horses if you are in favor of seeing RA and Z meet.  That's just silly.  Of course the owner must do what's right by their horse, but beyond that, with horses like this, there are the fans to think about if you want the public to like you (which I think JJ does) - it's just the way it is.

I love both mares (with a very slight preference for Z) and want what's best for them.  It's likely JJ and SA made the right choice pulling RA from the Apple Blossom, but it hasn't been handled all that well.  JJ just isn't that likeable and talks too much for his own good.  If he'd talk less, we'd hear less double speak, and that's why people prefer Z's connections.  JJ has allowed racing fans to experience some great moments, and I respect him for that - but I wish he'd talk less or talk in a more forward fashion, haha.

Also, an RA fan said Z fans are the worst - I have to say that I think both sides are pretty equally terrible...  Zealots and radicals still have the same defining characteristics no matter the beliefs backing them.

19 Mar 2010 1:54 PM
Zookeeper

When I opened this blog, it had 117 comments on it. I did a lot of reading. I've often commented on this subject, so I won't repeat myself. One thing made me laugh so hard that I scared my cats: Jess Jackson, a mixture of Machiavelli & Elmer Fudd. Paula Higgins, I know you were talking about how some people think of Mr. Jackson, not how you see him but, as far as I'm concerned, it fits him EXACTLY!LOL!!!

19 Mar 2010 2:01 PM
Fran Loszynski

The next question is who will race against Zenyatta? I think she could handle two or three great fillies, not a match race.

I'd like to say Afleet of Angels but she hasn't raced enough and would be too soon. But look at Cuqui's Love race in Puerto Rico that she won   WOW!!! If she isn't an awesome fillie.

19 Mar 2010 2:13 PM
Mike Relva

CITATION

So,does it "irk" you when a horse's career sometimes is ruined when she/he is run too much and ends up "cooked"? My point is I feel RA last year had perhaps one race too much. This year,at the moment she isn't the same,maybe she will be down the road. Zenyatta's connections have managed her career to perfection. They don't place more on her to create a hardship now or later. If I were them,could care less what fans think foolishly about her being pampered,spoiled,etc. Bottom line is they do what's best for her. It's a clear example why at six she's still at the top of her game.

19 Mar 2010 3:04 PM
WWSTP

You really don't have to dissect what Jackson says or Asmussen says, or even review the times of RA's prep race.  Just look at RA, and yes..... hear what she is saying.  She was not fit, or ready, or happy!!  She doesn't need to look you in the face, or speak English, to see that.  That concern was coming out of the mouths, in English, of Jackson and Asmussen before the race, so it's not very complicated to figure it out without needing to insert endless boring bashing. They weren't listening to her...or for those who like it spelled out, they were trying to get to the big showdown KNOWING she wasn't fit enough yet to start her season.  It was a mistake, and thankfully not a disasterous one.

19 Mar 2010 3:31 PM
Ridan62

Great article by Mr. Haskin.  Lots of insightful comments by all.  My belief or hope is that Z wins the AB and she continues to conquer all comers on different surfaces, including turf to prove her greatness.  I also feel that RA will come back, when I'm not sure, and continue her legacy. I just don't feel that her connections will want to end on the last race's results.  If both remain healthy and successful they'll meet down the road.  It is their destiny.  Agree?

19 Mar 2010 3:34 PM
Commentator

Keeneland Cat...

I appreciate your admission that you are a Zenyatta zealot. I like both horses for their many accomplishments, but felt Rachel deserved Horse of the Year. Maybe she will not repeat, but last year she deserved the award. Zenyatta is a champion and would have been deserving of HOTY had Rachel not raced like she did. But she did.

Zenyatta race 5 times. 5 -- She was a five year old horse. Bigger than most of her competitors...and she raced only 5 times. She was outraced by a smaller, younger horse who raced 8 times, on six different tracks in seven different states in the slop and on a dry surface.

Please get over the fact that Zenyatta lost...

And both horses are what this sport needs whether they ever face each other...horse racing cannot have enough great champions...which is what both horses are.

Its 2010...not 2009...and right now Quality Road and Zenyatta are the two favorites for Horse of the Year. It will be an exciting year with all the quality older horses returning. Let's enjoy and not remain lost in the past.  ;-)

19 Mar 2010 3:54 PM
Zookeeper

Now that the purse is down to 500K, who do you think will run in the Apple Blossom? That's what I want to know.

To the posters who are still very happy to see Zenyatta live at Oaklawn, you are in for a treat whether she wins or not. Her presence is THAT imposing and doesn't come across as well on TV as it does in person. Notice that I didn't predict a win for her, but I surely will be cheering like a maniac if/when she gets there first for the 16th time in a row!

19 Mar 2010 4:16 PM
dbjr8

Jess Jackson made the right decision.  He should have gone with his gut to begin with.  Zenyatta has been to the track consistently since the Classic-she has maintained her fitness level.  Rachel was off for 6 months and then has been worked sparingly.  She is NOT ready to face the likes of Zenyatta.  I love both horses, And I for one don't want to see the race unless both are at their best.

19 Mar 2010 4:28 PM
Susan

Steve, Great article as usual; I always look forward to reading your thoughts.

My crystal ball tells me:

it's by,by Calvin.... you start criticising the connections and you know what happens... was Rachel short? or does she have some issues, mental or physical from leaving her guts on the track last year?... the crystal ball  says we should know the answer to this in a month or so, because Jess won't want to lose a breeding season  and they won't want to breed her later than early May.

Both situations will be sad and unfortunate for racing fans, but maybe now people will realize that all the " doing what's best for racing" that we've heard since the Curlin days was nothing but hot air.    

19 Mar 2010 4:38 PM
IDavis

I agree w/WWSTP above.  Asmussen told Borel to hold back til the 1/6th pole, yet Borel felt she needed to run her race but did as he was told.  Perhaps Steve could learn from Baffert and other trainers who let their experienced jockey do what he feels is best.  Rachel very well could have won, but still not be ready for a showdown Apr 9th.  It's obvious she needs more time, and rightly so.  She will be back when she's ready.  She was the best of all runners last year, toughest schedule, and prevailed!

19 Mar 2010 4:49 PM
kathleen

El- No horse should run on a surface that the trainer is uncomfortable with.  Z is a huge mare, and her safety is of the utmost concern to her connections.  The last thing we need to see is another Ruffian, or Go For Wand, or Eight Belles.

19 Mar 2010 5:11 PM
kyoaks09

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you so much for your article.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  Your sense of humor was a very nice break from what has been a very sad time for me since Rachel’s loss Saturday.

I agree that although Jackson continually states that Rachel will tell him when she’s ready to run, that he’s not listening.  If he’d been listening, then she never would’ve run Saturday and she never would’ve agreed to run in the Apple Blossom even though she would have gotten and extra 6 whole days to train (like that would’ve really made a difference)!!!  She may be talking but nobody around seems to be listening except possibly Calvin and unfortunately Calvin may pay the price for repeating what he’s heard.

As I’ve stated before, I was at four of Rachel’s races before she was bought by Jackson.  She appeared happy, focused, and cooperative.  At this point I unfortunately am seeing the opposite and I don’t like what I am seeing.  I can only hope that last year’s Rachel somehow returns but I have my doubts.  I fear that the brutal campaign for HOTY has taken it’s toll on her and I’m wondering if we’ll ever get her back.  Was the award worth the cost?

As far as the Apple Blossom goes, it’s just a shame that the date was ever changed in the first place.  MANY people made hotel reservations and secured tickets as soon as it was announced that Zenyatta would not retire.  They did this in hopes of what the Apple Blossom might bring.  When the date was changed, many of those same people were unable to secure hotel reservations or even get general admission tickets to the track for the day.  They were going to be left out in the cold for the race.  As it stands now, there was no benefit in changing the date.  I only wish that all of those originally holding tickets for the April 3rd date would get to attend if they so chose.  I, for one, will attend the Apple Blossom and will be pulling for Zenyatta.  I am an avid Rachel fan with a great appreciation for Zenyatta.  She and all of her connections are to be commended for a job well done.

One more thing – as a native of Dallas I see the relationship between Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen as being about the same as the relationship between Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips (not quite the same as it was YEARS ago before Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys).

19 Mar 2010 5:12 PM
Paula Higgins

Zookeeper, I am glad I made you laugh!!Mike Relva thanks for your comment too!!

19 Mar 2010 5:41 PM
Karen in Indiana

Zookeeper, she gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes just seeing her on TV. If she's more in person - Whoa!

There had been talk that Bambera would be in the AP, but I read that she may not now that the purse has gone back down. But it's still a pretty hefty prize so maybe they'll be there. Who else would be good? Too bad Vodka retired.

19 Mar 2010 5:47 PM
Barbara W

I was very doubtful from the beginning that the race between RA and Z would actually materialize, because I never believed JJ would actually have RA face Zenyatta. I'm actually glad because we were able to get tickets and now will be able to enjoy Zenyatta without the accompanying hype and stress involved had they both been there.

I'm in Zenyatta's camp all the way, but I feel sorry for RA and the way she has been (mis)handled.

19 Mar 2010 6:01 PM
kmb

I've read all the comments, and I just come away with sadness for RA, and joy for Zenyatta. How fortunate for Zenyatta that she was allowed to develop slowly, at a very deliberate pace.

RA seemed happy when she was trained by Hal Wiggins. He truly seemed to have her best interests at heart. I wish everyone didn't have a price, and DM had not sold RA to JJ. I hate that he owns her!

RA also seemed happy with Borel, at least until he whipped her relentlessly. Borel said whipping her didn't make her run faster..well, why did you hit her so damn much than Borel?!?!

I agree with so many of the comments. JJ has to be in complete control it seems. SA darts his eyes  back and forth during interviews about RA, so he seems to be hiding something. Borel and SA seem scared to say the "wrong" thing, or face the might sword of JJ. I don't think we are being told everything about RA's health.

I'll always remember what Hal Wiggins said about RA before the Preakness. He said she needed plenty of rest between races, and he said he didn't know if he could watch the race because he didn't know if RA would win, but he said she would kill herself trying, because that's just the kind of horse she is.

Maybe she didn't kill herself literally, but the Rachel Hal Wiggins trained to perfection, may be a memory.  Hal Wiggins made RA into the happy superstar she was, SA & JJ just needed to maintain her, and they decided to crush her instead.

Go Zenyatta....Win the AB!!!!Love you as much as I love RA.

19 Mar 2010 6:03 PM
Zookeeper

Karen in Indiana,

When you get close to her, as I have done several times, she is unbelievable. The dancing and prancing are cute but it is her incredible presence that gets me. When she stops and stands at attention, head held upright, ear pricked and surveys her domain, I find myself holding my breath in absolute awe.

Having come late into the sport, I often regretted not having seen the GREAT horses of years past. Now, I don't have to regret anything. I have seen and felt GREATNESS and her name is Zenyatta.

19 Mar 2010 6:30 PM
kathleen

kyoaks09, I agree with you.  I was upset when JJ purchased RA, to me the handwriting was on the wall.  He would get another HOY at RA's expense.  I knew after the Woodward that she would never be the same.

19 Mar 2010 6:30 PM
Bellwether

SHE COMES ACROSS REEL STRONG ON TV...BELIEVE IT...SHE WINS SIXTEEN N A ROW!!!...

19 Mar 2010 6:57 PM
Steve Haskin

Calvin swears he was misquoted and never said he would have won had he ridden her differently. I think he'll be OK. Plus, extremely bad PR taking him off now.

19 Mar 2010 7:18 PM
Paula Higgins

Zookeeper, there is a vdeo on Youtube of Zenyatta which shows her before the Santa Margarita in the paddock. It shows each horse coming around and then lastly Zenyatta. She turns the corner and then just stands there in all her glory and surveys the scene from left to right. It was amazing. She stood there like the Queen gazing at her subjects. This is a horse who has tremendous presence and knows it.

19 Mar 2010 7:37 PM
quarterhossgal

I am a fan of both horses, the great Z and Rachel.  Sadly there is a difference in owners and both horses have to live with the hand they are dealt. Z is respected and loved by her owners whether she wins #16 or not. On the other hand Rachel is expected to win whether she is fit and healthy or not!! Many horses are treated this way, they are a meal ticket and only if they are winning are they given the care they need. We are just more aware of this because of the high profile of Rachel. I hope if Rachel doesn't race again she will be sold to the someone like the Mosses so she can get the treatment she deserves.

19 Mar 2010 7:40 PM
Karen2

I have to mention the excitement over the hook up of Vodka and Sea the stars.....wow...that's even better than Brangelina....Can't wait to see that one run. Let's see..we could call them Vodkars...or Seavod or something.

19 Mar 2010 7:58 PM
Slew

Steve, I saw the same interview on HRTV after the New Orleans Ladies, and I heard the same thing.  He wanted to run a different race.  Calvin is such a gentleman, but he's being cowed by Jackson..and I really don't appreciate that at all.  He wasn't "misquoted", since those words came right out of own his mouth.  This entire jigsaw puzzle is beginning to just fall apart for JJ.  Seems he may be his own worst enemy, and his own words are the weapons.

19 Mar 2010 8:01 PM
Star G

Tomorrow is bambera´s race in the rampart stake...

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

19 Mar 2010 8:07 PM
Zookeeper

Bellwether,

Hope you weren't yelling at me! LOL I'm just trying not to jinx her. :)

Mr. Haskin,

If Calvin didn't say these exact words, everything about him said it loud and clear. I agree that it would be really bad PR to pull Calvin now... but would it surprise you if Jess Jackson did just that?

19 Mar 2010 8:17 PM
Criminal Type

KMB, I totally agree with you about Steve Asmussen. He rarely looks you in the eye or rather into the camera when he is speaking. I just do not trust people who cant look you in the eye. Sure, he has set a lot of records and has a successful stable but, if I owned race horses, they wouldnt be in his barn.

19 Mar 2010 8:26 PM
kenek

I am glad these two champions will not be meeting in the Apple Blossom. Poor idea this early in the year. As we've seen these horses came out of their layoffs very differently. Zenyatta as strong and powerful as ever, but Rachel is not what we were used to seeing last year. That's okay. Rachel accomplished so much facing the boys, the older boys and the older girls. Don't forget she was only 3 and not fully mature. A lot to ask. Team Rachel needs to regroup and figure out what's off with her. Take their time. Like to see her regain her top form and then meet Zenyatta. Meantime I expect Zenyatta to kick butt as she continues her career. The racing fans deserve to see them face each other when they are both on top of their game. Hopefully this will come to fruition.

19 Mar 2010 8:31 PM
sidekickflats

This is for all the Oaklawn regulars....  any good tips on restaurants in Hot Springs or Little Rock?  I'm going a few days early (never been to Ark) so I'll go before Friday and won't increase your wait time for a seat!

19 Mar 2010 8:38 PM
ctgreyhound

I doubt that Rachel whispered in Jackson's ear those two little words "I'm ready."  Remember this whole debacle called Apple Blossom was mainly Jackson's doing, even going as far as to suggest three races instead of one was preferable (which was news to the Zenyatta connections).  In getting ahead of himself, counting the winnings before they were realized, it backfired.  Justice rules the day.

19 Mar 2010 8:49 PM
helsbelles

Barbara W and kmb, you both moved me very much with your posts.  Barbara, you said everything I would have said, to the letter!  I knew the matchup would never happen, and I am actually GLAD it won't.  I NEVER want Zenyatta to be that stressed out.  She is able to handle a lot, but I was NOT looking forward to that kind of insanity.  And kmb, you made me remember a time when I actually was excited when I spoke of Rachel.  Where has that excitement gone?   Zookeeper, it's not just Zenyatta's presense, it's also the way people are smiling, and clapping, and hugging their kids as if they know that something great is happening.  I know it sounds corny, but truly it is amazing!

19 Mar 2010 9:08 PM
Suz

How about this senario: JJ gets another toy...leaves RA alone...get Hal Wiggins out of retirement...it's a win/win for RA...and she lives happily ever after...sounds like a great HBO movie to me, huh???

19 Mar 2010 9:27 PM
Bob Z

This is the post parade for the New Orleans Ladies...  

Look at 2:20 into it.... Am I reading something into this or does she look pissed about something..

To me it looks like she is trying to get rid of the bit or the bridle.. see how she is pulling her chin way in...

Are there any horse people familiar with that body language?

www.youtube.com/watch

19 Mar 2010 9:33 PM
JAJ

"She'll tell us when she is ready" is race track jargon that every trainer has said many, many times.

It means that by their condition and attitude when they train, the trainer will know the horse is ready to run.

Don't blame Jackson for using jargon he hears all the time.

A horse that is getting ready to run will be more and more of a handful to handle, especially off a long layoff.

19 Mar 2010 9:40 PM
Zookeeper

Paula Higgins,

That's exactly what I'm talking about. She stops abruptly and stares intently at something beyond the crowd. The groom just stands there, waiting. He wouldn't dare prod the Queen. When she's good and ready, she goes back to her dancing and prancing all the way to the track. Now, (as if we didn't have enough to worry about) she's added new moves to her style: zigzagging, splitting horses and showing a level of athletism none of us knew she possessed. Mike Smith is right. She is better...

Sorry to go on like that. I can't help myself. My family and friends roll their eyes when I try to tell them what they're missing. Here, at least some of you understand.

19 Mar 2010 9:46 PM
Paula Higgins

Criminal Type, I just saw a video of Steve Asmussen on Youtube. I saw a guy who was talking directly to the interviewer, instead of primarily facing the camera. I thought that was pretty courteous of him talking DIRECTLY to the person asking the questions. I don't think he is particularly comfortable on camera but he does his best. I particularly liked a picture taken recently of Rachel nuzzling Steve. Yup, he must be really mistreating her. Geesh.

19 Mar 2010 9:51 PM
Lisa

My feelings are the same as kmb. After RA last race last year, I said as she finished that they had run that filly into the ground. I have followed racing for years, saw Citation before he died, have watched 3 triple crown winners, and never had that sad feeling that I did after her last race in 09. I hope that I am wrong and she is fine, but I feel that JJ is only about the glory. I love Zenyatta and know that she was smiled down upon when her connections bought her. Her trainer is about her, and not the race. Something that I think the sport needs more of. I have a TB stallion who was bought not as a race horse, but as a sporthorse, and I am so glad that he never had to end up in a barn where he was mishandled. I am going to be at the AB, and hope that Z will equal Citations record. What a thrill to have seen them both. But she is great and she knows it. I just pray like you kmb that RA comes out of this year sound and happy, and that her connections learn that it isn't always about the glory. They have have very special mare, Hal Wiggins knew that to bad they didn't listen.

19 Mar 2010 9:58 PM
Footlick

Karen2- I agree!

19 Mar 2010 10:26 PM
sherpa

While the controversy comes down to JJ and Rachel, how he "managed" her and how SA/Blasi trained her, I sure wish the lovely Zardana could get some credit for the part she played in the NO Ladies.

This was the FIRST TIME Rachel raced against older fillies/mares.  To heck with "boys" - maybe it is simply true that OF/M is the strongest division at this time.  It wasn't so much a bad run for Rachel as it was a superior run for Zardana -- or maybe even what we might expect of Z2 on dirt going forward.  This lady has proven herself on dirt, winning 3 races in her native Brazil by a total of 39 lengths.  That's worthy of Rachel!  AND she won the Bayakoa on a track she doesn't care for.   Why didn't the big Eclipse trainer prepare for someone like Zardana, why didn't he let Rachel run HER race against such a challenger?  It would still have been a close call for RA, but maybe she'd have got up that last length.  She is, after all, considered the world's best Dirt horse, isn't she?

Whatever, please give Zardana her due - she was best on the day and Rachel's connections have no excuse for not respecting her. Let's not do the same.

19 Mar 2010 10:37 PM
ForRA&Zen

I am also a huge fan of Zenyatta, because she is a great mare, so is RA. But stop comparing oranges with apples. Zenyatta did not start racing until the end of three year-old. When Zenyatta was three, she did not take on boys, did not win a single triple-crown race, and did not take on older males. Her unbeaten record contained several grade II races and the race schedule is evenly distributed throughout her career. She stays in Southern California, so the weather has been fairly consistently ideal for training. RA on the other hand, did EVERYTHING Zenytatta did not do when she was three. The weather has been foul and she still answered the call of the lucrative AB to accelerate her training after being shelved for so long. Zenyatta’s trainer wanted to be profitable from AB so he sent Zardana to wear RA off in her prep race, consequently that further spoiled his plan to earn more. Although he thinks now he can claim that he is the ‘BETTER’ trainer. I think Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen should have followed their honorable philosophy: Letting RA tell us when she is ready, instead of telling RA to be ready when Zenyatta is ready. The three year old RA has done historically NO three year FILLY had ever done, including Zenyatta, Zardana, I don’t care. RA is the greatest FILLY ever existed! Remaining unbeaten is easier than taking risks and doing what RA has done. Hats off for Steven Asmussen and Jess Jackson for putting RA’s raciing condition and fitness level first. Let’s preserve RA.

19 Mar 2010 11:04 PM
BJ

I don't think Rachel's any worst this year, the competition's just tougher. Not last year, this year, or ever would she be able to beat Zardana or Zenyatta by 20 lenghts like she did the 3 year old fillies last year. If she ever does beat Zenyatta it will be in an all-out battle like the Woodward was, and that would probably knock her out for the rest of the year. If Jackson continues to race her I predict he'll find some softer spots for her where she can win easily and build her fitness and confidence up to face Zenyatta and other top horses in the Breeders Cup.

19 Mar 2010 11:08 PM
mikey

sidekickflats,                        In Hot Springs go to Pancake House for breakfast,Mcclards for lunch and Cajun Boilers for dinner.In Little Rock Frontier Diner for breakfast,Anyplace in Rivermarket for lunch or dinner.I like Flying Fish.Hope you enjoy AR.If you have any questions when you get here just ask someone,we are glad to have you here!:)

19 Mar 2010 11:37 PM
Footlick

sherpa- I second that.  Give Zardana her due.

19 Mar 2010 11:45 PM
Johnny

Great take on this saga, Steve. Your commentary certainly gives me a better understanding of the dynamics of Rachel's connections, within the limitations which you so clearly described.

I'm not criticizing anyone over there, but you've shed some light that I hadn't seen before.

19 Mar 2010 11:45 PM
Pam S.

I simply have to jump in on the misquoting of Calvin.  I read what he said in about four different places.  Wasn't a short sentence, either, it was fairly lengthy.  All these professional turf writers got it wrong??  I just flat out don't believe that.

