A World of Their Own

Thoroughbred racing in 2010 consists of three universes, all moving in parallel lines. One is the Triple Crown trail, which possesses an aura all to itself and is oblivious to any other existing worlds.

The two other realms have been meandering through space, occasionally veering off their axis. On one occasion they appeared to be headed on a collision course, but passed harmlessly by each other.

One is a world of incomparable beauty and pageantry. At its core is arguably the most charismatic diva that ever graced the racing stage, accompanied by some of the most appealing co-stars ever assembled. That is the world of Zenyatta.

The central figure in the other world is another femme fatale of equal beauty; an immensely gifted athlete who, unlike Zenyatta, has for the most part remained cloistered away from her adoring fans and cloaked in secrecy. That is the world of Rachel Alexandra.

Whether these two worlds will ever deviate enough from their current paths to actually make contact with each other, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that while Rachel Alexandra was steering clear of Zenyatta, Mighty Mare was putting on a show beyond compare and stealing the spotlight from the sport's reigning queen. Although Rachel Alexandra wears the crown, it is Zenyatta who has emerged as the monarch to many racing fans.

The multitude of signs adorned in gold and burgandy that were so visible last year at Pimlico, Belmont, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga, have given way to enough aqua and pink signs to fill a convention hall.

Every bow and every dance step from Zenyatta makes the heart flutter and brings smiles to the faces of adoring young girls and hardened veterans alike. Every victory adds a new chapter to an already epic tale. It is as if Jerry and Ann Moss, John Shirreffs and Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, and Mike Smith have taken on the persona of one big, happy family, sharing their treasure with the public. Everyone wants a piece of Zenyatta. A photo of her is something to admire. A photo with her is something to cherish. To be in her presence is something to remember.

It has reached a point where many feel Zenyatta no longer needs Rachel Alexandra, whether to attain redemption for a title lost or simply to prove that it is she who is the rightful Queen of the Turf.

Last summer, Rachel Alexandra was considered by most to be one of the greatest fillies of all time; the ultimate superstar racing had been seeking for so many years. Now, the superlatives and accolades are being directed at Zenyatta following her history-making Breeders' Cup Classic victory and two subsequent victories following her brief retirement.

It is important to remember that Rachel Alexandra has done no wrong. Yes, she tasted defeat for the first time in 16 months, but that was primarily because she was rushed back from a lengthy layoff in order to defend her crown against Zenyatta for a $5-million payday. She gave no indication she was ready fitness-wise for such a task, but her owner, Jess Jackson, succumbed to the lure of the event after initially declining. Let's say for sportsmanship's sake he did it for the good of the sport.

Following Rachel's defeat in a prep race at the hands of Zenyatta's stablemate Zardana, Jackson withdrew her from the Apple Blossom, citing the same reasons he gave initially - she wasn't ready to be rushed into battle, especially against a more fit and seasoned Zenyatta. Unfortunately, it took a defeat for him to come to the conclusion he had already come to earlier.

Now, many feel Jackson is ducking Zenyatta. Regardless of what one thinks of Jackson from a public relations standpoint, it is inconceivable to think, after Rachel's ambitious and unprecedented campaign last year, that Jackson would duck anyone. As it is, he was willing to duel with Zenyatta with a weapon he feared was not fully loaded, and only backed off after it misfired beforehand.

The feeling here is that if both fillies are fit and healthy they will meet somewhere down the road.

So, let us celebrate the greatness of Zenyatta, who is worthy of all the idolatry that has been bestowed upon her. She truly is one of the greatest Thoroughbreds (male or female) to ever grace the American Turf, and in many ways the most unique. Yes, people have a tendency to anthropomorphize her antics, but she does seem to exhibit human traits, as if she were some reincarnated prima donna brought back to perform on a different stage. Never before can anyone recall being entertained by a Thoroughbred in such a manner.

But while rejoicing in the afterglow of Zenyatta's memorable triumphs, we should not let the greatness of Rachel Alexandra dim after all she did for the sport last year. There certainly is room for two immortals in a pantheon that has had so few occupants in recent years.

 

325 Comments

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Between Friends

We are all very lucky to be able to be sharing the Zenyatta experience.

Having you put it into words so beautifully just puts this experience on another level. And then seeing Zenyatta called one of the greatest horses of all time by someone who has witnessed so many great horses in the past years. Well, that's saying a lot.

Thanks, Steve. This is another of your columns to treasure.

10 Apr 2010 4:30 PM
oahunick

Rachel has ducked 10 furlongs last year ...

I don't seem to see the point of trying to hype up Rachel in this article.  

"Don't forget about Rachel ..."

It's yesterday's newspaper, Zenyatta is what is keeping horse racing in good graces right now.