19 Mar 2010 11:57 PM
vikingblood22

Sidekickflats, the wording of my blog wasn't the best because I am a fan of both horses. I really meant to say I am not a fan of "Z" zealots and do not choose to spend my time amongst them. In one blog someone said they were actually happy that RA fans couldn't get their airfare tickets refunded and would be forced to watch Z race! I've seen and stood next to some of the great ones and knew the greatest jockey who ever lived, Bill Shoemaker. My family has held tickets to the Kentucky Derby since the late 1800's. I should write a book. I think I'll stick with the ponies but thanks for the suggestion about Nascar. Don't fault me if I wanted to just see Rachel--I've seen Z, she's a California horse, and I get a kick out of watching her race and her style reminds me of Silky Sullivan, another California horse & I got to see Z when she "retired" and was paraded around like a pet monkey. I'm glad the Mosses' returned her to racing though because she is competitive and fun to watch on T.V. I hope they returned her to racing because Z loves to race and not just to prove a point. I'm moving forward as I am excited about Rags to Riches in foal and especially excited about another favorite filly of mine, Dreaming of Anna who is in foal to Street Cry. Now that is one colt to watch for in a couple of years. I suppose if Rachel retires (wish I would love to see happen and get her and Curlin together as she is in her prime dating years) the zealots will say it is because of Z.  That's what I'm tired of, the arrogance of some zealots.

20 Mar 2010 12:17 AM
Paula Higgins

Zookeeper, LOL I know exactly what you mean about how people think we are crazy when we talk about Zenyatta! I try to talk about her at work but everyone's eyes just glaze over. They don't get it. But I finally got my husband hooked. He watched the Breeders Cup and fell in love. He watched the Santa Margarita and was in awe of her agility. He calls her Zenyatta Mondatta. I think you have to actually SEE her to get it. She will go down in the upper echelon of the Pantheon of Greats, no doubt about it. I wish the East Coast writers could see what we see. People like Andrew Breyer give me a pain. I think she has been under appreciated in the past, but is now getting the respect she so thoroughly deserves.

20 Mar 2010 12:18 AM
Steve Haskin

Pam, Borel was quoted in the FG press quotes. That is the reason all the writers had the same quote. He didnt say the exact thing to each writer. He insists he was misquoted and it was taken out of context. I'm only going by what I was told. I'm just addressing your comment that insinating he gave the same quote to different writers. Most beat writers are on deadline and dont have time to go down to the winners' circle for quotes. That is why the track PR departments get quotes and supply them to the media.

20 Mar 2010 12:54 AM
DinkyDiva

In all the races that Calivin rode on Rach, it was perfect: he let her do her thang!  This time around, as I've said before: they changed the tack etc.,,..  which makes no sense with her running style and why try and change that?!  But, you can see it in the race,....., he was holding her and she was not a happy camper!  When there is a conflict between rider and horse, it's taxing/exhausting!  I know from experience: when a horse is trying to run off with you, it's awwwww so tiring!  Imagine how tired and spent Calvin was after that race.

We can all speculate about there maybe problems with Rach that we don't know about and, that is soo true. She was just not happy, not in the work outs that I've seen, the paddock, the post parade or even the race!  She just didn't have that fire in her eyes.

On a different note......

I know that "Rags" had a colt on S.Patty's day while being in Ireland.  Does anyone know where her filly is?  The filly by Giantscauseway???  Her name etc?  From what I've seen of her filly, she looks soo much like her momma!  I love chestnuts and sorrels.  I grew up with quarterhorses and paints and appys'!

20 Mar 2010 4:22 AM
Slew

Steve, Scott Hazleton and Gary Stevens interviewd Calvin on camera for HRTV after the NOL.  That is exactly what he said. He wanted to let RA run her race, but he was told to hold her back.  So the turf writers probably saw the same interview.  He said RA that was in great shape and it was a good prep race, but he might have won if he just let her run her own race.  So he may say he was "misquoted" by the press, but the press took their notes from the words that came from his own mouth.  He might have been better off saying that he misspoke, but he was not misquoted.

20 Mar 2010 6:23 AM
LDP

After doing some research, one would not call Zardana "inferior." To the Rachel we know yes, but if you take a look at her history on dirt it should not be shocking that a tight, wound up Zardana was able to beat a loose Rachel, who needed the race. Zardana raced three times over dirt in Brazil, winning them all by double digets. Could it have been the competition over there, sure, but the fact remains she was a dominant figure over dirt. Over the synthetics however, she proved to be mediocre and was soon dismissed as "inferior." Horses going from synthetic to dirt have been winning at an amazing clip this year, so considering that and the fact that Zardana was already a dominant horse over dirt, it should not surprise anyone that she, when she is primed for a big effort, could upset even the HOTY.

20 Mar 2010 7:03 AM
oneforthetrack

Steve, are these the same beat MSM that Jackson convinced the Suburban was as significant as the Classic?

20 Mar 2010 8:45 AM
Criminal Type

Paula, did I say, anywhere in my post's that Rachel was being mistreated? Being unhappy and mistreated are two very different things. Just because she shows affection in a moment of contentment and relaxation (I've seen the photo too) does not mean she is happy on the race track. My opinion of Mr Asmussen is not based on one interview, I'm not nearly that judgemental. It took a while to form my opinion, but, it is only my opinion.

20 Mar 2010 9:25 AM
el

TVNewsbadge, thank you for your insight.  It seems like only a few of us could see through hype.  Still, I would have thought that Jess Jackson would have stuck to his guns on this one.  

Commentator--thanks for putting all back into perspective.  I would add only that we haven't seen the last of RA this year. She has lots of opportunity to get back into last year's form. Let's just hope that she doesn't go the way of Stardom Bound.

Kathleen--While I agree that no horse should run on an uncomfortable surface, but does that only apply to Zenyatta?  After all, how many times are we going to slam JJ for not sending Rachel to the Breeder's Cup?

Hey Dinky--nice to see another Rags fan out there.  I've also wondered about the little filly she had last year.  Anyone know of any pix of the new baby?

20 Mar 2010 9:49 AM
kathleen

forra%zen, once again I must remind you that you just can't compare the 3 yr old season of those two mares.  Zen was a late foal, huge, and late developing.  The Mosses and JS knew that and gave her the time she needed to mature.  Comparing them as 3 yr olds is apples and oranges as they were both still babies at three and horses, like humans, mature at different rates.

20 Mar 2010 9:58 AM
TbsAreMyLife

I love how you alluded to monarchies in England and such. ha! how wonderful. her upset was not so much an upset as much as a prediction. I knew she wasnt in top form and it was way too soon. i never liked the idea of a match race in the first place. jess jackson needs to wake up and realize hes thinking only of the money. poor rachel is now going to have a broken heart after that loss.  mind you, in not being in top form, she still only lost by a half-length.

20 Mar 2010 10:33 AM
carolyn

AMEN SHERPA,

Exactly right!!  Give Zardana her due, It was not her fault she out done the HOTY, it was that she was the better of the two, I think even on a better day for Ra that Zardana could have taken her on.

I am sad for Ra, but she had enough time to be prepared for that prep race,

Zenyatta was off a long time last year and she came back and won her first race and has won every one ever since. so the time off is no excuse in my book.

She was either done from last year or she dont' want to run anymore.

Asmussen has been training horses for a long time, he saw that she was putting in good enough works that she was ready for that race,

Or what it comes down to, is Ra cant't beat the older mares like everyone thought she could.

Last year, JJ put her in races where he knew she could win, this year he thought he had it in the bag until Z2 came on the track.

I look for JJ to retire her before long.....RA can't handle the distances, then she is definitly in trouble,

20 Mar 2010 10:35 AM
txhorsefan

One thing about your blogs, Steve, is I can always come back to them later and read more responses from your commenters and learn even more.  We are all so emotionally invested in these two horses, everyone has such strong feelings and each observer is looking at things from their own personal perspective.  I find this so very interesting and thank you all for sharing your feelings.  We don't all have to agree, but it is important to take the time to look at both sides.  There are so many of you with whom I completely agree, but it would just take so long to try to address everything in one little comment box, especially when I tend to get too wordy.  LOL!  Other comments, no I can't say I agree so much, but that is the beauty of all this, we can all have our own opinions.

To Sherpa, I applaud your earlier post calling for some respect for Zardana.  I don't believe there was any deceit by John Shirreffs involved in her taking on Rachel Alexandra, as her owner clearly stated he wanted her to run at Fairgrounds.  While I would have loved to see Rachel Alexandra win her first start back off her layoff, I still think Zardana ran an awesome race.

20 Mar 2010 10:53 AM
Pam S.

Steve, thanks for addressing my comment on the misquoting issue.  I didn't know that's how quotes were obtained after races.  But Slew says he heard what Calvin said (as anyone watching HRTV also would have) and he wasn't misquoted.  So I think there was, let's not call it "intimidation," but some "revisionist thinking" here.  I also think it makes everyone concerned look a little foolish.  The sporting thing to do would have been to say that Rachel lost on the square to a nice horse and leave it at that.

20 Mar 2010 11:39 AM
Zookeeper

Being familiar with Zardana, I expected her to do well. I was SHOCKED when she overtook RA. I thought she might come in second, get an invitation to the AB and be very happy with a share of the 5 million purse. The gutsy little mare surprised most of us and won. One more illustration that there is no such thing as a "no brainer" in horse racing... A combination of elements contributed to the upset in the N.O. Ladies, NONE of them Rachel's fault. One of them is the "hard trying", honest mare named Zardana. Kudos to her for her determination and for taking advantage of the situation Rachel found herself in. As you well know, I'm a big Zen fan but I took no pleasure in Rachel's defeat. It made me very sad for her and all of us who admire her so much.

Bob Z,

Thank you for the link to the video of the post parade. I hadn't seen it. She does look very uncomfortable to me but I'm not an expert and I'll defer to anyone who is, regarding her body language. One thing I noticed though is the "Curlin Hairdo". Must they try to change everything about this filly? Rachel as HERSELF is fabulous. Let her be Rachel. Stop messing with her and, for crying out loud, leave her mane the way nature intended it to be. I know I'm being picky here, but really...!

20 Mar 2010 11:41 AM
kmb

I read over my previous post, and should have given more attention to my grammar :-), and I should have also noted that, obviously, I do not "know" personally any of the major players involved, but I have observed and read everything I could pertaining to RA and Zenyatta. I know this isn't equal to "knowing" them, but it's all we've got to go on.

I know I did not quote Hal Wiggins "verbatim", but when he said something like, RA would kill herself trying because that's just the kind of horse she is, it really resonated with me, and I'll never forget it. Also, Hal W. emphasized RA is at peak when she gets enough time off btw races.

The Kentucky Oaks was 5/1/09, and the Preakness was 5/16/09..this was the beginning of the abuse. She never raced so soon after a race, but JJ was determined to throw her in there. The Preakness took a lot out of her. The Woodward even more.  Calvin whipped her incessantly, especially in the Woodward. When RA was ready and rested, she didn't need a whip to break a stakes record, she did it willingly.

I have always had a bad feeling about RA being in SA's barn, afterall, hasn't he been fined/suspended on more than one occasion?!?!

So much of RA's campaign must come down to JJ's ego, because when word comes out after a race about how tired RA was "before" the race, then somebody(SA) is too afraid to state this emphatically to JJ, or JJ doesn't listen to the people who know RA best. I have no idea which it is.

I loved watching the Ken Oaks, and the expression on Hal Wiggins face as RA is thundering down the stretch just because she wants to run, not because there was a need to go that fast. When I first learned that RA was named after DMorrison's granddaughter, I was hoping there would be too much emotional attachment for them to sell her.

Someone mentioned the great race Zardana ran, and it is true, but since this article is titled Jess and Rachel, I primarily wanted to focus on that.

I read an interesting article recently pertaining to RA's ragozin numbers in the NO race.

www.thoroughbredtimes.com/.../Ragozin-Data-suggests-June-meeting-for-Rachel-Alexandra-Zenyatta.aspx

I just hope RA and Zenyatta(and all the horses for that matter) good health and happiness for all their days forward...

20 Mar 2010 12:18 PM
sidekickflats

Vikingblood22,

Yes, your original post was written in away that gave the impression that you thought it was not worth watching the first mare/undefeated Breeder's Cup winner race in hopes of equalling Citations and Cigars 16 win mark.  But I'm glad you've gotten to see Zenyatta in person and hope you get to see Rachel soon. I'm sure when she is retired , she will get paraded around like a "pet monkey" as well.  On of my fondest memories is Alysheba's retirement ceremony at Churchill Downs.  Pet Monkey? no , very much loved racehorse yes.

And remember, for every Zenyatta zealot , there is an Rachel radical and they both can be obnoxious.   I remember being in the stands when Personal Ensign ran in the BC Distaff.  I had a very loud Winning Colors fan behind me that screamed the entire race that she was running off with it like she did in the Derby.  He did shut up when Personal Ensign nipped her at the wire and our group were jumping around like crazy people. So sometimes being around zealots and radicals can be fun , especially when you are proved right :)

Mikey  - thanks for the suggestions! I'll check them out.

20 Mar 2010 12:18 PM
Steve Haskin

LDP, way too much over analysis. You apparently did not understand the first several graphs are all tongue-in-cheek satire.

20 Mar 2010 12:40 PM
Steve Haskin

Slew, if you heard him say that, then he obviously was not misquoted. I only know that he claims he was.

20 Mar 2010 12:41 PM
nonnonheinous

Bob Z--I looked at that video of RA's post parade. It was nothing unusual, she was bowing her head because she wanted to GO when they started to go faster than a walk. She was being restrained by Calvin and the pony b/c they just wanted her to canter nicely (you always warm up a horse gradually). Most horses, if they want to go faster than you're letting them, will try to remove the pressure from the bit by tossing their heads (trying to take the reins away from you) or bowing the neck (trying to give to the pressure). Believe me, when horses get pissed, they'll show it a lot more emphatically than that. She was just eager to move out faster.

Zookeeper--I totally understand about your feelings about Zenyatta. It's very hard to articulate why I think she is so special to non-horse people. The only other horses that bring up the same feelings for me are Secretariat (particularly his triple crown bid) and Ruffian. All horses that seemed to understand their game, and almost treated it like an art form. It's like they were the Platonic Form of Racehorse.

But that's why I don't insult, condescend to, or put down RA fans, because I know they probably feel the same way about THEIR horse. It's a wonderful way to feel. And,  if Zenyatta wasn't around, I'd probably be equally obsessed about Rachel.

You know, before the whole HOTY debate heated up, I didn't *want* them to meet on the track. I couldn't stand to see either lose. Then, as things got so divided and nasty and outright irrational, I wished they would meet on the track just to end these stupid arguments! Settle it on the track, because we'll never settle it on paper (or the computer screen, as it were).

Unfortunately now, because we do not know yet for sure if Rachel of 2010 is the Rachel of 2009, if she eventually loses to Zenyatta, I don't even think that would end the debate, because then it would shift to, "Well, she's just not the same horse now, but 2009 Rachel would have smoked Zenyatta!" And you can never prove or disprove that statement.

I hope Rachel is okay. Any time she steps onto the track, I'll root for her... until Zenyatta is on the track, too. ;)

20 Mar 2010 12:45 PM
SMTDL

Thanks Mr Haskin for a fair and objective summary of Rachel Alexandra and her team.It is obvious that prospects for a $5 million race made Jackson/Asmussen scramble to get in on it when they knew it was a reach to get this horse ready.They obviously didn't want to face Zenyatta without a prep race.They accelerated her training to workouts every 6 days and hoped she could win a prep at 75% or how ever one would gage her fitness! They almost achieved that as only the addition of Zardana thwarted the effort.They expected she would improve off the race and train up to maybe 90 -95 % and be competitive with Zenyatta.They thought if any horse could pull that off,it would be Rachel.What the prep race told them was she was not quite so far along as they thought so even with improvement might be just 85 or 90% for the Apple Blossom and rightly threw in the towel. They may be wrong again and Rachel could be at top form by April 9th,  but why string it on just in case?That would just make it worse to cancel at the last minute or send her out vulnerable again!

Last year Rachel hit top form in the Oaks..her 4th race and held form until the Woodward where she certainly had begun to tail off.This filly ran in the Preakness on 2 weeks rest and won from the 13 hole( 1st horse ever to do that).That was her 5th Race and Zenyatta was still getting ready for her 1st race.I'd like to see Zenyatta take on males at 1 3/16 mi on  2 weeks rest!!!!

In fact I'd love to see Zenyatta race at 1 1/2 miles..which she seems designed for!

I think both horses are great and the most consistent we've see in quite a while.Neither should be denigrated by those preferring the other horse.I just wish everyone could be objective and informed about their ctitiques of them!!Lets hope they do meet a few times in 2010 to see who gets the edge ..right now its still Rachel by a nose based on what has been done on the track(s)..by the HORSES..not the people who ride,train and own them!

20 Mar 2010 12:54 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

A person on another blog (Jason's) took your satire and ran with it, using it to support the conspiracy theory he believes to be fact. I told him that you were only making fun of "conspiracy theorists" like him. I doubt he listened. LOL!

20 Mar 2010 1:04 PM
kathleen

el- my statement did not exclude RA.  NO horse should run on a surface that their trainer deems detrimental.

20 Mar 2010 1:09 PM
kathleen

el- One more thing, RA didn't go to the BC because she was spent after the Woodward.  There was no way she would have been race ready in November after that race.  JJ used the surface as an excuse,  AND  JJ has diahrea of the mouth so I generally ignore anything he has to say.

20 Mar 2010 1:12 PM
Paula Higgins

o.k. Criminal Type, I understand your point. But I don't think Rachel is unhappy in general. As for her being unhappy on the racetrack, yes and no. I think when they don't let her run her race and they put the figure 8 on, she isn't thrilled. I also think they are going to really re-think how they have been training her. A good thing. My feeling is they love this horse, want to do right by her, and know that last year's Woodward, while incredible, may have been one race too many. That goes for both Steve Asmussen and Jess Jackson. They are human beings and try to make the best decisions and say all the right things at the right time, but may fall a little short due to the fact they can't read the horse's mind and the horse can't talk. Go figure. Sorry for the sarcasm. I had a root canal this week and I am out of sorts.

20 Mar 2010 1:20 PM
Michelle

Calvin was not misquoted, he told the truth unless he got totally confused in his interviews.  He was told to hold Rachel back and try to teach her to rate.  This reminds of when Rachel's exercise rider said she  was better than Curlin.  The next day he had to come out and say he meant to say she was the best filly he had ever ridden.

20 Mar 2010 1:23 PM
Michelle

I guess we have a lot of "pet monkeys" in horse racing.  I recall Curlin being paraded at Churchill twice, Mine that Bird being paraded at his home track, Commentator and Evening Attire being paraded in New York etc.  I don't understand why some people think that is a bad thing or something to be made fun of.  It is something for the fans, a chance to see these great horses.  Many people probably attended the races those days just to see that particular horse.  I think it is great that these horses are paraded, I wish more people would let the fans see these great horses in person.  People flock to the morning workouts at Keeneland and Churchill Downs at Derby time and Breeder's Cup time - to see the horses.

20 Mar 2010 1:45 PM
EasyGoerFan

Mr. Haskin, thank you for saying that you think Calvin will not be booted off Rachel.  My worrywart nature has me concerned about him.  Fans of the show "Lost" will understand what I mean when I say that Calvin is Rachel's constant.  He has been with her since she was two years old.  Everything else in her life has changed.  It goes without saying that Calvin would be crushed if he was taken off her.  I think they are good for each other.

Michelle's mention of the exercise rider taking back what he said about Rachel being better than Curlin just reinforces my feeling that everybody in Jackson's camp is censored.

Calvin rode a nice filly for Bob Baffert at Oaklawn a few weeks back.  She won a stakes race so maybe she'll head to Apple Blossom??  Calvin may ride in that race after all.

20 Mar 2010 2:00 PM
Criminal Type

Paula, a root canal will mess up anyones week. They are no fun.

Touching on the Borel issue, I dont think Calvin mispoke, I think everyone got it right the first time. He rode her like he was told. I totally agree that they were trying to change her style to prepare for Zenyatta. Obviously Rachel is very uncomfortable with that. They need to let her do her thing, what she excells at, and it will be up to Zenyatta to catch her. If Jess Jackson truly can hear what Rachel is saying I bet his face is red and the air is blue.

20 Mar 2010 2:27 PM
MM

I agree with those who feel JJ "painted himself into a corner" with the AB.  He always had the right to say "no".  Why didn't he?

RE:  Z's trip to Kentucky in '09.  That race was Z's first back and in an interview the morning of that race, Mr. Shirreffs said if CD sealed the track, instead of floating it, Z would not run.  She was very fresh and running on a sealed track would increase the odds of injury.  I just roll my eyes when I read comments regarding this race as Z didn't want to get her feet wet, the connections were protecting her win streak.  They were protecting something all right.  Zenyatta.  Yeah, Z went on a sightseeing trip from California to Kentucky just for the heck of it.  

20 Mar 2010 2:28 PM
Footlick

SMTDL- from what I've seen, Zenyatta would have no trouble with the two week turn arouond nor the distance.

20 Mar 2010 2:28 PM
Jose G.

What to make of RA's performance??  Needed the prep? Not the same horse from last year? Time will tell, for sure.  Zenyatta, in my opinion, is the true champion.  She won at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter last year, RA won at a mile and three sixteenths, with Mine that Bird closing and closing, one more sixteenth and RA's toast.  Haskell was a brilliant performance for RA.  Woodward first female to win, albeit at one mile and one eighth, another eighth could she of sustained it, I say no.  Zenyatta, would have run her down. She's that kind of animal, and Jess & Co. know it.  

20 Mar 2010 2:28 PM
robinm

I really don't have anything new to add to what has already been said here.  I greatly enjoyed the comments by Caitlyn and Serena as well as ForRA&Zen.  el's comments regarding track conditions were well-stated. To Kathleen in regards to her comments back at ForRA&Zen; comparing RA to Zen will always be like comparing apples and oranges.  They have totally different running styles and their campaigns have had nothing in common.  This doesn't mean that ForRA&Zen's comments weren't valid.  Further, JJ had already ruled RA out of the BC before she ever ran in the Woodward.  The fact that she came out of that race a very tired filly determined that she would not run again in 2009, but she was never going to run in the BC.

20 Mar 2010 2:43 PM
Barbara W

Sidekickflats,

Thank you for your kind memories of Alysheba in your earlier post. He is/was "great uncle" to our horse through Bel Sheba and Raise a Native. We were to have gone to see him at the KHP, but alas, he died before we could get there. Wish I could have seen him at Churchill.

20 Mar 2010 2:52 PM
Dakota

Maybe I just need to stop reading these blog posts because I get so irritated by the inane comments posted by some people.  It's great for racing that so many are drawn into the sport, but there are people who, while fans, clearly know very little about horses or racing. I've been around horses my entire life and have followed horse racing for over 35 years. For RA&Zen: "remaining unbeaten is easier than taking risks"...Really? Really? In Grade I & II company? Even Pepper's Pride, who raced (I believe) entirely in races restricted New Mexico bred mares, accomplished something incredible by winning 19 races without a loss. And what Zenyatta has done is unparalleled. Race horses are animals, not machines. They have good days and bad days. And for an athlete, any athlete, to stay at the top of their sport without so much as a hiccup or a pulled muscle is testament to their fortitude and the amazing care of their connections. What RA accomplished last year was extremely impressive but her connections were greedy and short-sighted. Jackson said he wanted Rachel to prove her greatness. BS. He wanted Rachel to prove HIS greatness as an owner. What a putz. And Shirreffs put Zardana in the NOL to wear RA down so he could get a big purse in the AB? That's just a stupid comment. The only people here who want profit are Jackson and Asmussen. Jackson is the one who said last year that a track would have to put up a big purse to make it worthwhile. So Cella did that at Oaklawn. And when Jackson said he'd need six more days to get RA ready, Cella called his bluff and moved the race back. IF RA was rushed, it was Jackson's fault. He should have immediately said that she wasn't going to race until they felt satisfied with her fitness and not caused so many people to change plans, buy non-refundable tickets, and invest thousands of dollars into this "Races for the Ages". I don't think they'll ever meet, and certainly not in the Breeders Cup. RA can't carry her speed a mile and a quarter and she doesn't want to rate. I don't care if they do race each other. I already know that Zenyatta is the most talented, amazing racehorse I've ever seen and she doesn't need an owner that spins hype to prove it.

20 Mar 2010 2:59 PM
Kat

Thanks for video Bob Z.  The head tossing/bowing thing is not unusual, but what I did notice was that she was VERY busy in the mouth throughout the entire footage - lots of chewing and chawing.  This can be nervousness, or it can be a horse that is "unhappy in the mouth".  Without having other footage to compare it to (I know its out there), I don't know if this is habituated behaviour for RA, or whether she is unhappy with having her mouth "clamped down".

20 Mar 2010 4:31 PM
Paula Higgins

Thanks Criminal Type! Yes, this is the tooth "that keeps on giving" (to my endodontist).

Just saw Bambera. What happened there??? She was never in the race after a poor start. Dead last. Grabbed a quarter or what??? That bodes well for the Zenster but I feel bad for the Venezuelan filly.

20 Mar 2010 5:21 PM
Golden Gate

About good places to eat in Hot Springs. The Pancake Shop which is on Bathhouse row (Central Ave aka Hwy 7) in Hot Springs

www.yelp.com/.../the-pancake-shop-hot-springs-national-park  

I usually get filled up on a grilled rueben sandwich from the Pony Express Grill inside of Oaklawn. Carousel restuarant buffet at Oaklawn is great if you can get in. They recommend reservations.

When I have stayed at the Arlington hotel they had a wonderful dinner buffet in fact all the meals in the Venetian restuarant and decor is great with jockey silks on wall..but again get a reservation. www.arlingtonhotel.com/dining.htm

Another place I have eaten at and liked is the Trumpet Restuarant it is on north end of Hwy 7 just after leaving the district of bathhouse row.

And finally here a fairly complete list of eateries in Hot Springs.

www.arkansas.com/.../Default.aspx

20 Mar 2010 5:36 PM
kathleen

Wow, Dakota, I couldn't have said it better myself.  I breed and train horses so I'm looking at the horse, not just stats.  I've never seen a horse happier to race than Z.  She dances to the post, she finds a way to win, and she dances back.  I commend the Mosses and JS for the way they've handled her career.  I was sad Z was scheduled to retire after the BC because that mare clearly loves her job and I just don't think she's ready for the broodmare band.

RA is a great horse with a self serving owner.  I was sad to see her fall into his hands.  

20 Mar 2010 5:39 PM
kathleen

robnm, the comment I made to forra&zen was with regards to their records as 3 yr olds, not about running styles.  Re read my comment.

20 Mar 2010 5:42 PM
SLEW1977

No need to be sorry Zookeeper...enjoyed the post..it's beautiful isn't it!

I for one hope that they do meet this year before the BC CLASSIC...if not, lets enjoy them both...I'm sure the goal for both camps is the First Saturday in November...I pray they both make it and both are Fit & Ready for their best!....I can't wait!!

20 Mar 2010 5:56 PM
Tiznowbaby

Ouch. Trainer says Bambera cut a tendon. Hope she's OK.

20 Mar 2010 6:44 PM
Laura

Random factoids:  Rachel Alexandra is over 16 hands tall - big for a filly. I find Calvin's calling her "my little filly" amusing, playing on the "just a little girl in this big ol' world" kind of statement.  She'a a fabulous front runner - the flashy kind that get a lot of press, and I really hope she comes back healthy. Racing needs stars right now.

Zenyatta is 17-1/2 hands tall - HUGE for a thoroughbred, let alone a mare. They're all "little" in comparison.  The quickness she showed in the stretch in the Santa Margarita, ducking and weaving as she did, should be impossible in a horse of her size - but it isn't. What is really amazing is the fact that she's won all 15 of her starts as a dead closer. Colin (15), and Ribot(16) were both just-off-the-pace horses - not as great a risk of traffic problems. That makes her streak even more amazing.

BTW,the 16 in a row streaks by Citation and Cigar came within the bodies of their careers - not as undefeated horses. Citation had lost twice before his streak, and Cigar, of course, was a little slow to find his feet on the track. Amazing streaks they were, but Zenyatta's still takes the cake: she's perfect.

20 Mar 2010 7:49 PM
quarterhossgal

ForRAand Zen  Kathleen is right, Zen is a much bigger and slower developing mare than Rachel so she didn't race much as a 3 year old.  Any smart trainer would not run or train a big mare like that until her knees had a chance to close. But look what she has done in the meantime 15 straight,NO LOSSES!! Anyone who has the chance to work with young horses can only imagine how great that would be to have a perfect record!!

20 Mar 2010 8:06 PM
Slew

Hot Dixie Chick made her 2010 debut at Oaklawn Park today.  She's back in form and great.  Won going away!

20 Mar 2010 8:11 PM
Angela

FYI- They didn't just slap a figure 8 on RA for this race.  She had to have worked in it at least once before and the equipment change had to be approved by the Starter.  A horse has to run in the same equipment as in its previous race unless a change has been approved by the Starter.  Additionally, a Starter can require equipment changes if he thinks it is necessary.

20 Mar 2010 8:13 PM
Karen2

This reminds me of the Big Brown saga. A horse taking all the heat because people don't like his/her connections. Get real people. I love them both and have felt the need to defend them both. Last year and now most certainly this year. I'm just glad Rachel can't read.  I could care less that she got beat by a 1/2 length..Rachel is Rachel and will always be Rachel to me. She is an incredible filly with the heart to run and one of the most beautiful, most fluid runners I have ever seen. She is poetry in motion. Thanks for the video Bob.........She just sends shivers down my spine ......I would like to find a T-shirt that says Team Rachel on one side and Team Zenyatta on the other.

20 Mar 2010 8:59 PM
Reality Check

I've kept saying (but oddly never got posted) that Zenyatta's goals should go above and beyond Rachel.  If that makes me less "independent" than those true "indepedent" fans that would love for them to race each other, so be it.  The hype is ridiculous.  Z is now going for 16 in a row.  Cigar got a special race just for that occasion, and most people here are still fretting about nosebands.  All you can hope for is that Rachel rebounds and Zenyatta wins her 16th.  Which will probably start the hype all over again, sadly.

20 Mar 2010 9:49 PM
sidekickflats

Barbara W,

The retirement ceremony for Alysheba was great to see.  Churchill gave out posters to the fans.  It featured a conformation shot of Alysheba with the twin spires in the background and had his races listed.  I still have the poster.  They had a cooler made that said Alysheba or something on it. I can't remember.  The strap irritated him and he bucked most of the way back to the stable. It was nice to be able to cheer for him 1 more time.

20 Mar 2010 9:50 PM
Anne

Could care less about the owners and trainers anymore. Just feel for the horses.

20 Mar 2010 10:42 PM
Linda/Maryland

Of course Rachel was not ready after laying off that long.

I personally hope that they never race against each other.

20 Mar 2010 11:03 PM
Sharon

While I am not an "independent" and Z is the best IMHO, it is clear to me that RA is one classy filly; the problem is that her connections lack class.  Frankly, it doesn't make a difference to me if Z and RA meet, they are both wonderful!

20 Mar 2010 11:46 PM
Paula Higgins

Tiznowbaby, what does that mean in terms of recuperation when a horse cuts a tendon? I feel terrible this happened in her first race here. I wonder how it happened??

20 Mar 2010 11:47 PM
tvnewsbadge

Kate said

"It is JJ's fault for "caving" to public pressure.  He makes the final decision, the responsibility is his.  Certainly the media and the $$$ might have influenced his decision, but it is their place to try to encourage this meeting - it is JJ's place to turndown the meeting if his horse isn't ready. "

I'm not sticking up for Jess Jackson but I DO blame the fan and the media pressures (at least in part) for his decision to run this horse at this point in time.

We need to remember the guy has an ego the size of Texas and all he's been hearing since the BC Classic is how he's been "ducking" Zenyatta.

I imagine that's pretty hard for a rich and powerful man to take after the universal love and affection from fans he  enjoyed in the Curlin years and through most of 2009 and it got to him and he didn't go with his gut.

No big mystery here. When you consider what drives the man, Jackson's actions are perfectly understandable.

21 Mar 2010 12:40 AM
boatrocker

K, I admit I love to rock the boat. I knew the term "pet monkey" would get one comment or two and it did. I guess I'm getting too rigid as an old broad, but retired should mean retired. Z's retirement party just seemed gimmicky and sour apples to me when she came back rather quickly after her retirement. I have a picture of the ass-end of Quality Road and me hanging in my office. LOL darn horse wouldn't stand still long enough . . . So, as long as the horse doesn't get upset by being in a parade, it's sad that it doesn't happen more often because these athletes are my idols. I try to be more like them. What is any parade without a horse, any horse?

Seriously, Steve, when horses are recognized for consecutive wins and the majority of wins are on their home track, I have a difficult time placing them in the same category as the great citation and the great Cigar. What is your feeling on this, if any?

21 Mar 2010 1:45 AM
CV

Tiznowbaby,

Bambera's trainer said it wasn't a serious injury and his vet was looking at it. But it sounds to me she won't be going to the Apple Blossom. How long does it usually take for an injury of that type to heal?

21 Mar 2010 2:51 AM
Carlos

Well said it Mike, Rachel just raced one too many times last year,that race at Saratoga knock her out,she was life and death to beat older horses( not the best older horses) and they:the owners and trainer know it. Mr.Jackson come up with the excuse of not wanted to run on Santa Anita because of the race track was pure excuse, he knows that she wouldn't had a chance of beat Zenyatta on any track and end up the track.They got lucky in getting the horse of the year that in my opinion belonged to Zenyatta.Spring forward to 2010,they rush that poor filly to make that race at New Orleans at 1/16 mile in two month of training,I feel sorry for the filly been owned by people that have not clue about horses.

21 Mar 2010 7:11 AM
kathleen

quarterhossgal, nice to see someone mention knees.  That is the main problem that I have with racing 2yr olds.  They're just babies.  I'm astounded that any of them come out sound.

The figure 8 isn't really much of a problem, it's just one form of cavesson  which is designed to keep her mouth shut.  If there is a problem, it is most likely with the bit.  If I thought they were stupid, I'd say she looks like she needs wolf teeth out.  I'm sure they have a dentist on staff, so that can't be it.  Most likely, she's just doing what most unhappy horses do, and that is tossing her head.  I'm afraid they've really soured her.  

Her connections took advantage of a great filly with a great heart.  RA will go down in history as one of the best fillies of all time.  Zen will go down as one of the best race horses of all time.

21 Mar 2010 9:18 AM
Sam

First of all, very nice piece Steve. I think this all comes down to the fact that Jess Jackson got his bluff called by a whole lot of people and he folded. Cella did his part by changing his entire festival to accomodate his twice and put 5 mil on the table. The Zenyatta connections never waivered at all and simply stuck to their plan of running her at Oaklawn. At what point are they going to get credit for the way they have handled a horse that by the end of the year could go down as arguably the greatest ever?!? The networks were willing to adjust their Friday night prime time line ups for them and his own team even was on board. I simply think that Jess Jackson folded at the thought of his horse not being able to beat Zenyatta. I'm not buying any of it.

21 Mar 2010 9:28 AM
OLD TIMER

As always, a very good article, Steve. I love your alliteration with Rachel Radicals and Zenyatta Zealots. It so well describes some of the sentiments that have been aired in the Blood Horse blogs over the last 6 months. No matter what else happens, we're all hoping for that big showdown at some point this year.

21 Mar 2010 9:54 AM
Slew

Paula, I think Bambera just wanted to hang around and wait for Christine Daae so they could discuss their press coverage and decide if their over-hyped presence would ruin their chances with that great stud from Brazil, Einstein.  Unfortunately, there was a language barrier, so both were too involved trying to learn Portuguese to remember there were races going on.

21 Mar 2010 10:37 AM
kyoaks09

For all of the Rachel fans, it is my understanding that HRTV will present a segment of "Inside Information" on Sunday night, March 28th that will feature Hal Wiggins, Rachel Alexandra, and Rachel Mattson (the little girl with him for the Kentucky Oaks).  It is scheduled to be shown at 9:00 that night, eastern time.

21 Mar 2010 11:27 AM
kyoaks09

Slew,

I LOVED your comments about Bambera, Christine Daae, and Einstein.  Cute, cute, cute!!! I have to say though, that I wish it were true because it would've at least explained why they ran the way that they did. I understand that Bambera was injured so hopefully that injury isn't too serious.  As far as Christine goes, I just don't know.

21 Mar 2010 12:07 PM
Paula Higgins

Slew, very funny LOL!! Call me crazy, but I don't think that was it.

Tvnewsbadge, I totally agree with everything you said above.

I think it is very exciting the Zenyatta is going for 16 and that alone makes it a race worth going to. As someone said above, just to be able to see her in person is worth the trip. Wish I was going to be there.

Will watch the show on Rachel kyoaks. Thanks for the information.

21 Mar 2010 1:00 PM
Tracey

Steve, I'm a little late commenting as my daughter was providing me with another grandchild. :-)I thoroughly enjoyed your article and LOL!

I do find your quote a little ironic: "Well, Shirreffs’ shifty little plan actually backfired from a monetary aspect, as it wound up potentially costing him a few hundred thousand dollars". I've read this thought from other blogs as well.

The horseracing industry in recent years has been critized for having greedy owners, breeders, etc., and for decisions being made because of financial reasons. Is it possible that SHIRREFF'S DECISION TO RUN ZARDANA IN THE LADIES WAS MADE BECAUSE IT WAS THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE TO RUN HER??? IS IT POSSIBLE THAT SHIRREFF'S PUT ZARDANA (AND HER OWNER'S) CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE HIS OWN???

IS IT BEYOND OUR COMPREHENSION THAT A TRAINER WOULD DO THAT? I don't think so.

I truly want to believe that Shirreff's is doing what he believes is best for all of his horses as individuals.

It's a little irritating now to read what appears to be criticism about his "costing himself money" when greediness has been an accusation of ruining the horseracing industry!!

Am I too late to get any responses on this thought?

21 Mar 2010 1:11 PM
Fahad Malaikah

I apologize for any repetitiveness and I want to try and avoid getting into her connections’ heads too much.  I don’t believe that RA has been mistreated on a day-to-day basis ("in the barn").  For those referring mainly to Asmussen, remember that it is Scott Blasi who I believe is closer to her on a daily basis.  I think that she is mostly in loving hands.  True, JJ should probably stick to paying the bills and he has made some mistakes this year.  But I commend him for taking so many gambles last year, and I personally thanked him after the Woodward.  When we criticize RA’s tough campaign, remember that for years much of the racing public has been nostalgically clamoring for the “good old days of racing” and has been shunning owners for shielding their supposedly “fragile” horses and retiring them early.  I really think that this issue is pretty straightforward and might be a case of her own connections even getting caught up in her own hype and greatness.  

RA did have a very tough campaign last year; one that I would argue was more grueling than Zenyatta’s 2008 or 2009 campaign (although I think that the 2008 campaign is actually more debatable than the 2009 one).  The Woodward was a very tough race, not simply because she was facing older males after an already historic campaign, but because of how the race unfolded (with very testing fractions and different horses mounting challenges all the way around).  I don’t know if RA is the same this year, or if the Woodward “ruined” her, but I do know that her connections did the right thing by resting her after the race.  The idea that they skipped the BCC simply because of synthetics is not completely true.  It wouldn’t have mattered where the race was run.  She deserved a rest.

This year, she was rightfully being brought back slowly and missed some training early on due to weather.  Before the matchup was decided, Asmussen stated that she wouldn’t start until at least April.  I don’t know why in the world her connections agreed to April 9th for the AB, especially after saying ‘no’ to April 3rd.  That was plain silly and may have been a case of Jackson’s “over-interference” in her plans.  I have argued all along that a (tentative) date should have been set for Oaks day if the race just “had” to be run.  But with the April 9th date, RA was forced into a tight training schedule and a March prep that she wasn’t ready for.  Sure, she didn’t run a really bad race.  I think that she’s such a fast, good, and determined filly that she doesn’t have a truly “bad” race in her, but it wasn’t the RA that we know.  Had Zenyatta not come out of retirement or had an April 9th date not been set, I don’t think that we would have seen RA start this early in the year.  Thus, her connections realized that they made a mistake by forcing her on an accelerated schedule and so they made the right decision to avoid the AB, especially against a Zenyatta who has benefitted from a late-starting 2009 campaign and the fact that she’s been kept in training since the BCC.  Asmussen even admitted that RA may not be the same as last year.  That happens to a lot of horses, so it may not only be a result of her tough campaign if that is indeed the case.  RA’s connections have the right to wait until they are sure that she is back and ready.  They may be making a lot of PR mistakes, but I think that skipping the AB is a good decision for Rachel.

Respectfully,

Fahad              

21 Mar 2010 1:22 PM
vikingblood22

Kathleen, well said.  Rachel will go down in history as one of the greatest fillies and Z one of the greatest race horses.  I like that.

21 Mar 2010 1:36 PM
Tiznowbaby

Boatrocker, Zenyatta has 15 wins: 6 at Santa Anita, 5 at Hollywood Park, 2 at Del Mar, and 1 at Oaklawn.

She does not have the majority of wins at her home track. She travels quite extensively even if three tracks are in the same (large) state.

21 Mar 2010 2:00 PM
Matthew W

Do ya think Jess was sandbagging before the Woodward, so's to not allow Team Z enough arrival time? Methinks he did just that---I love Rachel Alexandra--no true horseman would root against a horse--but The Moss's are risking an undefeated record, Jess can theorize all he wants, put up or shut up, allready--a loss will not change a mare's $$ value one cent, but The Moss's are risking history--the least you can do is try them--IF your mare is fine, and I think she is--they should have gone...

21 Mar 2010 2:13 PM
Laura

In Personal Ensign's undefeated career, 10 of her 13 races were at Belmont Park. Did anyone scream "Home Track Advantage" back then?  Didn't think so...

21 Mar 2010 2:54 PM
Linda

It will be intresting to see if John S. gives Zardana a chance to win the Apple Blossom against Zennyata.  After all she desevers a chance after her winning race against RA.  But I wouldnt be surprised if that did not happen.

21 Mar 2010 2:56 PM
tvnewsbadge

Again, not defending Jess Jackson, but if he knows or strongly suspects at this point in time Rachel CANNOT beat Zenyatta (an opinion shared it seems, by every single person who has commented in this thread), why on earth should he force her to run?

That makes no sense at all, and in my mind would verge on criminal.

Certainly people want vindication for Zenyatta.

It's understandable why Zenyatta needs to face Rachel to get that vindication.

Because while going undefeated is nice, it's not really that important in a historical sense or to anyone other than fans.

Witness Secretariat. Nobody cares that he lost, he's still considered the greatest racehorse that ever lived.

Zenyatta needs to beat Rachel, but I don't see where that's Jess Jackson's problem and why he should should offer his horse up as the sacrificial lamb if he KNOWS the odds are against her.

21 Mar 2010 3:00 PM
kyoaks09

Tracey,

I truely believe that Mr. Haskin was joking in his comment about Mr. Shirreffs' decision "costing him a few hundred thousand dollars".  Before Rachel's race, there was talk of Mr. Shirreffs running Zardana as some sort of a spy, which even I as an avid Rachel fan, think was an absurd statement.  I completely believe that Mr. Shirreffs is doing and will continue to do what is best for not only Zardana, but for all of his horses.  I think that Mr. Haskin was only teasing in reference to those statements.

Congratulations on the new grandchild!

21 Mar 2010 3:03 PM
CV

Tracey,

I suggest you read through the whole thread. Here's what Steve Haskin wrote to someone else on Saturday...

"You apparently did not understand the first several graphs are all tongue-in-cheek satire.--Steve Haskin 20 Mar 2010 12:40 PM"

In other words, your ALL CAPS outrage was misplaced.

21 Mar 2010 3:12 PM
sidekickflats

Tracey,

I think you need to reread Mr. Haskin's article.  I think that you missed his line " Ok, now back to reality."

21 Mar 2010 3:20 PM
Paula Higgins

Fahad, you are absolutely right. Good post. The voice of reason. Happy to see that.

21 Mar 2010 3:43 PM
moodygirl

For those who think public pressure caused JJ to change his mind and agree to the Appleblossom, you give too much credit to the public. Zenyatta's camp had already agreed to the Appleblossom. Then JJ said RA would not be ready. Fine, Zenyatta's camp continued to calmly prepare for the race at $500,000, as a good race for her (which they had said from the very start of the season). Then we read reports that JJ is having meetings with the Appleblossom people & the NRA. The Mosses nor Schireffs are included. They are questioned by the press about these meetings, whom Jackson has said the Mosses are a part of, and the Mosses & Schireffs know nothing about it. Jess Jackson made that deal on the Appleblossom all by himself, when the public was already expressing disappointment but understood and was looking at future races where they might meet. The Appleblossom mess I lay at the feet of Jess Jackson, it was all his doing. His motives are unknown but to him.

Then it got worse when Rachel lost and there were all those mixed messages about her condition. Then I really started to get sick, feeling I couldn't trust anything said by RA's camp. What a shame for racing professionals in charge of such an incredible horse. I personally will not believe anything they say in the press any longer. Possibly those on the inside privy to what is really going on will spill the truth. I'm no longer looking for it from JJ's mouth or those he has on a tight rein.

I have 2 analogies for this situation. There is interest in this and speculation which reminds me of the JFK assasination. Everyone has a theory and an opinion, largely because truthful information was not forthcoming.

The others is another sport comparison. Knowing many LONG suffering Cleveland Browns fans, I see the paralell between the former owner, Art Modell, who consistantly overrode his coaches and created years of defeat for the team.

I hope this will not be the case for Rachel, mismanagement leading to unrealized potential. I wish JJ would turn it all over to Asmussen, let him train her as he sees fit and make the reccommendations on the race schedule & follow them. Asmussen's reputation is the one on the line. He will ultimately be blamed for running her too hard ot not training her right. This may put a stain on his career that will overshadow all his achievements. This is what people will remember & talk about.

Many people do not comprehend the importance of Zenyatta's unbeaten record. Only a tiny group of TBs have retired undefeated worldwide. There are a total of 49 TBs retired undefeated from all recorded races since the 1700's. Zenyatta places 7th on the list with 15 wins.

Those above Zenyatta are: Colin (15), Ribot (16), Ormonde (16), Eclipse (18), Pepperspride (19), Kincsem (54)--he was from Hungary, 1874.

Are you starting to get it?