Let's worry about Rachel when she does something ...

10 Apr 2010 4:31 PM
Mike985

Thank you for a nice tribute to Rachel Alexandra. Hopefully she will regain her form soon and have another great year.  But if she never wins another race she will be forever remembered for what she did in 2009. She has nothing more to prove to anyone.

10 Apr 2010 4:45 PM
ruffian518

In my eyes Rachel Alexandra is the ultimate racehorse! beyond her beautiful self,No horse last season has come close to accomplishing what she did.Zenyatta might have won alot of races+(BC) but she did not win like RA! differant tracks all the time,males,older horses. I and others want to see these types of races, not a slam dunk everytime because competition wasn't there.(-once)Rachel was up against it everytime& prevailed,thats what I call a champ.She will never be forgotten in my book.

10 Apr 2010 4:47 PM
Serena

I am perplexed with why there is so much bitterness and vindictive remarks over this whole Rachel/Zenyatta thing.  I keep saying I'm not going to read nor write about it but I just can't help myself from speaking up. Rachel is being bashed unfairly by the Zenyatta fans as if SHE has any say in "ducking" the competition.  IF her connections would have listened to the nonverbal signs that Rachel wasn't ready to return to active competition, then perhaps the accusations wouldn't be so heartily flung at the poor horse.  All Jackson had to do was say that Rachel simply wasn't fit with only a few weeks of training to make up for her long (and deserved lay-off);  he could have said she just needs more time before returning to competitive racing. Maybe people would have (grudgingly) understood and accepted that she would not be a worthy opponent for Zenyatta (or any other horse).

I was thrilled to see Zenyatta's victory in the A.B.  She is simply remarkable and is a joy to behold.  But Rachel is also worthy of the same adoration -- how quickly we (not me!) forget of WHAT she accomplished last year.  Unprecedented!   And now all the Zenyatta fans want to say that their girl was robbed of HOTY and that Rachel proved she didn't deserve it by daring to lose a race that she wasn't prepared to run in anyway!  

I was a kid back in Secretariat's heyday but I don't remember such nastiness when he got beat -- even after his T.C. triumph.  

I am so glad that you, Steve, have put it into such sensible and fair words.  I can see that while you too have rejoiced in the special gift that Zenyatta is, you have not forgotten that Rachel is, in her own right, just as unique and worthy of all the love and adoration her fans feel.   Listen, I love them both and don't understand why so many others don't!  (I loved Affirmed  & Alydar too !!)  I felt Rachel deserved HOTY because of the thrilling races she provided us with.  And I feel that Zenyatta is most deserving of the same kind of love and respect.

I just wish that there was no need for the continued mud-slinging and all the negativity.  As I said in an earlier post, If Jackson & Asmussen  were as lovable as Z's connections... there'd be alot less griping and sniping.

I like Mike985's comments that Rachel will forever be remembered for what she brought to the sport of racing in 2009.  Nice!  

10 Apr 2010 5:13 PM
Linda

Did you have a vote for Horse Of The Year, if you did was it for Rachel?

10 Apr 2010 5:36 PM
Ruffian486

Thanks Steve. I think all of us get so caught up in which horse is better, rather than just being thankful that we have two mares that will go down as two of the greatest horses of all time running at the same time. Yes Rachel fans, Zenyatta is great, have you seen a horse who can pass her yet? And yes Zenyatta fans, Rachel is a great horse too, look at how few horses got even close to her last year (male and female). And if these two superhorses manage to face each other in a race this year, no matter which one wins, it will be a spectacular race to watch.

10 Apr 2010 5:46 PM
Lou in TX

Thanks for the wonderful words for Zenyatta. She is truly an amazing mare. I'm so glad they brought her back out of retirement. I don't see how anyone could not enjoy her little dancing before the race. She's just getting her game face on and letting everybody know it. I'd be worried if she didn't dance.  Zenyatta and RA will meet when the time is right and if that time never comes so be it. RA has done a world of good for the racing industry no matter what she does or doesn't do in 2010. She a magnificent mare in her own right.

LOVE TO BOTH ZENYATTA AND RA.

10 Apr 2010 6:10 PM
Paula Higgins

I agree with every word Steve. Zenyatta is one of the greatest horses to ever step on a track. She makes me happy to be alive, and yes, we tend to apply human characteristics to her dancing, bowing, and surveying people side to side as she enters the paddock. It's hard not to. She is otherworldly. I really believe the great ones know they are special. You are also right when you say that it doesn't diminish Rachel Alexandra's legacy one bit. She did what she did and her place in the history books is secure.