These are some of the horses below her on the list: Danzig(3), Vindication(4), Raise a Native(4), St. Simon(9), Personal Ensign(13), Nearco(14)

Do you see how difficult this is to achieve? The Mosses could stop racing her now & preserve her name forever on this illusterous list. Instead I believe they have chosen to continue for the joy of seeing her run for them and the fans, and ultimately for the sport.

21 Mar 2010 4:04 PM
Michelle

el - I did not say a sealed track is "treacherous" a man who has been in the business for many many years and is a respected analyst of the sport said it.  I personally don't believe the way you do that "no horse owner in his right mind would allow his horse to run over them".  In a world where thousands of these horses end up at the slaughter house because they can't run, are injured or are used up - I have a hard time believing that track surface enters the thought process too much unless you are the owner of a Big Brown, Quality Road or Zenyatta.  Sad but true in my opinion.  

21 Mar 2010 4:19 PM
Zookeeper

No, Zenyatta doesn't NEED to beat Rachel. It's been done before and by lesser horses. Her fans though who have suffered through more than a year of disrespect and gloating on the part of RA's fans would that very much. Zenyatta doesn't need vindication: she is undefeated. The shoe is on the other foot, don't you think?

If beeing undefeated is not all that important, as somebody had the gall to post, I suggest a dose of REALITY is in order.

21 Mar 2010 4:23 PM
Zookeeper

And then... there's the comment that John Shirreffs probably would not enter Zardana in the AB for fear of her defeating Zenyatta. Although everything is possible in horse racing, such an event is highly unlikely. Zardana is a good, gritty little mare but she is no monster... Zenyatta is.

If Zardana doesn't run in the AB, I'm sure the same people, who don't get the concept of parody, will run with it and declare that the Zen team is afraid of Zardana: the same horse who got out of California to, partially, get away from Zen. Great logic!

21 Mar 2010 4:43 PM
kathleen

Laura, good point on Personal Ensign.  I don't think she had a rival's fans belittleing her ackomplishments.

21 Mar 2010 5:03 PM
Ross

For someone who is not in the industry, this discussion has provided a wealth of knowledge.  The best of blogging starts with a very well written and thoughtful article.  Thanks, Steve.

21 Mar 2010 5:05 PM
Amalex

I personally think that if Rachel was 100% that race, (As she should have been!)she would have put 6+ lenghts on Zardana!!!!

And they also should get all of that junk off her face! She doesn't need it. I think that they're just worried what happend at the Woodward Post-Parade would happen again. But it won't!

21 Mar 2010 5:08 PM
Zookeeper

moodygirl,

GREAT post!

21 Mar 2010 5:27 PM
Pam S.

TVnewsbadge,

I disagree that Zenyatta has to beat Rachel.  True, Zenyatta hasn't been able to get to Rachel yet, but her stablemate has taken care of that little detail.  I also think most racing fans have a pretty good idea of which horses in history were unbeaten or had long unbeaten streaks.  But many have trouble remembering which horse was Horse of the Year in any given year.  

21 Mar 2010 5:41 PM
sidekickflats

Fahad,

I agree mostly with what you said except in regards to the Woodward.  If my memory serves me correctly, Jess Jackson said fairly early on (before the Woodword) that Rachel would NOT be going and running on a "plastic"surface for the Breeder's Cup. Since they were not pointing to the BC then they chose to run her in the Woodword. If they had been pointing to the BC during that time frame they may have rested her after the Haskell and run in a different prep , who knows.  But the way I see it, Rachel ran in the Woodword and got tired because she was not going to the BC. She didn't run in the BC because she got tired in the Woodword and needed a rest.  See the difference?

21 Mar 2010 6:30 PM
sidekickflats

Further to my last comment , I searched the Bloodhorse articles on Rachel.  On Jun. 29th, Jerry Moss responded to the news that Jess Jackson would not be bringing Rachel to the BC because of the "plastic" surface.  By the way, Rachel won over Keeneland's polytrack as a 2 year old. On June 29th, Mr. Moss said that he would love for Zenyatta and Rachel to meet and that he was sorry that Rachel was not coming. SO obv.  Jackson made the BC decision on or before June 29th.

On August 24th,  almost 2 months after Jess Jackson's decision to not run in the BC, Steve A anounces that Rachel will be running in the Woodword the first week in Sept. Also announced that

day, was that the Woodword purse would be increased by $250,000 to ensure a quality field for Rachel's attempt at becoming the first 3 year old filly to win the WW.  

So to me it's not a chicken vs egg question.  They were not coming to the BC so decided to run her where they did.  

21 Mar 2010 6:46 PM
Horse Lover

NEW question............

could Rachael be "telling" Mr. Jackson that she is finished racing and wants to have a foal?

This happens.....  Steve, What do you think?

I LOVE both horses

21 Mar 2010 7:11 PM
tvnewsbadge

Zookeeper sez  " Her fans though who have suffered through more than a year of disrespect and gloating on the part of RA's fans would that very much."

Sure they do. But isn't that THEIR problem?

Why do they think jess Jackson has a duty to them to race Rachel at a time when she's not in condition to beat Zenyatta?

And what about the Rachel fans? Don't they have the right to know if their champion is defeated, it was because she was beaten by a better horse and not lack of conditioning by her connections?

"If beeing undefeated is not all that important, as somebody had the gall to post, I suggest a dose of REALITY is in order."

The REALITY is that while being undefeated is certainly icing on the cake, it's not how history determines it's greatest champions.

Rachel proved how little that counts even among horse racing professionals when she won HoTY last year.

And once again, there's Secretariat. Beaten a number of time in his career, he's STILL the consensus greatest horse that ever lived.

Regarding Zardana in the AB, it's not so far fetched that she'll be pulled in order to protect Zenyatta (though I'm sure she's no threat).

Remember what a certain horse named Angle Light did on April 21, 1973 in the Wood Memorial Stakes and the problems that caused his trainer,  Lucien Laurin?

It's not inconceivable that John Sherriffs would rather not be in  that position, no matter how remote.

21 Mar 2010 7:20 PM
Paula Higgins

Moodygirl, first, Kincsem was a filly not a "he." I think it is going to be difficult for me to reason with anyone that makes an analogy between the Kennedy assasination and Jess Jackson and the Apple Blossom. That's absurd on every level.

If you don't think Jess Jackson was being pressured by the public and media prior to committing to the Apple Blossom, you need to go back and read the articles still posted on the internet. Ditto some of the blogs. He certainly was being pressured. Yes, it was his decision to commit and it was his decision to decide not to. Rachel is his horse. He is the owner. It is his right, end of discussion. He had very legitimate reasons for doing so. This race was being hailed as the second coming of the Seabiscuit/War Admiral race. Why on earth do you think he would put a less than 100% filly into a race she was certain to lose? Some people think it was a prep race which set her up to run just great in the Apple Blossom. Maybe yes, maybe no. Steve Asmussen didn't love what he was seeing and I GET THAT. For the record, I don't think Steve Asmussen's career and reputation are contigent upon whether Rachel runs in the Apple Blossom. That's just nonsense. His reputation WOULD be in tatters if he ran a subpar Rachel in the Apple Blossom, and she was mowed down by Zenyatta, all the while knowing she wasn't ready.

As for Zenyatta, I think everyone on this blog understands the significance of what she has accomplished. We also understand the risk Jerry and Ann Moss and John shirreffs are taking when whenever they race her (a racing loss). If she should lose the Apple Blossom, she won't lose her place in horse racing history. If she wins it, she only adds more luster to her reputation. Frankly, after the Breeders Cup everything else is gravy to me.

21 Mar 2010 8:24 PM
scpalohorselvr

I agree with Ross that this discussion has provided a wealth of knowledge.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one, especially Criminal Type, Zookeeper, and Paula Higgins.  Paula, I chuckled when I read about your husband and the Breeders Cup.  The exact same thing happened at my house.  I love Zenyatta and her connections, but also have a special place in my heart for Rachael.  Also, Kathleen, good point about the 2 year olds.  I cringe when I hear a race called a "baby race" don't you?

21 Mar 2010 8:53 PM
Tracey

Thank you kyoaks09,CV, and sidekickflats for responding to my post. I did actually read that it was "tongue-in-cheek" and responded not really so much to Steve as to the other bloggers that I also mentioned - those that believed Shirreff's sent Zardana to race against RA as a spy.

As for my ALL CAPS outrage, that was really an attempt to catch the attention of those who are quick to criticize the industry for being greedy, but fail to give recognition to those who are acting responsibly and in the best interest of the thoroughbreds.

I actually am in agreement with Steve,and as I mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed the article. I guess I just need to remember that these posts are emotionless and my sarcasm fails to come thru.

Thank you for your responses. I enjoy these blogs as they help me vent!

21 Mar 2010 10:18 PM
Zookeeper

tvnewsbadge,

Maybe I did not explain my point very well and you misunderstood my statement. I wasn't saying that the RA team should run her against Zen because her fans wish them to do so. I was responding to a comment that Zenyatta NEEDS to beat RA, that she needs vindication. My point is: Zen doesn't need vindication, she is PERFECT in 15 starts. She doesn't need to make up for anything. Her fans, however, do and I explained why. Am I saying that they MUST run RA for the benefit of Zen's fans? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

As to your comment of "icing on the cake" regarding her undefeated status, you are entitled to your opinion. I beg to differ and most people do. Winning every race is so difficult a task, that it is seldom accomplished. Have you read moodygirl's contribution to this blog? (21MAR 4:04 PM) So far, Zenyatta's record is perfect and trying to diminish it by calling it "icing on the cake" will not accomplish your goal. Or did I misunderstand you?

21 Mar 2010 11:16 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

It took me a minute to understand where you were having trouble with my post because of the last three sentences of your first post, which seemed a bit unclear, but I think I now understand your overall argument.  We’re actually not on very different pages here.  You may be 100% right about the surface argument and JJ (which as we know, doesn’t necessarily equal a “Zenyatta-ducking” argument), but you have to bear in mind a few things that I feel are probably true, but weren’t mentioned in my post.  I saw the June 29 article that you were referencing where Moss said that he didn’t want to ship East for a matchup with RA and where he alluded to Jackson’s “plastic” comments, and we’ll come back to that article in the end.  

I completely understand that RA ran on a synthetic track as a 2yo, and I think Jackson knew that too, although in fairness we do have to bear in mind that not all synthetic tracks are the same.  Personally, I don’t think that SA’s surface would have mattered to RA and I'm not sure Jackson dislikes SA's surface as much as his "harsh" language would indicate.  As for Jackson, he seems to me like a very "adventurous" type of guy, and I personally see him as the type of man who might say one thing publicly and do another at the last minute.  That is, he might say he’s not going to run in the BC at SA, and then all of a sudden Rachel shows up on BC-day at SA (I hope this doesn’t happen with the AB).  I think the fact that he agreed on April 9th after saying ‘no’ to April 3rd for the AB, as well as some of his past actions/statements with Curlin, lends some credibility to the notion that he could do something a little “crazy” like that.  But I may be misreading him completely.  

With that in mind, my point was that it was not completely true that RA didn’t run in the BC simply because of the “synthetic” issue, but that she was tired from a grueling campaign, which I think is quite true.  As I’ve stated elsewhere, I think that RA was at her best last year between the Mother Goose and the Haskell, and I personally think she was a little tired even by the time of the Woodward, which itself was a very tough race.  I saw both the Haskell and Woodward personally, and RA’s slightly different demeanor in the paddock at Saratoga had me a little worried before the race.  The article you reference came after the Mother Goose, and even with Jackson’s reservations about the surface, I think that all of her connections realized that making it to the BCC in far-off November would have been a very tough goal to commit to after a few more starts, even if she was doing quite well at the time.  Also, if you take the line like I do that Jackson wanted Zenyatta to ship East or to neutral ground to face Rachel, as opposed to waiting to face Zenyatta at her comfortable home-base in November when she was just getting cranked up, and bear in mind his sour grapes over Curlin’s 2008 SA/BCC defeat, it makes sense that he would make such harsh comments about SA’s “plastics.” That is, he didn’t like the surface, but also, what better way to get Zenyatta to come out of California than to say you’re not going to SA’s “plastic” surface for the BC well in advance of November.  The article you reference hints at this, where Moss’ declaration to not ship East to face RA seems to have stemmed from his perception that this was a challenge from JJ.  Whatever the case, and you may be right that it was all about surface for Jackson, it doesn’t detract from the point that she was a tired horse, and she probably would not have run no matter where the BC was held, unless Jackson made a strange last-minute decision.

Respectfully,

Fahad      

21 Mar 2010 11:31 PM
Footlick

tvnewsbadge- I take it you are not a Zenyatta fan?

21 Mar 2010 11:48 PM
chuck

It's obvious why the Rachel's camp is in disarray, state of confusion and are sending different signals.

Zenyatta UNRETIRED!!

22 Mar 2010 12:39 AM
Criminal Type

I don't know who posted the comments about the size of these girls, but I don't think the difference is much. An inch or two at most. Rachel is 17 hands, Zenyatta is 17.1 or 17.2. They are both BIG girls. Zenyatta may be wider then Rachel, but part of that is the 2 year age difference and maturity/development.

If you watch the replay of the Breeders Cup Classic, Zenyatta is beside Mine That Bird (15.3) at the back of the field going into the first turn and you gotta laugh at the difference in their sizes. He look's like a dwarf.

I don't remember fillies being that big back when I was around TB's 24/7. In fact I don't remember a lot of the colts being that big either. There seem to be a lot of 17 hand or more race horses out there now. Eight Belles was over 17 hands, as are a lot of Unbridleds Song's. He is 17 hands. Is Medaglia D'oro that big? I don't think Street Cry is over 16.1. Maybe Vertiginaux and Lotta Kim are big mares. If anyone knows the stats on these mares, I would like to know.

I had the weirdest dream last night, that Zenyatta was bred to Midnight Lute. Bob Baffert and John Sheriffs where arguing over who would train the foal. You should have seen some of the comments on THAT blog....haha. I looked up the nick on that cross and it's an A.

22 Mar 2010 5:44 AM
Slew

I was checking out wikipedia for Rachel....and lo and behold, they had a quote made to the Times Union on Sept 3, 2009 by Calvin:

"One of the secrets to success, according to Calvin is that he just lets Rachel Alexandra do her thing. Borel said he's learned not to hold back Rachel Alexandra, even if she wants to run the first quarter-mile in a fast 22 seconds or the half-mile in 44. "I don't fight her ever since I've been on her," he said. "The first day I learned that. As long as she's got them ears doing this (perking), I'm happy, I don't care how fast she goes."

That was right before the Woodward.

I think Calvin had a lot of horse under him in the NOL, but he wasn't allowed to ride her like he had in her previous 9 wins.

22 Mar 2010 6:54 AM
Rachel

The horror of our beloved president's assassination assigned to the same level as the GAME of horseracing?

22 Mar 2010 7:42 AM
Will W

As has been said in this blog, Jackson painted himself into a corner with his comment about the timing of the Apple Blossom and, when Oaklawn called his bluff and moved the race forward a week to accommodate him,  Jackson appears to have agreed to run to save himself from being unmasked and publicly embarrassed. He, most likely, never intended to run Rachel against Zenyatta in April with questions looming about her fitness level nor did he apparently anticipate that Oaklawn would actually change the date of the Apple Blossom to get the match-up. He had Asmussen accelerate her training, but it was a futile effort as RA came up a little short because of her fitness level and, perhaps, because of the way Borel was instructed to ride her. In his post race public statements Asmussen only accurately reflected how Rachel came out of the race but Jackson, given the excuse offered by Rachel's defeat, merely reverted to his initial judgment that six months off and a weather-interrupted training schedule did not allow his filly to be ready to face Zenyatta so early in her 2010 campaign. This was solely Jackson's decision though gentleman that he is he discussed the matter fully with Asmussen so as not to be seen as dictating decisions to America's leading trainer whose abilities had served him well with both of his two superstars, Curlin and Rachel. This is not a dysfunctional family, but Steve is right when he counsels that those closest to the horse - that is Asmussen, his assistant trainer, and the exercise rider - should be relied on for final decisions as to when the horse is fit to race. It is likely that is just what Jackson will do in the future, and the Apple Blossom was just an aberration brought about by Jackson's pre-race maneuverings that broke down the normal decision-making process as to when the horse's conditioning and fitness level allowed her to run.

22 Mar 2010 8:25 AM
Zookeeper

Come on people! moodygirl was not comparing the events, she was comparing the conspiracy theories that came out of them, because many thought they weren't told the truth. There was a lot more to her post than a misunderstood analogy. Read it again and see.

22 Mar 2010 9:37 AM
Footlick

Ok everyone- moodygirl was talking about the conspiracy theories about the assasination, not the assasination itself.  Can we please get a grip?  She was not comparing the assasination with anything about horse racing.  It was an analogy of all the different theories being tossed about, then and now about RA.

As far as the media pressuring Mr Jackson- I don't think anybody pressures him.  He does what he wants.  Maybe he didn't think Cella would move the date for the AB, I don't know.  But nobody pressures that man to do anything he doesn't want to do.  He wanted to run for 5 mil- plain and simple.  His horse either isn't the same or was short.  He feels she couldn't run her best, so he pulled her.

22 Mar 2010 9:48 AM
tvnewsbadge

Footlick asks

"tvnewsbadge- I take it you are not a Zenyatta fan?"

Quite the contrary. I'll take Zenyatta over Rachel any day.

But I believe in a level playing field so it IS fair to say I'm not a fan of what many of Zenyatta's fans seem to be turning into.

NOT ONE of us thinks that Rachel Alexandra has the physical conditioning to have a realistic chance of beating Zenyatta at this point in time and yet far too many of us are demanding that race be run anyway.

 As big a fan as Zenyatta as I am, I'm not to kick the other camp when they're down. I not only find that to be hypocritical, but  unsportsmanlike in the extreme,

22 Mar 2010 9:56 AM
Karen in Indiana

I do hope Bambera is going to be o.k.

22 Mar 2010 9:58 AM
JAJ

When I saw Zenyatta passing the stands the first time in her Breeders' Cup Classic, I could not have imagined her actually winning the race.  She moved horribly.  I was happy they retired her.  Big horses are really hard to keep sound--they put too much stress on their joints.  There is a reason Zenyatta didn't start before November in her 3-year old year.

After seeing how Zenyatta ran her first half mile in the Classic, I think Jackson was extremely confident that Rachel would be able to win against her up to 9f, so he was quite happy to agree to the Apple Blossom on the 9th.  Then he saw her run an incredible race on the 13th.  There was none of that crabby movement for the first half mile we saw in the Classic.  All of a sudden, his confidence that Rachel could beat Zenyatta was rather rudely shaken.

My belief is that Jackson felt he would be tackling Zenyatta at the end of her career as the wear and tear from being such a big filly was starting to take its toll.  Her first race of the year put that thought to rest.

For those who don't understand why the extra 6 days matters, it is because it gives  enough time for at least a breeze, possibly two after the prep race.  If Rachel needed more then two weeks to recover after her NO Ladies before a breeze, she wouldn't really have enough time to breeze and recover for the Apple Blossom.  The extra 6 days gives her time for another breeze.  It allows a lot more flexibility on how the trainer plans to bring Rachel up to the race.

Rachel was never going to the Breeders' Cup.  If Jackson wanted her there, they would have not run her so hard up to the Woodward, simple as that.

22 Mar 2010 11:17 AM
Smarie

I believe that some of the anti-Rachel Alexandra feelings do occur because some people don't like Jess Jackson. You are right, Mr. Haskin, when you say that Zenyatta comes from the "Cleavers," while maybe the "Osbournes," describe the Jackson/Asmussen camp at times. Mr. and Mrs. Moss have always been gracious, while Jackson has not. As for RA's loss, no I do not believe that she is regressing into a lesser racehorse than before. I think her loss is being blown out of proportion. Time will tell though. Sometimes, horses who have had a previous spectacular year on the track fail to ever regain that form. Zenyatta, so far, is her usual exceptional self and I would love to see her remain undefeated in 2010. Jess Jackson does not do things in the typical Thoroughbred owner style. He seems to run hot and then cold. If Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra never meet on the racetrack, I don't think it will be because of Zenyatta's connections.

22 Mar 2010 11:45 AM
sodapopkid

JJ has backed out of the AB, OK, Zenyatta came east to take on Ra, as usual , JJ dodges her, NOW, since he dodged Z, he must come west to face Zenyatta in california. Fair is Fair with this man, he is all talk and not enough action.

Take your defeat and move on coward, I understand your party is in a disarray right now, but Zenaytta came to take you on on your favorite surface and since her stablemate beat her to the punch line first, you want to tuck your tale under and pout like a baby.

IF your horse is not able to beat Zenyatta while she is fresh, do you think she is going to be able to beat her when she is tired.

Get real Jackson, admit it, that you want no part of the queen of the west.

22 Mar 2010 11:53 AM
kathleen

Mares have very long memories and a very accute sense of self preservation.  What RA did in the Woodward was beyond belief, and the heart she showed was that of a true champion.  The fact that she was repeatedly whipped,repeatedly challenged, and beyond exhaustion at the conclusion of that race is not something she'll forget.  I don't think she'll allow herself to be put into that position again, and I don't think we'll ever see her race with her whole heart again.

The bottom line in comparing JJ and the Mosses, RA is tossing her head and fighting her rider, Zen is dancing to the post, finding a way to win, and dancing back to the barn.

22 Mar 2010 12:22 PM
sidekickflats

Fahed,

I think that we are in the same book but not on the same page. You argue that it was not just the synthetics that kept Rachel out of the BC and I agree to that part of the debate.  Jess Jackson said very early that he was not bringing Rachel to run on "plastics".  WHo knows why he didn't want to run her.  HE doesn't like Santa Anita? He doesn't like synthetics, He doesn't like the traffic, he didn't like Curlin getting beat on it?  He would rather play golf that weekend?  He had a hot date?  Who knows why he made that decision.  But my contention is that that decision steered the rest of Rachel's campaign.  You then have camp Zenyatta who all year pointed TOWARD the BC and camp Rachel who steered (for whatever reason) away from the BC. Everything Camp Z did all year was formulated to get Z to the BC in the best shape as possible.  Because R was not going to the BC, Camp R did not need to make sure she was fit and happy and ready to run a big race in Nov.

I'm not sure that I buy that Rachel would not have run in the BC if it had been held at Churchill or Belmont last year but we'll never know.  

I'm sure that you are right about her being tired. You state "I think that RA was at her best last year between the Mother Goose and the Haskell, and I personally think she was a little tired even by the time of the Woodward, which itself was a very tough race. "

You have to remember that R ran in Feb, March, APril and then the KY Oaks in May.  Her original connctions were then planning on resting her and pointing to the Coaching Club and perhaps the Triple Tiara races.  When Jess bought her, he stated that if the deal hadn't happen within a day of when it did, the filly could not have run in the Preakness as Mr Higgins was only having her walk the shedrow.  So you have a filly who instead of taking a break, turns around and runs (and wins) 2 weeks later. She wins the Preakness on 5 -16, the Mother Goose on 6- 27, and the Haskell on 8-2.   I quess the debate is , if the BC had been elsewhere, would Camp R had given her a bigger rest (not run her in the Woodward,) prepped in Oct and raced in the BC?

I don't doubt that she needed a break after the Woodward and they did the right thing by given her one.  She should not have come to the BC after the Woodward.  My contention is that the WW was her BC and if they had planned to come to the BC she would have not run there at all.

"if you take the line like I do that Jackson wanted Zenyatta to ship East or to neutral ground to face Rachel, as opposed to waiting to face Zenyatta at her comfortable home-base in November when she was just getting cranked up"   -  If Jess wanted to face Zenyatta "on neutral ground" he could have gone to the Beldame.  NRYA announced on Aug. 23rd that they were raising the purse to 1 mill if both R and Z started.  It's a mile and 1/8 distance so good for both and it would make Zen fly to NY while R was already close by.  So if Jess wanted to face Zenyatta, they could have skipped the WW (They announced they were going to the WW on Aug 29th so they already knew about the Beldame) and gone to the Beldame.   Unless, they knew that Rachel's well was running dry (but if that's the case why risk running in the WW?)  or if they wanted no part of Zenyatta anywhere.  If they wanted no part of Zenyatta last year, are we ever going to see the 2 mares meet on the track?

Criminal Type - both the Bloodhorse and ESPN have Rachel as being 16 hands.  One has Zen as being 17 and one has her being 17 1/2 so there is a size difference.  I believe I saw an interview with Bob Baffert where he says he went over and measured Z to see if she was bigger than M. Lute and they were either the same size or Z was bigger I can't remember.   No offense against M. Lute but I hope they dont breed the two.  At some point you can get too big.   By the way, I have a program that has Criminal Type in an allowance race or something before he made it big.

22 Mar 2010 12:40 PM
SMTDL

TV Newsbag..I can't believe they will keep Zardana out of the AB.The horse that beat Rachel?..Its the next best thing if Zenyatta beats Zardana.Right?How would they answer why no Zardana in the race!?Also with Bambera losing and/or maybe not running  in the AB they need some competetition don't they? Maybe Unbridled Belle will run in the AB.Anybody know is that's the case?

22 Mar 2010 1:36 PM
AFull

@ Criminal Type,  from what I can find RA is 16.2 (5'4") and Z is 17.1 or 17.2 (5'9") I wish they would give the height in there stats but I guess it really doesn't matter. I noticed the same thing at the BC, Mine That Bird looks soo tiny compared to Zenyatta. She makes two of him.

22 Mar 2010 1:40 PM
SMTDL

Moody Girl..You make a good argument but who on the list of unbeatens is considered better than,Secretariat,Citation,Man O' War,Ruffian,Seattle Slew etc.Being undefeated is notable but not the end all for greatness.Anyone that saw Seattle Slew's loss to Exceller in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup at a mile and a half after a 3 way speed duel with Affirmed and his stable mate Life's Hope on a sloppy track can attest to that being probably his greatest performance!Zenyatta has been limited by her owners and does need to enhance her reputation by running more outside of Calif,on dirt tracks and more against males.Another 5 race California campaign won't do it !!She needs to run at Oaklawn,Churchill and Belmont,beat Males again and beat Rachel Alexandra in 2010.

22 Mar 2010 1:50 PM
CV

Criminal Type,

During the Breeder's Cup Classic  coverage, ESPN showed a graphic comparing Zenyatta (17 1/2 hands) to Secretariat and Rachel Alexandra (both 16.2 hands).

Unless Rachel has had a HUGE growth spurt over the fall and winter, she's still 16.2 hands tall.

22 Mar 2010 1:55 PM
Matthew W

Linda: Shirreffs raced Life Is Sweet v Big Z--they have not ducked anyone--if the owner so decides, and I'm pretty sure they WERE going with Zardana in Apple Blossom IF the purse was 5mil---just not sure I'd be trying Big Z for 500K if I had Zardana--600K for third, now that's a no-brainer!

22 Mar 2010 1:56 PM
Matthew W

Criminal Type: that breeding would "kill" her! Also females just do not tend to reproduce anything like themselves, so I'm not even thinking about their future foals--Zenyatta's time is NOW--Now is the time for her racing history, now is the time to see if she can win out, the "unbeatable mare", the "female Man O War"...we're living in a time where it might be--we'll know soon enough and that's a cool thought to ponder: that we're living, right now, during historic racing times, year three of a mare's racing dominance the likes of which has rarely, if ever, been seen....

22 Mar 2010 2:04 PM
CV

Steve,

Could Bloodhorse post a note on what will happen to Bambera, who suffered a cut tendon when she stumbled in the Rampart? Can the injury be repaired or will she have to be retired? It's sad this happened in her U.S. debut.

I found some pictures that show how badly she stumbled. There's also a picture of the injury itself. Perhaps someone who has experience with this kind of injury can comment on how serious it looks.

eclipsesportswire.spitfirephoto.com/viewphoto.php

eclipsesportswire.spitfirephoto.com/viewphoto.php

dimensionhipica.blogspot.com/.../jinete-edgar-perez-bambera-venia.html

22 Mar 2010 2:19 PM
boatrocker

Tiznowbaby, with all due respect, if 6 out of 15 of Z's wins were at Santa Anita, then the majority of Z's wins are at her home track, unless I have been misled and Santa Anita is not her home track?

22 Mar 2010 2:31 PM
Matthew W

I agree--it "has to be" back there--but I thought that's why they decided to race her at six: to show her off to the East--it's what they must do/it's what they're planning to do....

22 Mar 2010 2:43 PM
Footlick

tvnewsbadge- I believe I am very fair.  But I don't discount one horses achievements and laud the others.  If you want a level playing field, what should be said?  Maybe people should ignore the two prep races.  Maybe Zenyatta fans should ignore the fact that she is undefeated.  Maybe Zenyatta fans shouldn't bring up all the negative things that were said about her before the BC Classic.  Maybe they should ignore all the demeaning things that were said about the BC field after she won, even though before she won it was just too strong of a field for her.  I could go on and on, because the playing field on these blogs has never been level.  They usually are slanted toward favoring Rachel Alexandra, especially Jason's blogs.  Even your comment about HOY being won without being undefeated and that Zenyatta needs to beat Rachel is an example.  If you are a a Zenyatta fan, then you know that the last thing any Zenyatta fan wants is a sacrificial lamb.  She doesn't need one.  She runs her own race and does what she has to do everytime.  If Rachel hasn't recovered from the Woodward, the let her keep recovering.  If they retire her, then they do.  I would rather see Zenyatta run in Europe and go for the BC Turf, being the first  horse to win 3 different BC races.  But it still wouldn't be enough- because she wouldn't have beaten Rachel and she wouldn't have had a dirt campaign.  It will always be something.  There is no level playing field, ever.

22 Mar 2010 2:50 PM
vikingblood22

Horse Lover, I am a horse lover, too, but your question is not new.  I have addressed that question in a couple of my blogs . . . right after she raced, especially when she just kept pulling towards the barn.  She might be "saying" she just wants to go home and have beautiful little Rachels with Curlin. Your absolutely right, it does happen and she is in her prime as a female to do just that. Some fillies lose their competitive edge when in that state whereas others, like Z, she just loves to race and it is great to watch her run. But if RA was retired now to do that, be prepared for the critics who will say JJ is just afraid to have her race against Z nonsense, even though this happens all the time. Especially males are put out to stud too soon after their 3 YO year. A fan barely gets to know them and they are gone.

22 Mar 2010 2:50 PM
Footlick

SMTDL- I'm tired of the dirt argument.  Why does any horse have to prove themselves on a certain surface to be considered great?  And Personal Ensign ran against males only once.  Ir didn't seem to hurt her greatness. Or maybe she isn't great.

22 Mar 2010 2:54 PM
Matthew W

Boatrocker--no one misled you--her hometrack is Hollywood...

22 Mar 2010 2:55 PM
Footlick

Matthew W- I know breeders are always concerned about the mare's size.  I remember when Numbered Account was retired, they were thinking about breeding her to Riva Ridge, but since she was a big filly, they were nervous about the size of the resulting foal.  They would have to be very careful as to what sire they bred Zenyatta to, imo, which may not mean much.

22 Mar 2010 2:57 PM
sidekickflats

Boatrocker,

Hollywood Park is her home track.  Different tracks, different surfaces, same city.  Are Belmont and Aqueduct considered the same track?  Are Churchill and Keeneland?

22 Mar 2010 3:29 PM
sidekickflats

SMDTL,

I don't think that Zenyatta needs to enhance her reputation at all.  No matter what happens , she will always be the first undefeated BC Classic winner and the first mare to win that race. Coupled with back to back Eclipse awards for Older filly/mare and she is a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.  If you doubt her reputation just look at the World Thoroughbred rankings which had her ranked higher last year than Rachel.  Below Sea the Stars if I remember correctly.  

I also do not think that Zen needs to face Rachel at the track.  The ball is now in Rachel's court.  Nothing that Rachel does this year can take away her accomplishments of last year.  But after not taking the opportunity to race Zenyatta in the Beldame, BC Classic and now the Apple Blossum it is now up to Rachel to come and beat Zen.

22 Mar 2010 3:34 PM
kathleen

sidekickflat, add Del Mar to that mix which is an entirely different surfact.  If you think poly horses can't run on dirt, just look at Zen first Apple Blossom, or Zardana's NOL.  You don't seem to get that the horses that run on poly surfaces are in better, deeper condition.  It's EASIER to run on dirt.  It's more natural to run on dirt.

22 Mar 2010 3:46 PM
sidekickflats

CV,

Thanks for posting the pictures of Bamberra's stumble.  Yikes it looks bad.  I wish that I could read Spanish so I could read more info on her injury. Hopefully, she will recover quickly and we'll see her sometime this year.

22 Mar 2010 3:53 PM
Zookeeper

Footlick,

Are you losing patience with the "it's not enough" people? Me too. You present very good arguments. Don't give up!

22 Mar 2010 3:54 PM
Diane J

When Genuine Risk was bred to Secretariat, she lost that foal due to foaling complications.  Wasn't it partly because the foal was so large?  Genuine Risk was a good sized filly as well.  Off subject, but Steve, is there any place to follow retired mare's and their foals?  I'm especially curious how Ashado's foals are doing. Thank you.

22 Mar 2010 3:58 PM
Lee H.

Loved your comments. You nailed it.

22 Mar 2010 4:16 PM
Zookeeper

Matthew W,

I completely agree with your statement that NOW is the time to enjoy Zenyatta, as it was last year and the year before that. Musing over some "imagined" progeny is missing what she has and is still giving the racing world. History proves that the great racing fillies/mares do not automatically produce the best runners. Coldfacts and others have made the point very effectively. Yes, the foals of RA & Zen will be adorable and highly regarded but... will they run like their dams? Will Barbaro's full brothers ever run like he did? (No offense meant to the FOBs) The future will tell but like you, I prefer the HERE & NOW.

SMTDL,

Zenyatta does NOT need to beat Rachel Alexandra in 2010 to achieve greatness. Would you characterize Zardana as one of the greats because she did so? Following your logic, if Rachel was to be retired before they have a chance to meet, Zenyatta would be considered inferior because circomstances prevented a victory over RA. If Zenyatta has to meet all the requirements you enumerate in your post of 22MAR 1:50PM before you give her the credit she deserves, the loss is yours, not hers.

22 Mar 2010 4:41 PM
Footlick

It's all just so tiring.  But I won't give up, just blog less.  Thx Zookeeper!

22 Mar 2010 4:43 PM
CV

sidekickflats,

I can't read Spanish either. I did find another Web site that shows another picture of the injury, and describes it as "minor."

It says, "The cut to the filly’s right front leg was found to be superficial and, according to (Trainer Pablo) Andrade, will have no effect whatsoever on the filly’s racing career."

www.elcaballista.com

That it's a minor injury is great news. We still don't know if she would be 100% for the Apple Blossom, or even if her connections are still interested in running at Oaklawn since the purse dropped to $500,000.

22 Mar 2010 4:44 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

I completely understand your point about the Woodward being like RA’s BC.  Trust me, that wasn’t lost on me.  With the benefit of hindsight, it did turn out to be like her BC, symbolically speaking.  You’re also right that we don’t know for sure why JJ didn’t want to run on synthetics, but I am still of the opinion that JJ is the type of guy who could have made a last-minute decision to run in the BC even at SA, but that her tough campaign and especially the Woodward completely took that option out of the equation.  There was actually “talk” about Zen and RA meeting somewhere after the Woodward, if you remember.  My point is that JJ’s earlier “harsh” language about the surfaces in California was a challenge to Moss to come out of California and face RA elsewhere, and the article hints that Moss understood that.  I will come back to that point.  Your point about the Beldame is perplexing, and I will also come back to that point soon.

To begin, let’s try and rid ourselves of hindsight in 2010 and bring ourselves back to 2009. You see, in my opinion, Zen’s campaign was in a sense “dictated” by RA’s campaign, and certainly not the other way around.  By the time RA had finished her campaign, Zen had started a mere 3 times, all in California, so it is hard to conceive that JJ could have even considered Zen as having much of a chance to compete with RA for HOTY, or maybe even to compete with RA in a race outside of California.  Because of what RA was doing, it was necessary for Zen’s connections to meet and beat RA if they wanted to insure HOTY.  I think that Zen’s connections pretty much understood that point up until the BC, and with RA not going, knew they needed to go for the BCC.  Had RA been there, of course, it is quite likely that they would have met in the Ladies’ Classic (to insure that the race was basically just between them), but that point is probably irrelevant.  I know that Zen’s connections came back and stated after the race that the BCC (emphasis on Classic) was the goal all along, but I am not convinced that they would have ultimately laid her record on the line in the BCC had RA not done what she had done all year.   So, while the BC was definitely part of her year-end goal, I think that her connections understood, or should have understood, that it was quite necessary for her to beat RA last year to insure HOTY.  That is, meeting RA should have been their goal all along.  Last year, especially before the BC and back in the June-September range, the issue was really more about Zen coming to face RA rather than RA going out of her way to face Zenyatta.  Without the BCC, there would be virtually no debate about HOTY right now.  It was only after the BCC that people even started to question whether RA’s claim to HOTY would be a lock.  

I think that JJ is the type of guy who wants to do very unconventional things with his horses (remember Curlin and the Arc?), so I think that his motivation to put her in those races was part of his attempt to carve an unprecedented path, as opposed to more long-term thinking about the BCC and its surface.  I think that he wanted to do a lot more with her than buy her and then give her a big break and an easy path just to lead to a win in the BC, which is what should have been done had the BC been their primary motivation.  Had the race been run at Belmont or Churchill, I don’t really see her path leading up to the race being all that different (and you could argue that the Woodward would have been long enough beforehand for her to still run in the BC), but it’s speculation on both sides of the coin.  Either way, the Woodward wiped out the BC option.  Take the decision to go to the Woodward as opposed to the Travers as an example about JJ’s motivations.  You might argue that they avoided that option because of the distance or QR.  I disagree with both, and think that the Woodward was a better and more unprecedented option for her legacy after she had beaten 3yo males twice.  It was in a sense more historic, and she got a week longer to rest after the Haskell to boot.  The fact that the BC was at SA is important because that is Zenyatta’s home-base.  I think that JJ would have preferred to meet Zenyatta outside of California earlier in the year.    

You see, I think that there was a small window of opportunity last year when this matchup could have happened.  True, it was hampered by the fact that RA was starting to wind down when Zenyatta was starting to really get cranked up.  When there was a small window of opportunity, somewhat understandably and also unfortunately, RA’s connections didn’t want to ship to California’s “plastics” and Zen’s connections didn’t want to ship to NY, especially Belmont.  That last point is why your comment about the Beldame is perplexing, especially since you read the same article that I did.  Zen’s connections didn’t want to ship East, and their reservations about Belmont are well known after Giacomo’s experience.

Respectfully,

Fahad

22 Mar 2010 5:02 PM
Fahad Malaikah

JAJ,

I’m not sure if you were referring to my post, but as for your point about RA and the BC, I would refer you to my most recent post above in response to sidekickflats.  You may be right that she was “never going to the BC,” but I think that that may be giving JJ too much credit on the horseman’s side and not enough credit on the “adventurous personality” side.  My point about giving him too much credit on the horseman’s side also applies to your speculation about JJ’s motivations for agreeing to April 9th and then pulling out.

As for your comments about 6 days allowing time for an extra breeze, that point is understood.  I won’t rehash my general views on the AB, but I think you are coming from the perspective that RA was cranked and ready for this.  If you are coming from my perspective, that she wasn’t ready and that they should have stuck to the plan and not even started in any race until April, much less a prep in March for a big race in April, then my contention that agreeing to run 6 days later appears ludicrous becomes more clear.  I think they simply regret putting her on an accelerated plan, as they’ve stated.

Respectfully,

Fahad      

22 Mar 2010 5:27 PM
Zookeeper

Rachel Alexandra worked at Fair Grounds this morning. She went 1/2 mile in 50.40 She will ship to Churchill Downs (!!!) on Apr.30th along with other Asmussen horses. The DRF had no further comment except that this kind of workout is customary for Asmussen's trainees, after they've raced.

22 Mar 2010 6:50 PM
Laura

And most natural to run on grass...but we won't go there. :-)

22 Mar 2010 8:18 PM
tvnewsbadge

Footlick said

"If you are a a Zenyatta fan, then you know that the last thing any Zenyatta fan wants is a sacrificial lamb."

I mean this with all due respect, but I AM a Zenyatta, but based on the verbiage I see on Zenyatta fan pages across the Internet, it's pretty clear to me that the majority of her fans (on line at least)don't give a rats what kind of shape Rachel is in.

They just want her served up in ANY condition so Zenyatta can beat her and thereby prove that she (Zenyatta) is the true HoTY 2009.

If that was not the case, they would be reveling in her accomplishments of today, not spending so much time and energy  fighting last year's battles.

The bottom line is, it's only through the lens of history that we'll know which was the better horse, so there's no point to get  nasty about it today.

22 Mar 2010 9:07 PM
sherpa

I, too, am hoping Bambera's injury heals quickly and no lasting ill-effect.  She's so pretty and talented.  No way to see, on the video, just how bad her stumble at the start was.  The still pics show it is a miracle that she was able to regain her balance and even finish the race.  Best wishes to her and her connections for a speedy recovery.

Zen lovers: Larry Zapeye has a new video up - an Interview with Zenyatta! Here's a link for those who haven't seen it yet:

www.youtube.com/.../larryzapeye

Lucky, lucky, Larry Zap!  But it's un-buh-leeevable that he'd go to visit the Queen without a gift in hand!  

22 Mar 2010 9:25 PM
the_higger@earthlink.net

CV, thanks for posting those links. Boy that stumble and cut explain alot. I wonder what this means for their short term plans.

22 Mar 2010 9:49 PM
Paula Higgins

CV, thanks for the links. That stumble and cut are something else. I wonder hwat that means for their short term plans.

22 Mar 2010 9:51 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

Just to add to my earlier response, this is from the June 29, 2009 article that you referenced, in case you missed it:

“But he [Moss] shot down the notion of going to Saratoga for the Go For Wand (gr. I, Aug. 2) or the Personal Ensign (gr. I, Aug. 30), or to Belmont Park for the Oct. 3 Beldame (gr. I)."

“Every venue has its idiosyncrasies that are risky,” noted Moss. “We had a very bad experience with Giacomo going to the detention barn at Belmont, which threw him out of his game for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He went nuts (finishing seventh, beaten nearly 18 lengths). At Saratoga, you have the detention barn, plus tight turns that would compromise Zenyatta given her running style of coming wide from behind.”

Now, when it came to the Beldame, if you remember, Jackson went ahead to the Woodward with the option of running in the Beldame afterwards.  There was in fact talk of these two meeting after the Woodward, the Beldame being an option, and I don’t remember JJ completely ruling that option out.  No one ever stated that the Woodward would definitely be RA's final 2009 start.  I think we both agree that RA needed a rest after the Woodward, and even Moss stated after the Woodward that opting out of the Beldame and resting her was quite understandable.  I am aware of the press statements where Moss came out after the Beldame and stated that he had nominated for the Beldame, which was a reversal of his earlier statements about Belmont in general, and I think that JJ would have had every right to be skeptical about their intentions.  I am not aware of whether JJ knew that they had in fact nominated for the Beldame, either.   As we know, there is a big difference between nominating and actually racing.  Furthermore, Zen’s connections said that they might run in the Beldame even if RA didn’t show up, and of course, they didn’t.  I don’t think Zenyatta’s connections ever made any real commitments to go to the Beldame, and they stated that the decision would also be based on the track.  This also goes back to my point about RA’s campaign in a sense “dictating” Zenyatta’s campaign (or really, final destination, which was the crux of her campaign).  Especially prior to the BC, at a time when Zen had only 3 starts (before Oct. 10), RA’s connections had little incentive to change plans and wait on Zenyatta in either the Beldame or the BC, and the way that the Woodward unfolded took out either of those options anyway if there had been an incentive (like if Zenyatta had already had a stellar 2009 campaign).  True, Zenyatta didn’t have many options to run against RA earlier in the year when I argue that there was a small and genuine window of opportunity to do so, but at that point the Mosses seemed pretty intent on not shipping East anyway (see the above article).  And again, I interpret Jackson's earlier and harsh "plastic" comments as a challenge for Zen to face RA outside of California, and Moss seemed to also interpret it that way at the time.  Because of how their campaigns unfolded, where they were almost on different trajectories, the real chances of a showdown naturally got more and more slim as the year progressed.  

Respectfully,

Fahad        

22 Mar 2010 10:27 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Oops, just saw my 5:27 PM post...that is "ensure," not "insure."    :)

22 Mar 2010 10:28 PM
Footlick

tvnewsbadge- I don't get nasty.  You post whatever you want and people will interpret what they see. Both sides are very guilty of fanning the flames, not just one.   As people on here know by now, I don't argue or get into prolonged discussions.  Not worth the effort.  Hope you have a great time blogging.

22 Mar 2010 10:38 PM
kyoaks09

Slew,

I found your information from wikipedia quite interesting, although not surprising.  It's a shame that Jackson and Asmussen don't make use of that information.

tvnewsbadge,

You made the comments,

"Quite the contrary. I'll take Zenyatta over Rachel any day.

But I believe in a level playing field so it IS fair to say I'm not a fan of what many of Zenyatta's fans seem to be turning into.

NOT ONE of us thinks that Rachel Alexandra has the physical conditioning to have a realistic chance of beating Zenyatta at this point in time and yet far too many of us are demanding that race be run anyway.

As big a fan as Zenyatta as I am, I'm not to kick the other camp when they're down. I not only find that to be hypocritical, but  unsportsmanlike in the extreme."

As a long time Rachel fan, I'd like to thank you for you comments.  I, too, feel that Rachel is in no condition at this time to take on Zenyatta.  That is not a statement that I would've made during most of last year, but at this point in time I will. I sincerely hope that Rachel regains her condition and the ability that she showed last year and that Zenyatta continues to WOW everyone - including Rachel fans.  (I'm actually looking forward to seeing Zenyatta dance her way through the Apple Blossom.)

If and when Rachel and Zenyatta do meet, I'd like to think that it is when they are BOTH in top form and ready to give it their all.  I DON'T want Rachel to run when she's not ready just as I wouldn't want Zenyatta to. I have enough respect for both of them and for ALL horses to want that. If they eventually face each other great, and if not then so be it (and that is said by no means as a way of "ducking" Zenyatta). I'll just hope for the best for both of them.

kathleen,

" I don't think she'll allow herself to be put into that position again, and I don't think we'll ever see her race with her whole heart again."

I hope you're not right, but I fear the same thing.

Footlick,

I think the "level playing field" mentioned by tvnewsbadge is in reference to BOTH horses being ready to run as opposed to comments being made for or against one horse or the other.  I'll be the first to agree that "mud slinging" had been done by BOTH sides.  That's not to say that I agree with it because I don't, but I can't change it.  I can only choose not to participate in it.  Yes, I am a Rachel fan but that in no way is intended to reflect negatively on Zenyatta. She is an amazing mare and I will be pulling for her all the way in the Apple Blossom.

22 Mar 2010 11:13 PM
ainabella

Fahad, thank you for your well reasoned posts. I hate to speak up for JJ in this crowd, but I would like to speak to the point about his saying that he would not run Rachel at SA. There is a lot of unnecessary analysis going on about his not sending Rachel to run at SA. I did a quick internet search on horse injury on the SA surface last summer when I first heard that the Breeder's Cup was not an option(July?) and I thank JJ for not risking his filly on that surface. Yes, all of you who are waiting to blast me for defending JJ, I know all horses risk injury every time they step on a track and I am not a PETA person, but consider these articles. Why are we not taking Moss to task for risking Zenyatta? Is it only because she has come out of the races at SA sound? If we are concerned about the health and well being of these animals, we would have demanded the BC be moved last year. Fans are truly fickle creatures.

Bloodhorse www.bloodhorse.com/.../socal-trainers-knock-pro-ride-surface

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

blog-rtr.thoroughbredtimes.com/.../four-days-four-breakdowns-on-pro-ride.html

22 Mar 2010 11:25 PM
sidekickflats

Fahed,

Well, now I don't even think we are in the same book much less the same page. I, respectfully, disagree with almost everything in your post.

1. You wrote " My point is that JJ’s earlier “harsh” language about the surfaces in California was a challenge to Moss to come out of California and face RA elsewhere, and the article hints that Moss understood that."  - That I don't agree with.  There was only 1 race that Rachel ran in all year, that Zenyatta could have run in and that was the Woodward. All other of her races were restricted to 3 year olds. And Camp R did not decide on that until what 6 days before the race? To little time to change Zenyatta's training and to catch a plane. If Rachel had run in say, the Go For Wand, the Molly Pitcher, or the Beldame (all open to older mares )and said "hey come join us" maybe I would agree with that. I don't think that Zenyatta was even nominated to the Woodward.  So it's easy to say "oh we wanted to meet Zenyatta but she never came out of Ca."  The fact is that there was no point to come out of Ca. if Rachel was not going to run.  

2.  "Zen’s connections didn’t want to ship East, and their reservations about Belmont are well known after Giacomo’s experience."   That was indeed stated in a Jun 29th interview published in the BloodHorse.  However, things changed.  If you google Zenyatta Beldame you will come up with an article called "Horse Racing with Art Wilson".  In the article, John Shirreffs explains that they did nominate Zen to the Beldame in hopes of getting a shot against Rachel.  Also, at some pt in the Bloodhorse, it was stated that all the travel arrangements were made for Zen to go but were cancelled with Rachel opted for the Woodward.

3. You wrote " Take the decision to go to the Woodward as opposed to the Travers as an example about JJ’s motivations.  You might argue that they avoided that option because of the distance or QR.  I disagree with both, and think that the Woodward was a better and more unprecedented option for her legacy after she had beaten 3yo males twice."   Legacy was mentioned by Asmussen when they announced that they were going to the Woodward instead of the Travers. And she will go down in history as the first filly to win.  But alot of horsemen, considered that to be the easier race.  In a handicapping show on Twinspires.com,  it was said that the field of older males was" really bad group of older horses' and that Rachel was expected to be able to handle them. Couple that with her running 1 1/8 instead of the Travers 1 1/4 and the fact she was carrying 118 pds to the males 126.  The Woodward was about as perfect of a scenario that she could get to pad her resume.

4. " By the time RA had finished her campaign, Zen had started a mere 3 times, all in California, so it is hard to conceive that JJ could have even considered Zen as having much of a chance to compete with RA for HOTY, or maybe even to compete with RA in a race outside of California."  - WHAT?????  Do you really think Jess Jackson is that stupid????  Do I think he thought Rachel had done enough to win HOTY?  Yes.  Did he worry about Zenyatta?  Of course he did. I think that he knew the only way he could lose HOTY is if Zenyatta beat her.

5. You see, in my opinion, Zen’s campaign was in a sense “dictated” by RA’s campaign, and certainly not the other way around. -  First of all, I never said that Rachel's campaign was dictated by Zenyatta's.  Her campaign was dictated by Jess Jackson.  

But Zenyatta's was not dictated by Rachel's either.  They tried to respond to Rachel's success by meeting in the Beldame but Jess moved her to the Woodward instead.  Before the BC, John Shirrefs noted that the HOTY had already be "given" to Rachel so there was no point in running and taking the risk of the BC Classic. However, she was training so well, they decided to give it a shot. I'm sure that they thought a victory would increase Zenyatta's chance at HOTY but they would never have risked the mare's well being for a trophy.  

23 Mar 2010 12:01 AM
sidekickflats

Fahed,

Further to my above post, (I think that I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome from this blog) ...

I do agree that Mr. Jackson def. thinks "outside the box".  He did win HOTY with Curlin without winning a BC race so he prob. figured he could do it again with Rachel (and of course he was right).  Perhaps he thinks the BC is so last decade or something and that it would be more history making to do other things with Rachel.  In that case, yes, I agree that even if the BC had been elsewhere, Rachel would not have gone and certainly couldn't have gone after the Woodward.  As everyone has said, she sorely needed the break. I was tired after the Woodward and I was just watching her.  

But if the BC had been elsewhere, Rachel doesn't go, Zenyatta does go and wins the BBC (how many hypotheticals can you have in 1 sentence? ) does Zen then win HOTY?  The biggest knock against her was that she only started in Ca. last year. That knock would have been gone.

Or Hypothetical # 2 - Rachel wins the Woodward (and everything else) and comes to SA for the BC. What race does she run in? I, for 1, don't believe that she wants any part of a mile and a quarter esp. against older males and Zenyatta.  So she goes in the Ladies Classic. In that case does Zenyatta go in the LC?  If she goes in the Classic and wins and Rachel wins the LC, Rachel still gets HOTY.  What if Zen goes in the LC and beats Rachel?  You have Geo Ponti now winning the Classic as well as all his other accomplishments as champion older horse and turf horse. He would have had a very strong case for HOTY himself.

But you said "I think that JJ would have preferred to meet Zenyatta outside of California earlier in the year."  - I don't think JJ wants to meet Zenyatta anywhere but we'll see.  

23 Mar 2010 1:21 AM
Pasturelands

SIDEKICKFLATS:

Wow, long name.  LOL.  you wrote:

"I also do not think that Zen needs to face Rachel at the track.  The ball is now in Rachel's court.  Nothing that Rachel does this year can take away her accomplishments of last year.  But after not taking the opportunity to race Zenyatta in the Beldame, BC Classic and now the Apple Blossum it is now up to Rachel to come and beat Zen. "

You are right ONLY about one thing-- Rachel has the Upperhand, coz the "ball is in her court."  But you contradict yourself by saying that Zen has no need to face Rachel.  How is that?

Everybody is out to beat Rachel:  Moss knows it, Zetcher knows it, Jackson knows it.

But time is on Rachel's side-- she can choose her battles (unlike before) or she can just sit back and relax.  Kudos to Jess' enduring sportsmanship that he lets her compete despite being the HOY 2009, and the Hall of Fame in the bag as well.

My point is:  Rachel has NOTHING left to prove to anyone.  So JAY HOVEDAY said in his column that Zardana may have won the NOL, but she won't get credit for defeating Rachel-- Yes, he's damn right.

Nothing that Rachel may do NOW can change or even cast a doubt on her achievements in 2009, and she has the HOY trophy to prove it.  How many fillies do you know have defeated MALES on dirt THREE TIMES in a row, in ALL of the MAJOR races?  ONLY RACHEL ALEXANDRA.

St. Trinians tried to do it.  Failed.  Ruffian tried to do it, and she died TRYING.  Lady's Secret tried it as a 3 YO, but failed.  She won only when she got older at 4.  

Rachel is really SOMETHING SPECIAL.. And I hope that lots of FANS see and appreciate this fact.  Its been so long since SECRETARIAT died, and no horse has been as Talented as him until Rachel came along.

I just hope that HAL WIGGINS will be "advising" the Asmussen team, coz I, personally, am NOT HAPPY with the way Steve and Blasi are handling Rachel.  They ought to take LOTS of pointers from WIGGINS on how to condition champion females like Rachel.

And for goodness sake, Steve ought to remove the figure-8 BRIDLE and this outrageous BRAIDS they put on Rachel.  She is not a pet canary.  She is a champion race horse.

I hope Jess Jackson reads these blogs.  Lots of people love his Super filly.  I hope that he does what is TRULY in her best interest.

23 Mar 2010 1:35 AM
Golden Gate

There was an earlier post on  filly height. I ended up 2 years ago with a daughter of State Dinner who is 17 hands. She is 20 years old. Everyone that sees her that hasn't been around draft horses thinks she is the biggest they have ever seen. Here is her pedigree.

www.pedigreequery.com/index.php

Killer buyers showed up and were saying any horse $400 or less they would snap up and ship to Mexico. Fortunately for both of us I had just $400 in my account. She is the kindest horse ever.

23 Mar 2010 7:37 AM
JAJ

Any doubt that the race was hard on Rachel was put to rest yesterday when she breezed 4f in 50.40.  The clockers have said the Asmussen team haven't let up on her training.

For those unfamiliar with work patterns of horses after a race, her return to the work tab only 9 days after a race she was supposedly "unfit" for is phenomenal.

If she comes out of this work well, I wouldn't be surprised to see her in the Apple Blossom.  She seems to be training like she should be there.

23 Mar 2010 7:37 AM
EasyGoerFan

Zookeeper, I think the DRF story meant to say that Rachel will ship on March 30 to CD.  SA runs at Keeneland in April and that's an easy trip from Louisville to Lexington.  

Is there a way to number all these comments so somebody like me can keep track of the last one I read?  I try to remember the name of the person, but with over 300 posts, it's hard to do.  :)

23 Mar 2010 8:22 AM
sidekickflats

Pasturelands,

Your name only has 1 less letter than mine so mine is long?

My post was in response to another post that said that Zenyatta needed to enhance her reputation.  Both R and Z had Eclipse award and history making campaigns last year and nothing that happens this year will take that away from either.

But as so many have said, it's not about last year.  At this time, Zen has the upper hand.  She has a gr 1 victory to her credit. Rachel doesn't.  They were both supposed to meet in April and Jess pulled out.  So no, at this point in time Rachel does not have to upperhand.

23 Mar 2010 10:25 AM
sidekickflats

Fahad,

Jess Jackson knew that Zenyatta would come to the Beldame BEFORE he went to the Woodward.  If Zenyatta didn't show up for whatever reason, all Jess would have to do is say "See - we're here and she's not"  and he still would have gotten HOTY because Zen didn't take the opportunity to run against her. I have not seen any effort on Jess's part to race Zenyatta.

I think that we are going to have to agree to diagree or we will end up with 400 posts in the blog.

23 Mar 2010 10:30 AM
Footlick

EasyGoerFan- there is a time stamp on each post, so just jot down the time and go from there.

23 Mar 2010 10:36 AM
Slew

JAJ: Rachel A. was actually back in training by March 17, when she galloped an untimed mile.(that tidbit came from the sports writer at NOLA.com)

Easy Goer Fan:  lacking numbers, it's best to go by the day and time of the last post you read.

23 Mar 2010 10:44 AM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

You clearly missed my 10:27 PM (Mar. 22) post where I addressed many of the points that you brought up later in your response.  Maybe it hadn’t been posted before you responded, but I suggest going back to it.  I will post it below just in case you missed it, and then I will address your further responses:

[Now, when it came to the Beldame, if you remember, Jackson went ahead to the Woodward with the option of running in the Beldame afterwards.  There was in fact talk of these two meeting after the Woodward, the Beldame being an option, and I don’t remember JJ completely ruling that option out.  No one ever stated that the Woodward would definitely be RA's final 2009 start.  I think we both agree that RA needed a rest after the Woodward, and even Moss stated after the Woodward that opting out of the Beldame and resting her was quite understandable.  I am aware of the press statements where Moss came out after the Beldame and stated that he had nominated for the Beldame, which was a reversal of his earlier statements about Belmont in general, and I think that JJ would have had every right to be skeptical about their intentions.  I am not aware of whether JJ knew that they had in fact nominated for the Beldame, either.   As we know, there is a big difference between nominating and actually racing.  Furthermore, Zen’s connections said that they might run in the Beldame even if RA didn’t show up, and of course, they didn’t.  I don’t think Zenyatta’s connections ever made any real commitments to go to the Beldame, and they stated that the decision would also be based on the track.  This also goes back to my point about RA’s campaign in a sense “dictating” Zenyatta’s campaign (or really, final destination, which was the crux of her campaign).  Especially prior to the BC, at a time when Zen had only 3 starts (before Oct. 10), RA’s connections had little incentive to change plans and wait on Zenyatta in either the Beldame or the BC, and the way that the Woodward unfolded took out either of those options anyway if there had been an incentive (like if Zenyatta had already had a stellar 2009 campaign).  True, Zenyatta didn’t have many options to run against RA earlier in the year when I argue that there was a small and genuine window of opportunity to do so, but at that point the Mosses seemed pretty intent on not shipping East anyway (see the above article).  And again, I interpret Jackson's earlier and harsh "plastic" comments as a challenge for Zen to face RA outside of California, and Moss seemed to also interpret it that way at the time.  Because of how their campaigns unfolded, where they were almost on different trajectories, the real chances of a showdown naturally got more and more slim as the year progressed.]

So, again, I am actually aware of the press statements, including Art Wilson’s blog, where they stated afterwards that they had nominated for the Beldame.  They may have been genuinely thinking about going, but they also told Jay Hovdey that it depended on the track and that it didn’t matter if RA showed up or not.  I think that JJ had the right to be skeptical about their intentions, and of course, they didn’t show up even without RA.  I already addressed your point about the lack of options for Zen to face RA, and again, my point is that there was a small window of opportunity for it to happen earlier, and it was at that point that the Mosses were quite intent on staying home.  As for the Wood over the Travers, I really think that the decision came down to the fact that she had already beaten 3yo males twice and that they wanted to do something really “out of bounds.” In hindsight, I think she would have won the Wood by much more than a head had the race unfolded differently.  As for the Travers, well, Summer Bird (who she had already beaten in the Haskell) took care of that, so in hindsight, it probably was the better choice.  I don’t think that fear guided many of their choices with this filly last year.  She seemed pretty “fast and furious,” if you will.

I’m not saying that JJ didn’t have any respect for Zen.  I think that both sides fully respected each other, and I think they still respect each other more than some of their fans respect the opposing camps, unfortunately.   But we’re talking about a point last year when the spotlight was really all on RA.  A lot of fans and pundits argued that the new star would have beaten Zen, and I don’t think that JJ had as much “worry” (if you want to use that word) of Zen as you might say he has now after the BCC.  I know that you never said that RA’s campaign was dictated by Zen’s.  I never stated that you said that, and that was an interjection of my own opinion to explain the rest of my argument in that paragraph.  As for your point about the Beldame, again, there were no genuine commitments and JJ had every reason to be skeptical and no reason to wait on Zenyatta at that point.  As for your point about Zen going to the BC had it been elsewhere and won it, that would have certainly taken away one of those “knocks” against her, but it still goes back to that critical issue of a campaign versus a single race.  While a few more may have voted for her, I think that RA still gets HOTY.  If RA had gone to SA, I definitely think that both would have gone to the BC Ladies’ Classic to ensure that the race was just between them, so to speak.  It was pretty close to the BCC that Zen's team decided to definitely go in the BCC anyway, and I'm not convinced they would have done it if RA didn't exist last year.

Respectfully,

Fahad  

23 Mar 2010 11:21 AM
Dakota

Sidekickflats: I concur with everything you wrote at 12:01. People who think Zenyatta should have gone looking for a show-down with RA last year don't seem to realize that there was only one opportunity for which she was given very little notice.  And since Jackson was planning to skip the Breeders Cup, he must have known that if Zenyatta met & beat RA and won a BC race (Distaff or Classic), Zenyatta would likely win HOY.

Ainbella: in the past two Breeders Cups at Santa Anita, there has not been a single fatal breakdown in any of the main track races. Unfortunately, horses break down at every track, in their stalls, in turn-out paddocks. They are relatively fragile with ankles the circumference of your forearm carrying about 1000 lbs., and are not well-suited to long convalescence. But Santa Anita's surface is no more unsafe than any other track.  

Pasturelands: I got halfway through your post and knew it was you. Equating RA to Secretariat is total nonsense. RA was an exceptional 3 year old filly who was shrewdly campaigned to take full advantage of weight breaks against a mediocre crop of same age males and middle-tier older males. Period.

23 Mar 2010 11:27 AM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

Per your 10:30 AM post, assuming you are correct, that means they either skip the Wood and show up to the Beldame (which without Zen is a much less prestigious race) with Zenyatta as a definite maybe (see Moss' comments to Hovdey and their Oaks-day behavior), or they run in the Woodward and then show up to the Beldame when she needed a rest.  The Beldame was still on the table after the Wood for RA's camp, but the Wood took that option out.    

Best,

Fahad

23 Mar 2010 11:37 AM
Fahad Malaikah

JAJ,

I think that you are misreading this.  The breeze is really not a surprise, especially given that she is in Asmussen’s hands where this is practically SOP’s, and I don’t think anyone expected her to stay away from the track unless she was injured.  They are not talking about retirement and they are building off of what they now have to work with.  As you know, this is pretty slow for RA.  As I’ve stated elsewhere, it wouldn’t surprise me if JJ made some last-minute decision to go to the AB, but I think that they are thinking more about Oaks day, when this matchup should have been tentatively scheduled anyway.  In the NOL, it’s not that she was completely out of shape, the point is that she was rushed into it while short to face Zenyatta, who benefitted from a late-starting 2009 campaign and who had been kept in training since the BCC, in April, when RA was originally planned to even make her first start.  I don’t know how hard the NOL was on her, and like I’ve said, I don’t think that she has a bad race in her (which explains why it wasn’t a bad performance), but it was a foolish move to begin with and they have every right to make sure she is back and ready before the matchup.  

Best,

Fahad  

23 Mar 2010 11:46 AM
Zookeeper

Golden Gate,

What a lucky girl "Purely Social" is to have you! Kudos for saving her from a dreadful fate.

EasyGoerFan,

I thought that date was really strange. That's why I had ???s. You're probably right. It must be a typo. Re: finding where you left off on these blogs... it is quite a challenge. I write down the name and time, so I don't spend so much time scrolling to find my place. If you miss a day, when the topic is hot, you'll get cross-eyed reading all the comments posted after your last visit. I love it though! I can never get enough of "horse racing talk" when the comments are of the more civil variety.

Fahad & sidekickflats,

If I ever need an advocate, I want either one of you to represent me. Great debate!

Pasturelands,

Having the ball in one's court doesn't mean one has the upper hand. Quite the contrary. It means: one HAS to hit the ball now, the opponent already has done that. Re your comment on Jay Hovdey's article, I don't think you took it the way he meant it. Also, most people on this blog are very aware of RA's accomplishments as a 3yr old. She was outstanding! But this is a new year and true horseracing fans hope that she can be as exciting and as admirable as she was last year. True fans appreciate Rachel, Zenyatta, also Zardana along with a slew of other horses who give us so much enjoyment. Rachel is a fabulous filly, but she is not the only horse who deserves our praise, respect and admiration.  

23 Mar 2010 12:00 PM
sidekickflats

Pasturelands,

You wrote " But you contradict yourself by saying that Zen has no need to face Rachel.  How is that?"

AS I've said many times, both R and Z had history making campaign's last year and they will both go into the Hall of Fame. There will not be an asterik by either mare's name that says  * boy she was great but she never ran against Rachel/Zenyatta.   In regards to their "legacies", neither mare needs to race against each other.  

Now as far as this year.  Obv. they are both in the same catagory of older mare and there can't be 2 winners of that or 2 winners of Horse of the Year. So though they may not meet at the track, only 1 (or perhaps an unknown at this point) will win the Eclipse.  But do they HAVE to meet at the track to win the award?  Maybe, maybe not.

For example,  say Zen wins the Apple Blossum and goes on to have a similiar year as last year capping off with another BC Classic victory.  You then have an undefeated mare, that broke Citation and Cigar's win streak and a back to back BB Classic victory.  Obv. that is getting WAY ahead of ourselves.   But would they not give her HOTY even if she never met Rachel on the track?  Rachel would have to do something equally historic this year to make the voting close and then we are back to the same arguments just next March not now.

So I don't think that they need to meet on the track.  Would the Moss's like too?  Sure.  Does everyone want to beat Rachel?  That's tough. I think a lot of people want to see her with the same kind of year she had last year.  But , having Zardana beat her in New Orleans , I think will make more fillies and mares take her on than would have without the defeat. But Zenyatta is not one of those. Her camp wanted to take Rachel on prior to the defeat.  There's a difference.

23 Mar 2010 12:31 PM
SMTDL

OK..For the Record.I did not intend to suggest that Zenyatta is not great.I just think she needs to do more before getting immortalized as some are doing.She is undefeated ..great.She raced against males once,and won..great.She raced beyond a mile and 1/8 once!!!(Same as Rachel) Zenyatta has raced on  a dirt track just once in her career.Surface is an issue since the great horses to compare her with raced on dirt (leaving out turf horses).Also the continued comparison of Zenyatta to Rachel Alexandra should be  as recognizant and respectful of Rachel's accomplishments instead of denigrating them as if they don't compare or(maybe) eclipse what Zenyatta has done. Let's not make Zenyatta a female Secretariat just yet!My point still is that to be HOY and to be as great as some are saying, she has to do more than 5 races on synthetic tracks in one year.Rachel had already raced 5 times before Zenyatta even raced last year(Not Zenyatta'a fault but that's the facts!).I'm glad that she will race at Oaklawn and hope she hits Churchill,Belmont and Saratoga.Hope she races males again.That Zenyatta is great is not the issue,its HOW great ?The same can be said and asked regarding Rachel.Hopefully all is answered in 2010!

23 Mar 2010 1:15 PM
sidekickflats

Ainabella,

Santa Anita's problems with their surface are well documented, particularly during the recent rainy season.  It looks like they will be going back to dirt in the near future.  

As far as I know, in the 4 days of BC racing in 08 and 09, there was a non-life threatening injury to 1 filly.  No castatrophic injuries at all thank goodness.

Where would they have moved it to?  Monmouth - G. Washington broke down prob. due to the track condition.   Belmont - Go For Wand broke down and I believe Mr. Nickerson did as well. Churchill - Housebuster, Landseer ( unless I got the wrong track for him).  

I think that every major track does everything they can to prevent injuries but unfortunately it's not always enough.  The Moss's and John Shirreffs would never race Zen in a place they felt was unsafe or even questionable.  That's why they scratched from Churchill in May.

Jess Jackson thought Santa Anita was safe enough to send Curlin there early to train and then race.  I know he would have not jeopardized his safety.

23 Mar 2010 1:42 PM
CV

Pasturelands,

Just a point, St. Trinians tried to defeat male horses in the Santa Anita Handicap, which as you know, isn't run on your beloved dirt.

23 Mar 2010 2:18 PM
Cam234

Rachel's in good form. Jackson just doesn't want to face Zenyatta because he knows she's the better horse and only wants to put Rachel where he thinks she can win, same as he did last year.

23 Mar 2010 2:19 PM
EasyGoerFan

Thanks, y'all.

Jotting down the time makes so much sense, which is probably why I didn't think of it.  :)

23 Mar 2010 3:48 PM
kathleen

smdtl, Rachel has not raced more than 1 1/8.  No big, just wanted to set record straight.

23 Mar 2010 4:52 PM
JAJ

Slew and Fahad,

Of course RA was back galloping on the track before her breeze.  The point I am trying to make that non horsemen and horsewomen might not appreciate it is that to actually breeze, even a slow 4f breeze, 9 days after a race shows that the filly came out of the race in excellent condition.

Horses who gut it out down the stretch generally don't come back and breeze 9 days after a grueling race regardless of who is training them unless they are quite fit and sound.

If a race took a lot out of a horse they drop weight, often a lot of weight.  When they do go back to the track to gallop, they don't train strongly and only a fool breezes them too soon.

The fact that the clockers reportedly said that the RA camp hadn't let up on RA tells me she came out of the race really well.  Because she came out of the race really well, even when she lost a heart breaker, that tells me she was a lot fitter than the RA camp is letting on.  An unfit horse getting a 100 Beyer in a losing effort at 9.5f generally does not come right back to the track to train and then breeze 9 days out.  It just doesn't happen.

23 Mar 2010 4:59 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Just a few extra thoughts in general,

Let me say that I have never really wanted to see either of these two horses face each other.  I dearly love them both and would rather see them stay away from each other and remain untarnished, which I think would be more of a near-term “tarnishing” than a long-term one if it were to happen.  However, if the score just has to be settled, it should have tentatively been set for Oaks day.  The Oaks is at a great venue, at a time when public attention is focused on racing, and it’s neither too early nor too late for either camp.  

Neither horse needs to beat the other to take HOTY in 2010.  One could beat the other and still not take the award, such as if QR came out and had a stellar campaign.  Or they could never meet and one could still take the HOTY award, including Zenyatta.  Rachel, just for the sake of being Rachel, is not a benchmark for Zenyatta to receive HOTY in 2010.  The 2009 campaign of Rachel was a benchmark to measure Zenyatta’s credentials for HOTY in 2009.

In 2009, I believe both camps when they say that they tried to take it “one race at a time” with each filly.  I don’t think there was a lot of long-term scheming on either side about HOTY in terms of thinking about the other side’s plans.  Especially on RA’s side, it was more about carving out an unprecedented campaign on her own terms.  On Zen camp’s side, given the way 2009 was unfolding, they probably should have been plotting harder to try and face Rachel, but they had their own path too.  As for RA, they went to the Haskell, and the natural progression from there was the Travers, but since they had beaten 3yo males twice, why not go to the Woodward a week later and really lay it on the line.  The Beldame was still an option afterwards, but the Wood knocked that option out.  I don’t think that JJ was thinking very much about Zen for HOTY at this point, especially since she had only started a mere 3 times, all in California, and I don’t think he confidently anticipated that she would run in (much less win) the BCC.  The Mosses were still in what most people viewed as that “over-protective” mode and they had never publicly committed to the BCC that early, even if they stated afterwards that it was the goal all along.  I am not sure that JJ was nearly as confident in Zen’s ability prior to the BCC either, so I don’t think he was nearly as worried about facing Zen as some of you might argue he was/is after the BCC.  RA was on her own trajectory last year, which unfortunately was a very different trajectory from Zen (8 races to RA, to 3 for Zen prior to Oct. 10), and I don’t think RA was ever on Zen’s “clock” at any point.  Had Zenyatta had a different 2009, JJ may have been more serious about running against Zen in the Beldame or anywhere else, instead of taking the route that he did, which was solely on RA’s terms and was not in any way defined by Zen (a Woodward is going to look far better on RA’s resume than a Beldame in the future when a lot of these details are forgotten, whether Zen showed up or not).  Again, I think that there was an earlier window of opportunity where a race was a really viable option, and I think that Moss took JJ’s “harsh” language as a challenge in his declaration to not ship East, but when that window was open, the Mosses stated that they didn’t want to ship East to Belmont (or Saratoga) and we know JJ didn’t want to go to California.  So, while Zen didn’t have many options for RA, RA wasn’t given many options to respond in kind.  Given the Mosses earlier statements and actions, JJ had every right to be skeptical about their ultimate intentions and certainly had no need to skip an opportunity like the Wood to wait for Zen (who may not have been a definite) in the Beldame.  Given RA's tough campaign, RA's camp was already working with a lemon that was starting to lose its juice by the Woodward anyway, in my opinion.  

Respectfully,

Fahad            

23 Mar 2010 6:05 PM
Blood-Horse Staff

kathleen - just an FYI. Rachel Alexandra ran 1 3/16 miles in the Preakness, which is farther than a mile and an eighth.

23 Mar 2010 6:08 PM
DinkyDiva

I was a bit shocked when I read that Rachal was breezing already!  That tells me the same as it does to many of you that she came out of the race as well or even better than Asmussen stated and it really makes no since that they backed out of the Apple Blossom!  However, as I've said before, there still might be a possibility that JJ changes his mind again and decides to show up after all.

Who knows, there's still 2 more weeks before the race.  

Ewww... that would really make people mad that got refunds etc...  Don't you think!?

Writing down the dates of the last blog makes since.  However, I just scroll all the way down and then back up to find where I had left off.  I like to read all the blogs,it's fun!  My partner said that I make her dizy when I do that. LOL

23 Mar 2010 6:57 PM
DinkyDiva

Does anyone know what Network will cover the AB?

23 Mar 2010 6:58 PM
Paula Higgins

I agree that it appears Rachel is doing pretty well if they are galloping her so soon after the New Orleans race. That is really good news. Looking forward to see how she breezes and their thoughts on how she is doing.

23 Mar 2010 7:16 PM
kathleen

Thanks BHS,   Meant to say she's not run classic distance.  My bad.

23 Mar 2010 7:31 PM
Laura

IF Zenyatta continues 2010 the way she began and finishes with 20 or more wins, not only will she surpass Citation's and Cigar's streaks (contained within longer campaigns) but she would finish her unbeaten career second on the all-time undefeated list to Kincsem's 54 straight in the 1870s in Europe. As was said above, Zenyatta is currently behind Kincsem, Pepper's Pride (19, all restricted to NM-breds as we all know) the great Eclipse (18), Ormonde and Ribot (both 16) and tied with Colin at 15.  Colin and Zenyatta currently hold the North American record. Eclipse raced in the 1700s, Ormonde in the 1800s, Colin in 1907-1908, and Ribot in the 1950s-all with much smaller foal crops and fewer tracks and less traveling than we have now. All but Eclipse also had one advantage Zenyatta never did: racing in only two- or three-year-old races. THAT'S how rare Zenyatta's record is.  We should all be celebrating the fact that we're witnessing a once- or twice-in-a-century horse. Perfection is so rare.

If this scenario indeed unfolds this year, Zenyatta should be HOY for 2010 - even if she never races Rachel Alexandra or we get a Triple Crown winner.  Would you believe that I've already read a blog post by an Eclipse voter (whose name and other affiliation escape me) that states that even if Zenyatta repeats at the BC and retires undefeated with however many wins he would still vote for any Triple Crown winner over Zenyatta. Even if said TC winner never wins another race, is hustled off the track immediately after the Belmont, or loses to Zenyatta at the Breeder's Cup.  My response to that is "you've got to be kidding, right?"  Perfection is even rarer than a Triple Crown, and to deny Zenyatta a single HOY after said pefection would forever taint the Eclipse Awards. I know there are a lot of ifs involved here, but I've followed racing for more than 40 years and in that time the only two horses who have given me as many goosebumps as Zenyatta are Secretariat and Ruffian. Let's all enjoy the ride. I know I will.

23 Mar 2010 7:35 PM
Dakota

Fahad, your posts are always thoughtful and respectful, which I appreciate. But you have mentioned several times that there was an "earlier window" for Zenyatta to go race Rachel and I have to disagree.  Older horses in the handicap division generally don't go looking for younger horses. The three year olds usually race within their own division until the fall championships.  Rarely (ever?) has a three year old filly won HOY. Usually, it goes to an older male or three year old colt. Last year was remarkable and unprecented that there were only two finalists for HOY and they were both female.  I also think that many of the people posting here are assuming that owners/trainers plot out a campaign with the objective of being named HOY, and I don't think that's the case (unless you are Jess Jackson, he of the titanic-sized ego).  HOY is an honorarium given by the writers; special recognition to the athletes they cover.  Owners/trainers point toward specific races as objectives, not HOY. I think it's been blown way out of proportion. Finally, Zenyatta doesn't have to go looking for RA to prove her greatness. She's already done that.

23 Mar 2010 7:49 PM
tvnewsbadge

Cam234 says  "Jackson just doesn't want to face Zenyatta because he knows she's the better horse and only wants to put Rachel where he thinks she can win, same as he did last year."

We see this type of comment a lot, but nobody EVER explains why anyone in their right mind would  run a high profile high dollar horse when they don't believe he or she can win at that point in time.

Jess Jackson would be an absolute idiot, after seeing his horse beaten by a relative unknown, to put his Rachel up against Zenyatta, when Zenyatta is CLEARLY on a roll and Rachel isn't.

I really want to hear from some of you on this.

What could possibly could motivate him to do something so absolutely stupid, especially when he knows that without doubt Zenyatta's connections will not give him a re-match.

He'd have to be insane.

23 Mar 2010 8:11 PM
Footlick

Laura- actually Ribot ran through his 4 yr old year.  He won 2 Arc's on a row.

23 Mar 2010 8:18 PM
Fahad Malaikah

JAJ,

As a horse person, I don't completely agree with what you said, and I do think it depends on who trains the horse.  Your comment partly hinges on something that I've never really said.  I've never argued that she was knocked out by the NOL or tried to predict how she has been doing since the race.  I've stated before that I don't know how she came out of the race, and Asmussen even said that she came out of it fine and healthy.  It's not that surprising to me, given that she is in Asmussen's hands, that she recently had a very easy breeze.  I am not saying that the NOL was bad (I don't think she has a bad race in her, although it wasn't "Rachel-like," as we've discussed elsewhere), nor am I saying that it was grueling or that she was knocked out by the race.  I don't exactly know how she came out of the race (much less whether she came out in "excellent" condition), but I think she is obviously okay and they are thinking more about Oaks-day or another race in April as a prep for Oaks-day as opposed to running in the AB.  A last-minute decision by JJ to go to the AB, given his personality, would not completely surprise me, but I would hope that Asmussen is being given more of a ‘say’ now.  So they are working with what they have and preparing for that.  I don't think she was completely "unfit" for the NOL, but I think she was definitely short for it and was unprepared for the AB, in particular.  It was unfair and I think unwise to force her on an accelerated schedule for the AB, especially given the magnitude of the race and her main competitor's circumstances.  Given how hard she runs from gate to wire and the fact that she was short, I did think the whole venture was very risky.  Thankfully, she appears to be okay.  There was no reason to rush into all of this, and her connections have realized that, just as they've stated.  

So she comes out of the NOL okay, and they regroup and move on from there and prepare for another race besides the AB, then maybe wait to face Zen later.  It’s not a big deal really, and I don’t think they are misleading anyone, especially since they are well aware that the racing public is keeping track of all of this right now.  I guess we'll see where she really goes, but they may end up facing Zen for a substantially reduced purse later in the year.      

Best,

Fahad

23 Mar 2010 8:20 PM
Zookeeper

Laura,

One race at a time! That's all I can handle. More HOTY discussion so early in the year, after all that was said before the 2009 awards and after, is way more than I can handle. Please be kind to my frayed nerves! :) Let's enjoy whatever all of them have in store for us... one race at a time.

23 Mar 2010 8:36 PM
DinkyDiva

Very well put, Laura!!!!  

23 Mar 2010 8:53 PM
tvnewsbadge

Laura noted,

" Would you believe that I've already read a blog post by an Eclipse voter (whose name and other affiliation escape me) that states that even if Zenyatta repeats at the BC and retires undefeated with however many wins he would still vote for any Triple Crown winner over Zenyatta. Even if said TC winner never wins another race, is hustled off the track immediately after the Belmont, or loses to Zenyatta at the Breeder's Cup."  

If we have a Triple Crown winner, and that horse does not win HoTY, then Horse of the Year will cease to have any meaning or value whatsoever.

The Triple Crown is the most difficult and demanding championship in all of American sport and is the ultimate test of a champion even if that horse never sets foot on a racetrack again.

If that seems unfair to deny Zenyatta HoTY in the face of a TC winner, consider this.

An undefeated career can be engineered by careful selection of venues and opponents, by only running the horse when he or she is at her peak and only at a track and distance and in weather conditions that suits the horse.

There is no such luxury in the TC series. The horse is up against it in  every race and that's why only 11 horses have ever won it.

If you remember the name of the Eclipse voter, please post it. I'd like to shake his hand for defending the glory and honor of the sport.

23 Mar 2010 9:05 PM
sidekickflats

Fahad,

First let me say that I've enjoyed "debating" you over these points and it's been a good and respectful debate.  I still don't agree with you but I have enjoyed it.

One more time - The Woodward tired Rachel out and she needed an extended break afterwards.  Agreed.

The biggest disagreement I have, is with your statement that Jess was challenging Zenyatta to come East.  When I invite someone over to my house, typically I open the door for them to come in.  Jess never opened the door last year. Jess Jackson knew of the NYRA offer on the Beldame and knew that Zenyatta was nominated and could make the trip.  If Jess was "challenging' the Mosses, why didn't he say yes to the Beldame? or instead of running in the Mother Goose run in another race open to 3 and up?  Now, I'm saying he COULD have skipped the WW and given Rachel a breather and gone to the Beldame.  SHOULD he have?  Evidently not, as he got HOTY without facing Zen.  

If he skipped the WW, and went to the Beldame and won , Rachel is now unanimous HOTY. If she lost, she's "only" champ 3 year old filly. Not worth the risk.  So you see I don't see where your "challenge" is coming from.  Was he waiting till Zen and the Mosses and the Shirreffs moved to NY? What was he waiting for if he wanted to run against Zen?

I don't buy that Jess didn't worry about Zen.  She did, of course, finish second to Curlin for HOTY the previous year and I'm sure he was very aware of her and her movements.

I also believe that Zen would have gone to the Beldame if Rachel had committed to it. According to the article I mentioned, it seemed like Team Z was looking forward to the opportunity.  We all know that horses(trainers) can commit and things happen and the horses don't run.  It happens (think Apple Blossum).   But there was NO reason for Zen to run in the Beldame without Rachel.  Why pay to fly, fly the mare across country, and deal with a dentention barn  1 month away from the Breeder's Cup which had been her goal all year?  I believe that Music Note won the Beldame last year.  Zen had already beaten her in the Ladies Classic.  What good would it have done to race there unless of course she could take on Rachel? There was a perfectly good Gr 1 race to prep in at Santa Anita to prepare for the BC.  

Most of you have probably already seen it but if you haven't there is a very funny top 10 list on "And They're Off" in Jan. Lenny Shuman and Steve Haskin count down the top 10 real reasons that Zenyatta was un-retired.  Very funny.  

23 Mar 2010 10:13 PM
Paula Higgins

Laura, I don't think you have to worry, I don't see a Triple Crown winner this year. Yes, that would be a nightmare if a Triple Crown winner did appear and Zenyatta went on to win 20 races total. I know where my vote would go if she won 20. But I also know it has been such long time that we have seen a Triple Crown winner, that people will disagree with me. However, Zenyatta's accomplishment would be so EXTRAORDINARY, more extraordinary and rare than a Triple Crown winner, I would have no problem voting for Zenyatta. Sometimes there is a situation that is so unique, it has to be recognized or a mockery is made of the sport. I know HOTY is for Horse of the YEAR. However, this sport has no other mechanism or award in place to recognize an accomplishment of this mganitude (and don't anyone throw that "Older Horse Eclipse Award" out there as an alternative-what a travesty that would be). So unless the "powers that be" want to try and think outside the box and come up with a way to recognize 20 straight wins, I would give Zenyatta HOTY.

tvnewsbadge, I totally agree with you that Jess Jackson/Steve Asmussen would be crazy to race Rachel against Zenyatta knowing she was less than 100% and certain to lose. I stated that in a post above. It would be the equivalent of malpractice.

23 Mar 2010 10:18 PM
Dakota

tvnewsbadge says "Jess Jackson would be an absolute idiot, after seeing his horse beaten by a relative unknown, to put his Rachel up against Zenyatta, when Zenyatta is CLEARLY on a roll and Rachel isn't".  I'll say, Zenyatta is on a roll....since the fall of 2007! For her ENTIRE career!  Sorry, badge, it just made me chuckle.  : )

As for possibility of Mr. Jackson suddenly changing his mind and sending RA to the Apple Blossom - wouldn't he have to have paid the pre-entry fee by March 19th?

23 Mar 2010 11:04 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Dakota,

You stated: “Finally, Zenyatta doesn't have to go looking for RA to prove her greatness. She's already done that.”

The general problem here is that you are misreading what I am saying.  We were not talking about Zenyatta’s “greatness” or her entire career.  We were talking about a specific time-period in 2009.  I’ve already stated that I do not think that the involved connections have been plotting and scheming with their horses for their HOTY campaigns with regards to the other camp’s plans.  That was my response to your point that seemed to indicate that Jackson was scheming with regards to the Beldame.  You seemed to be trying to read his mind with the benefit of hindsight.  I believe both camps when they say that they were trying to take it “one race at a time.”  I do think that the ultimate goal for most connections, including Zenyatta’s camp last year, is HOTY.  I really have a hard time believing that the Mosses weren’t concerned about that.  As for JJ, I think that he has a very adventurous personality, which when coupled with the fact that he’s not a horseman, can make him at least appear a little reckless.  I don’t think that he’s a liar, cheater, or a deviant plotter, and I have no idea about his ego.  

I would never doubt Zen’s greatness.  I think she is one of the best fillies and mares of all time.  We were referencing an article and talking about June-September 2009.  Of course, I know that most older horses don’t go out searching for younger horses in general, but as you say, 2009 was a very unprecedented year.  Many “rules” were broken.  My point was that if they wanted HOTY, Zen’s connections should have been plotting harder to face RA with the way that 2009 was unfolding.  I think that they probably understood that they needed to beat RA at that time (2009!) if they wanted HOTY.  When there was a window of opportunity open, and when I think Jackson wanted a race when it was a truly viable option earlier in the year, neither camp wanted to go out of their way.  If you look at the article, Moss’ declaration to not ship East appears to stem from his perception that JJ was challenging him to leave California to face RA.  I don’t think that, given the risky path he chose, JJ would have shied away from Zen when that window of opportunity was open.  But that's my opinion.  Since they were on different trajectories, if you will, the chance of the two meeting after that point was almost naturally slim.

When I was talking about “dictating” Zenyatta’s campaign, I was only referencing 2009.  By the time RA was finished last year, Zen had started a mere 3 times, and so I don’t think that JJ was most concerned with Zen, and I don’t think he predicted she would start (or maybe even win) the BCC.  While Zen’s presence and reputation were definitely there to consider, she was not a top priority in his plans for RA.  She did not in any way define RA’s campaign, and maybe if Zen had gotten an earlier start and had had a stellar campaign, there would have been much more clamor and pressure for a matchup to happen, and maybe JJ's focus would have been more on Zen than carving out an unprecedented path.  As for Zen’s connections, I don’t think that they would have ultimately laid her record on the line in the BCC had RA not done what she had done last year.  They wanted HOTY.  In general, fillies and mares don’t go after males either, but RA was breaking all the rules and in a sense blew the doors wide open.  That is what I am talking about in regards to dictating Zen’s ultimate destination.  That doesn’t mean that RA is better or has even had a better overall career than Zen.  Part of the problem is that we are thinking in a post-BCC frame of mind here, and you are talking about Zen’s entire career when I was talking about 2009.  Had the BCC not happened the way it did, there would be virtually no debate about 2009 HOTY right now, and I don’t think that there would be as many people even saying that Zen is better than RA, rightfully or not.  Zen won over many fans that day, especially many outside of California who had doubted her.  I believe JJ’s decisions with RA, like JJ or not, have pushed the Mosses to take more risks with Zen, which has and probably will benefit her career and legacy.

Respectfully,

Fahad            

23 Mar 2010 11:49 PM
chuck

Tvnewsbadge: Really? Only 11 horses have won the TC series? WOW

So, how many horses has gone UNDEFEATED racing at the highest level?

Better yet, how many horses in the 100 greatest thoroughbred has gone undefeated?

and probably the biggest question and the one achievement we will never see again ever if Zenyatta repeats in the Classic?

How many horses won the Ladies Classic, Classic, Classic?

That eclipse voter is just another pro dirt biased oldie!

23 Mar 2010 11:56 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Dakota,

Just to add one more point, even if we accept that the Mosses really didn’t care much for HOTY honors, I think we can certainly say that they were still concerned with having the “best” horse, however that may be defined or perceived.  That’s what racing is all about.  If I was Zen’s owner, I would be a little perturbed if some new filly on the block came along and stole some of the limelight from my 2008 female champion (who perhaps should have been 2008 HOTY).  At that point in 2009, however, I don’t think that Zen was as much of a priority for RA’s camp as RA at least should have been for Zen’s connections if they at least wanted to claim that they had the "better" filly/horse.  RA was doing some unprecedented things with ease, like beating males and breaking records all over the place, which Zen hadn't done yet.  After the BCC, Zen's camp could at least say that they had beaten males too, in the BCC no less.

Best,

Fahad

24 Mar 2010 12:33 AM
moodygirl

I never expected any response to my post, just wanted to get it off my chest. I surely didn't think I would get under anybody's skin. What a hoot! I don't know if I can reason with someone that says "end of discussion", Paul Higgins. God, my x-husband used to say that...

I agree it is totally JJ's decision not to run Rachel in the AB. I said I didn't like the way he handled it and was responsible for the mess. Asmussen's career can be damaged if he allows Jackson to override his good sense & experience and Rachel's career ends on a sour note. He will take the blame for it if she is not properly conditioned, the wrong races are chosen, or she becomes injured. If she has a bad year this year because she was over raced last year, then he will be blamed for that. He was in charge last year after they bought her from Hal Wiggins (in top shape). Wiggins said she needed rest between races. I did not say his reputation was sullied because she was pulled from the AB.

I enjoyed reading the blog but as I did I realized there are many theories being thrown out there that are not based on fact and then take on a life of their own. For example, Rachel may not be interested in racing instead more into breeding. While that may happen sometimes, there is no evidence that is what's causing Rachel problems. It's a theory. Also many are talking that they may retire Rachel. Again a theory, no evidence but all of this speculation resulting from the mixed messages from the RA camp in my opinion.

No I don't think everyone understand's or appreciates Zenyatta's achievements. That's why I shared the fact that she is number 7 out of 49 TBs that have raced undefeated worldwide in the past 200 years. It is remarkable, history making. We are seeing a female Secretariat or MOW. I don't know how to characterize Rachel yet. She is just as incredible & historic. To have them both is out of this world. How I wish I could see them race in person!!!

I do think that many of the horses on the undefeated list were as great as MOW, Sec., Seattle Slew, N. Dancer.

The point that Slew's greatest race effort was in a loss to Excaliber illustrates my point. That is why it is so difficult to have an unbeaten record! Anything can happen to the best racehorse.

St. Simon, Eclipse, Ormonde, Colin to name some were as great as the greats we know today. Go to http://www.tbheritage.com and www.spilletta.com/UTHOF

They were the greats of their day, their century and some of their blood flows in the champions of today. If you go back far enough on the pedigrees of our recent great horses you will find these names.

St. Simon is in Man O' War's pedigree. His dam, Mahubah, by Rock Sand (in his line).

Eclipse, 1764. 95% of living TBs can trace their direct tail-male-line back to Eclipse. He had 18 starts in 3 years and no one was able to challenge him. All the 2 yr. olds in training could not come near to touching him. There was no one else to race, so they retired him. The races were usually 4 one mile heats in a day. You ran 4 times for 1 win. He was a bright chesnut with a narrow white blaze and one white rt. hind leg almost to his hock. They did a necropsey at his death and he was found to have an "unusually large heart." Remind you of anyone? Gee, I wonder who they named the "Eclipse" Awards after? Hmmmm.

Lighten up some of you. Enjoy this incredible time in TB history. I'm glad we have something interesting & exciting to talk about. My comments were all made tongue and cheek, with HUMOR. Thanks for the support Zookeeper.

24 Mar 2010 1:57 AM
JAJ

TVnewsbadge,

If 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, how many, exactly,have done what Zenyatta has done?  The Triple Crown consists of 3 restricted Grade 1 races?  How many Grade 1 races has Zenyatta won?

Denying a horse such as Peppers Pride HOY is a whole  different story than denying Zenyatta should she continue to do what she has, so far, always done.

Horse of the year is just that, the horse of that year, not the best horse of the year if there isn't a Triple Crown winner.

Seattle Slew's Triple Crown quest, once he won the Derby, wasn't exactly that difficult.  How many horses in total did he actually beat in the Preakness and the Belmont?

24 Mar 2010 6:24 AM
Slew

Can we please skip HOY talk.  It's 9 months away. and we have a whole season ahead of us.  Stop discussing 20 wins, when we don't yet have 16 for Zen. It's been 32 years since we've had a TC winner, and I'm starving for that type of sumptuous feast.  The trouble is, I have not yet found a contender who will be able to meet the challenge this year.  Maybe one will pop up.  While everyone discusses whether or not a horse can get 10 furlongs, I'm looking for the horse that can go 12. (Belmont).  Other than Lookin At Lucky being a possible...has anyone yet seen the horse that might do it?

24 Mar 2010 7:56 AM
Chalkbuster

TVnewsbadge said:

An undefeated career can be engineered by careful selection of venues and opponents, by only running the horse when he or she is at her peak and only at a track and distance and in weather conditions that suits the horse.

My comment is, if it is so easy to run these perfect careers, how come there is so few, in all of the recorded history of horse racing??

From what I've read there are fewer undefeated careers than triple crown winners. They are both extremely difficult to achieve, yet different in their own way.

24 Mar 2010 10:32 AM
carolyn

Wouldn't it be great after all these years that we have a triple crown winnner?

I hope it will happen in my lifetime but I don't ever see it happening.

It just doesnt' look like they are bred for that stamina any more.

They put in the two first races then they are beat by a fresher horse in the third race, which is why it is considered such a grueling task.

Gone are the days of the triple crown winners, I hope not, I do hope one day we see it again.

I wonder, had she been given the chance, if Zenyatta as a three year old could have won the crown?

We will never know.

24 Mar 2010 10:51 AM
Criminal Type

OK, you guys..lol...first of all, It was a dream. The Baffert/Sheriffs hilarity was the focal point of the dream. Although I love Midnight Lute, I understand about the Size of the stallion mattering so much because Zenyatta is so big, I do not think breeding to him would be a wise choice. She needs to go to a stallion who is smaller and more compact such as Hard Spun, 16.2, nick A, Rachels sire, Medaglia D'oro, nick A (Rachel is bred on this cross) or even better, Offlee Wild 16.0, nick A++.(Just examples)

Secondly, Apparently I was mistaken about Rachels height. I was wrong. I thought I read somewhere she was 17 hands. Still although I will admit this is a big difference to Zenyatta's 17.2, Rachel is still a good size filly.

24 Mar 2010 10:59 AM
jpsbman

Tvnews

"especially when he knows that without doubt Zenyatta's connections will not give him a re-match."

I wonder how he knows that?

24 Mar 2010 1:06 PM
SMTDL

Kathleen..

I believe the Preakness distance is also considered a classic distance!I know the Triple Crown races are considered to be Classics and winners are referred to as Classic Winners!!Rachel and Zenyatta have each won a classic race at a classic distance against Males.Rachel did it off 2 weeks rest!!!Awesome for a filly. I believe only Winning Colors and Genuine Risk are the fillies to run  in all 3 races of the Triple Crown!!!

Zenyatta did it against a world class field of Males..also awesome!!

24 Mar 2010 1:16 PM
chuck

Chalkbuster, I couldn't agree more! Undefeated at the highest level is as difficult or more so than a TC winner. That is why there are fewer undefeated horses who ran at the highest level. What makes the TC so difficult besides the grueling schedule is that the horses are not yet quite mature but these are also restricted 3 year old races. When you run at open company at age 4, the quality of the competition gets a lot better and that is what Rachel is going to experience. More often than not, a great older horse beats a younger great horse.

24 Mar 2010 1:45 PM
JAJ

Carolyn,

Zenyatta as a 3-year old could never have gotten the Triple Crown.

She didn't start in her first race until November of her 3-year old year.

For whatever reason, she was not ready to race until she was almost 4.

24 Mar 2010 1:48 PM
Zookeeper

carolyn,

Zenyatta could not have won the crown. She didn't race until the end of her 3rd year. If she had been pushed earlier (you call it given the chance) not only would she have not won the Triple Crown but she would have been ruined. No 2008 & 2009 seasons and definitely no 2010 promising year. So I'm very glad that her connections elected to "deprive" her of the "chance" to blow her mind and body by racing her before she was good and ready. It happens every year. Young talented horses are sacrificed to the ego of connections with Derby Fever. As exciting as the Triple Crown season is, too many horses get in the gate on Derby day with little chance of winning it and are never the same afterwards.

24 Mar 2010 1:59 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats,

Thank you for your kind response.  It has really been a pleasure conversing with you as well.  I mean, in the end, we are talking about something that is primarily a subjective issue based on a lot of speculation.  We can debate as much as we like, and I think that does help to further the discourse on these matters, but we’ll never know for sure what motivates the involved parties and what they are thinking.

Some of your points I partly addressed in my response to Dakota, and like I said to him, even if HOTY didn’t matter to the Mosses (which I think it did), they would certainly have been concerned about having the “best” horse, so to speak.  RA was beating males and breaking records all over the place, which Zen hadn’t done yet, and so many could have said that RA was better almost  by default (which I don’t necessarily agree with).  I remember watching Youtube videos from around August-September 2009, I believe from LarryZapeye, where he asked some trainers who they thought was better between Zen and RA.  I believe all of them said RA was better, and some seemed to hint that RA was something like the next coming of Ruffian, if not better.  If there really could have been a race last year, I also fault JJ for not going out of his way.  Yet, the Mosses clearly stated in the beginning that they didn’t want to ship East to face RA, so they weren’t giving JJ many options to respond in kind, since he also didn’t want to ship to California.  When I am talking about a window of opportunity, I am talking about after the Mother Goose.  The Beldame was still on the table after the Wood, but I don’t think that JJ was as “worried” about Zen at that point (in terms of HOTY or competition) as he might be now after the BCC.  Zen hadn’t given us much of an opportunity in 2009, at that point, to see if she was even as good as she was in 2008.  I just don’t see JJ shying away from a matchup a little earlier in the year if there had been enough incentive/pressure to face her, like if Zen had been tearing up the track in 2009. Thus, he chose a more unprecedented path, and that path knocked out the option of the Beldame, where the Mosses originally refused to run anyway.

I really believe the connections when they say that they were taking it “one race at a time” last year; and the Wood took out the Beldame option for RA.  As for Zen going to the Beldame, well, the Mosses stated that they might go with or without RA’s presence, and one reason they might have done that would be to decisively prove to the doubters that she could run outside of California (yes, I know of her 2008 AB victory).  Since RA opted out, sure, their focus reverted to the BC and they took a more comfortable prep at SA.  Finally, I don’t think that JJ had a lot of confidence in their intentions to run, and so he went with the Wood, a more prestigious race at the penultimate venue Saratoga.  The natural progression from the Haskell would have been the Travers, but after beating 3yo males twice, he laid it on the line in the Wood against older males, and got a week longer for her to rest to boot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the connections were thinking about this “one race at a time” this year, when a hasty decision was made for April 9th for the AB.  That is where the mistakes were made, and now RA’s connections have every right to make sure she is as good as last year before they face Zen.  They should wait for RA to give them all the signs that she is truly ready, and then take it “one race at a time" and make sure we have the same RA.  If the NOL was the best that RA has to offer this year, then we're not talking about the same RA, a possibility that Asmussen has admitted in his statements.  Hopefully, both RA and Zen are even better this year.

Respectfully,

Fahad  

24 Mar 2010 2:05 PM
boatrocker

Thank you Matthew for setting me straight. In my part of the country, RA is considered "America's horse" and Z is a California horse (except for 1 race at Oaklawn). Rachel and Oaklawn were Z's "claim to fame" because I had barely heard of her before Oaklawn, only in passing, but that's because I don't follow the California tracks, i.e., preference for tracks run by the Churchill Downs family. Anyone see Undercover Boss show featuring CEO (?) of Churchill Downs? I thought it was well done. To me currently, there is no Rachel without Z and there is no Z without Rachel. I'm leaning toward being more of a Z fan now since all this riff came about, but still believe Rachel won HOY fair and square. I LOVE HORSES. Now the Mosses know you cannot keep a horse in CA and expect HOY. Rachel broke many different track/race records around the country. And would have broke one more if her rider hadn't gotten arrogant at the finish line . . . but this has all been said before . . . happy horsing around.

24 Mar 2010 2:18 PM
sidekickflats

Everyone,

What do you think the chance is that Rachel will race in the La Troienne?  It's a gr 2  1 1/16  race on Oaks day.  She would be pretty safe to avoid Zen.  Zen would have raced 3 weeks prior in the Apple Blossum and would have run in 2 straight 1 1/8 races so probably won't shorten up and turn around that quick.

24 Mar 2010 3:50 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Sidekickflats and Dakota,

I finally found this article that I had been looking for, so I wanted to share it with you.  On June 27, the morning of the Mother Goose, Moss said on XM radio’s “Down the Stretch” that there was a good chance that he would leave southern California to face RA, and he thought that shipping outside of California would help Zen’s bid for HOTY, which he stated he wanted to win.  Interestingly, he also stated that he shared JJ’s negative views of synthetic tracks.  See:

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

Compare that to his June 29 statements after the Mother Goose from the article that we are both familiar with, where Moss ruled out the option of going to Saratoga or Belmont, thus ruling out the option of the Beldame, Personal Ensign, and Go for Wand.  See:

www.bloodhorse.com/.../zenyatta-rachel--duel-unlikely-before-bc

That really didn’t leave many good options for JJ to respond to at the time, with the possible exception of the Delaware Handicap.  You can judge that however you like, but one could argue that Moss was having second thoughts after RA’s Mother Goose victory.  I don’t know what he was thinking, but like JJ, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Again, I think there was a small window of opportunity when this could have really taken place after the Mother Goose, when I think JJ would have gone for it especially if there had been more incentive/pressure, but neither side wanted to go out of their way to do it.  Ultimately, as well, JJ had higher priorities than Zen for RA at that juncture, in my opinion.  Before the Mother Goose, the matchup was certainly less realistic given the difference in age.

As for Oaks-day for RA, I think they may very well be preparing for that, and Oaks-day is when I have argued all along that this matchup should have been tentatively set.  

Respectfully,

Fahad    

24 Mar 2010 4:51 PM
Laura

Footlick, I know Ribot ran at four, as did all the rest bar Colin - and Eclipse, who didn't even start racing until he was five in a very different era. I was merely pointing out that Zenyatta's wins are ALL against older horses, with none of them in the age-restricted two- and three-year-old races. She's had to take on open fields almost from day one, running in her first stake third time out. The 2008 Apple Blossom, where she destroyed Ginger Punch and all the rest, was only her fourth start.  Rare times, indeed.

24 Mar 2010 4:54 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Addendum,

To be fair, and to give Moss the benfit of the doubt, maybe his thoughts after 6/27 had more to do with Zen's Vanity and taking it "one race at a time." He certainly had the right.    

Best,

Fahad

24 Mar 2010 4:56 PM
Zookeeper

sidekickflats,

I think that chances are very good that Rachel would run in the La Troienne. I don't think Zen's connections would go there, for the reasons you have stated. Whether RA runs in that race or not will depend on how she's doing and also WHO else will be pointed to the same spot. Whatever happens, it should be very fascinating to see how the people involved with these two horses react to each other's words and actions. We live in interesting times... and not just in horse racing.

24 Mar 2010 5:06 PM
tvnewsbadge

Plus, instead of worrying about the potential effect of a Triple Crown this year, which isn't likely to happen, fans might be better served to tune into Gio Ponti this weekend.

If that guy pulls it off in Dubai, HoTY might not be such a lock after all if it's ONLY based on an undefeated career.

24 Mar 2010 5:55 PM
chuck

Tvnewsbadge: If Gio Ponti wins Dubai, it will further enhance Zenyatta's greatness. Zenyatta is already great, this year will determine how great!!

24 Mar 2010 6:26 PM
moodygirl

First, an apology to Paula Higgins for my typo, no offense intended. TVnewsbadge, why do you say "no doubt Zenyatta's connections will not give a re-match" to Rachel? I think I remember the Moss's saying that Zenyatta & Rachel might race againt each other in more than one race. This was after the Eclipse Awards and before the AB discussions, as far as both of them being there. Does anyone remember who was talking about more than one race for them?

I think that Eclipse voter who said he would not vote for Zenyatta if there is a Triple Crown Winner is a sexist. He is probably thinking a Triple Crown winner trumps Zenyatta because it would most likely be a male horse. Zenyatta's achievements or what she might yet achieve is not as significant because she is a female. It could be some other screwed up reason too!

I think part of the problem with people appreciating Zenyatta is because she is so unique, so special. She did not race until her 3rd year because of her enormous size and the extra time needed for her bones to close. Therefore, she did not go the Triple Crown route as do most great horses.

Zenyatta was never a typical horse. I think people try to put her in the same box as Rachel and she does not fit! Many don't appreciate her unbeaten streak because it hardly ever happens. She is so unusual to still be racing at this level at her age (really her prime). She has had incredible health & fitness, again so unusual. With her mamoth size and incredible drive to win for a female, when has there ever been one just like her?! In my own mind I am sure she has an x-factor heart. While this is carried in the female line, it manifests typically in the male horse. Again what are the odds for for this in a female? Does anyone know? All that is said with no put down of Rachel or her accomplishments. I am just pointing out they are different horses who have taken different paths. I just don't think there has ever been a horse like Zenyatta and it's why comparing she and Rachel is so difficult. Some appreciate one and not the other and I think it is because they are such different horses and their roads to greatness also. Then you factor in Zenyatta's out of this world characteristics and it is not an easy comparison for people, thus the big dispute.

24 Mar 2010 7:34 PM
sidekickflats

Fahad,

It would be very interesting to hear the Moss's view of the thought process.  That article actually seems to be daring Rachel to come west if anything.  Obv. they changed their mind come August and made the Beldame a possibility BEFORE Jackson committed to the WW.  I doubt seriously if the Mother Goose caused the Mosses to reconsider racing Rachel. Does anyone even remember who finished 2nd?  The 3 year old fillies up to that point were not the strongest bunch (except for Rachel of course)

so no reason to "fear" racing Rachel based on that victory.

I do remember, when NYRA announced the purse increase to attract both Zen and Rachel, that someone in the racing media said that it was too little, too late.  That the proposal came too late for either camp to really change their trajectories for the season and that quite possibly was the case. In that is indeed true, neither camp "ducked" the other it just wasn't in the cards.

If Rachel goes in the La Troienne, she may face Unrivaled Belle, the winner of Bamberra's race.  Unrivaled Belle has been invited to the Apple Blossum so she can take the pick of which mares she wants to face.  The Apple Blossum is a grade 1 with a higher purse so that may be the deciding factor.

Also, it does not surprise me that the Mosses spoke negatively against synthetics.  John Shirreffs has always been a vocal opponent of artificial surfaces and has said in the past the Zen prefers dirt.  But they live in S. Cal and race in S. Cal so not much to do about it at least until Santa Anita goes back to dirt.  

24 Mar 2010 7:57 PM
Slew

I'm so confused...Moody Girl: Seattle Slew was not undefeated.  He is the only undefeated Triple Crown winner means he won all preceding races.  He did not win all after the Crown.

He lost a race to J.O.Tobin in '77

He raced as a 4 year old, and beat Affirmed twice.  It was Exceller who beat him in the Jockey Gold Cup, but he beat Exceller in a previous race.  Cigar was not unbeaten, but he won 16 straight races as a 4 and 5 year old.  A few horses have had amazing winning streaks.  Fewer still have been undefeated.  Even Secretariat lost to Onion at Saratoga.  I believe it was Secretariat whose heart was said to weigh 22 pounds after his necropsy...the largest ever recorded.

24 Mar 2010 8:19 PM
sidekickflats

Criminal Type ,

Regarding Zen and Midnight Lute, I found the following comment in an article by Art Wilson:

"Zenyatta is 17 hands. Shirreffs told a story last year about how Baffert wanted to prove Midnight Lute was bigger and marched into Shirreffs barn one morning with a tape measure, claiming he was the "myth buster." He left a few minutes later, mumbling something about, 'Yep, Zenyatta is bigger.' Shirreffs says he's never seen a bigger horse, and not just because she's 17 hands tall. Lots of horses have been 17 hands tall, but it's her hind that is so massive and so powerful that sets her apart from other big horses.

Thought you might like to read that.  

Also, I was just on Churchill Downs website and it talked about Rachel.  Steve A. was asked about whether she would be ready to run in the next 2 months and all he said was "we will do what's right by her".   Hopefully he'll share with the fans where she'll run when it's settled.

Also, for the ones who were talking about foals coming, The Bloodhorse reported yesterday that the great mare Zerkava is in foal to Sea the Stars.  I wouldn't mind having that foal! Of course I would have to move to France...

24 Mar 2010 9:00 PM
PMAC14

JAJ

The reason is that Zen is a monster and needed the extra time to go through growth spurts

24 Mar 2010 9:02 PM
catbird

Great column, Steve -- dead on the money.

If I were an Eclipse Award voter, I would not be regretting a vote for Rachel, as some respondents here are saying.  That was 2009, and there are no doubts in my mind that she deserved it.

This year is another story, and we have yet to see who amasses the best record.  I'm thrilled to death that reportedly we will see Zenyatta go looking for more competition than she has faced thus far, so whatever happens with Rachel, we are due for a fun year of racing.

Bottom line is:  Both mares are great, and both come equipped with owners who would do well to keep their mouths shut.  Moss was first out of the gate with questionable comments after the Eclipse Awards, but Jackson now has taken the lead in the shut-me-up contest.

25 Mar 2010 9:33 AM
WWSTP

Rachel's not done, nor are Jackson and Asmussen idiots or abusers.  With all this "Z is better than RA" ridiculous banter, it is really worth sitting with, and contemplating, a few amazing feats.  RA did run her guts out last year, more than we've EVER seen a filly do...to a sport that demands that a filly win against the boys before she is taken seriously.  She did it 3 times in a clear, obvious, grueling campaign.  That is a simple, amazing and history breaking fact.  She should have been tired at the end of her campaign...very tired...extremely tired....and very deserving of the 6 month rest she was given, as well as HOY.  But, in no way is she done!!  During that grueling campaign we saw an awe inspiring combination of extreme talent and heart, rarely seen before.  That is not going away for her.  JJ and Asmussen will give her the time to get fit and sound, and time to move into her 4 year old body and mind, and she will return….. perhaps as a different horse, as often happens to 4 year olds, but not as a lesser horse or an unhappy horse.  Personally, I don't care if she beats Z or looses to her.  RA is not even close to being done!!

This hype between Z and RA has brought out so many insane comments and statements, and surging foul energy, I find myself relieved that JJ and Asmussen are taking a step back and out of it.  That's not abuse, it's wisdom.  RA and Z are genuinely "horses for the ages", whose names we'll repeat over and over again for decades, citing their accomplishments and their historical ability to establish one racing year, and possibly two, where the girls ruled.  Unheard of!!  I have incredible respect for both horses and both camps.  One is more aggressive, the other more cautious.  So, the difference is part of the intrigue.  It's worth remembering that after Eight Belles tragic accident, just a short time ago, most if not all fillies, including Z, were kept from racing the boys in the wake of the horror of Eight Belles fate, and the screaming, trantrum like stated beliefs that fillies should not run with the males.  “They are weaker; they are not big enough or strong enough to run with the boys”.  Remember all of that???  Well, RA and her camp literally smashed that hesitancy and fear into tiny pieces!!  They opened the door wide open, and once that was opened we saw all kinds of fillies running with the boys, winning, and hitting the board.  Unusual Heat, All I can Say is WOW, Ventura, and the list goes on and on.  

A "norm" was changed last year, and most of us never felt ourselves engaged in the shift that happened to us, thanks to RA and her connections breaking the fear based beliefs that held so many other's back.  So while so much JJ and RA smashing is going on, let’s not forget the door that was opened because JJ bought her from an owner that held those old and outdated beliefs.  We have history making fillies, and racing, because and only because, JJ took ownership of RA, and RA’s heart and talent smashed down an old closely held standard that needed to die a good solid death.

25 Mar 2010 1:29 PM
WWSTP

In my above comments I missnamed a filly - she is Lethal Heat...Unusual Heat's daughter.

25 Mar 2010 1:37 PM

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