I am not sure Rachel and Zenyatta will ever meet. If I were Rachel's owner, I would make darn sure the next race she was in didn't have Zenyatta on the list of entries. If she wins it in good shape, then I would think about it. Not until then. Rachel is not the horse she was last year, and she may never be again. Unless she returns to peak condition, I would not race her. I do not blame Jess Jackson or Steve Asmussen one bit for not running her on Friday. They were absolutely right. It would have set her up for failure, and that would have been an unforgivable thing to do to a horse who has given so much.

oahunick, you are definitely a "what have you done for me lately" kind of guy. Not very warm and fuzzy in that post.

10 Apr 2010 6:17 PM
dustywhipp

Zenyatta is truly racing's queen, she keeps the sport alive. I had tears in my eyes watching that victory yesterday, as she loped down the stretch with those giant thundering strides... she is magic.

10 Apr 2010 6:21 PM
Rita

Zenyatta is the Queen. Such beauty and personality. I don't see how anyone could not love her.My hope for her is to stay healthy and maybe one day meet Rachel. It is not Zens fault who does not come to race against her. Send them at your will she will still run forward not away.

10 Apr 2010 6:36 PM
DB

I always love to hear your perspective, but even as an easterner, I always had a discomfort with the criticism of Zenyatta by RA fans and sportswriters in 2009. My gut told me she was nothing to belittle and that it was RA who had the limitations.

I think it is wonderful that we have 2 tremendous fillies to make our sport interesting.  However, I do not think a match up is necessarily in either's best interest. They have different running styles and distance abilities.  I prefer both to take on the best males in the world at their own specialties.

10 Apr 2010 6:44 PM
bellesforever

Steve..that was beautiful!!i know that there is enough love in my heart for both of the Ladies of racing! We should sit back and enjoy the show.The racing has just begun!

10 Apr 2010 6:53 PM
Linda in Texas

Oh Mr. Haskin, what a lovely way with words you have. As Mrs. Moss said yesterday, "Zenyatta is Magical." And i so agree.

After the race Zenyatta started pawing the ground before the jockey stopped her, i truly believe she was beginning to count to 16.

My heart was truly fluttering, your word, just wondering if she was going to come from afar and take the lead. And once again she did.

Rachel Alexandra is lovely, she missed a great party and that is a shame.

I love both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta and you know, i think the girls would really have a lot to talk about if they ever got the chance.

And i totally agree with your second to last paragraph. I have felt that way all along and posted so.

Thank you for putting thoughts to words. That is not easy.

And isn't this an exciting year for racing with so many new names showing their prowess?

10 Apr 2010 6:53 PM
Triple Crown Dreamin

Mr Haskin,

Thank You for the great article and for mentioning Rachel.I am sad how people continue to bash her which is a disgrace.Do you think she will run in The Latroine on Oaks Day?

10 Apr 2010 6:58 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

Nobody does what you do! If they try, it doesn't even compare. This is a beautiful end chapter to your "Apple Blossom Diary". It did not unfold the way we hoped but the end result wasn't a dissapointment. Zenyatta reigns as the Queen and we have run out of superlatives to describe how she makes us feel. For me "deliriously happy" comes close but is still lacking. You said "Never before can anyone recall being entertained by a Thouroughbred in such a manner." May I add that it is highly unlikely that we will see the likes of her EVER again. Her uniqueness on and off the track is what separates her from other great champions.

In my euphoria, I'm not about to forget Rachel Alexandra and all she has accomplished. I hope to see her again, even if only on television (since JJ will not bring her to CA). She's also a gift to horse racing and was sorely missed on Friday. I hope you are right and that she comes back... There is "room for two immortals in a pantheon" and also in our hearts.

Thank you Zenyatta & Rachel Alexandra and thank you Mr. Haskin for putting our thoughts and  emotions into unforgettable words!

10 Apr 2010 7:11 PM
Nancy

The memory of racing fans is short. What Rachel accomplished last year was never done before by a filly in the modern ages, if ever before period, and instead of treasuring it racing fans are too eager to push it to the side in search of their next star. It's almost like watching a drug addict in search of their next high as the last high is a memory from too far back.

The article isn't hyping Rachel, it's hyping racing and what its stars have done for the sport. Any true fan of racing will occasionally watch a video of Secretariat's Belmont, or one of the Affirmed/Alydar races, or Seabiscuit v War Admiral, or even Sunday Silence v Easy Goer. Every sport retains its history, I see this article of way of doing just that.

10 Apr 2010 7:21 PM
Kevin

Zenyatta gives proof of her greatness each and every time she races.

By virtue of her accomplishments on the race track, and of the class shown by those who surround her off the race track, greatness is given to the thoroughbred industry. It should be hoped by all that she continues to race this season at various race tracks throughout the country. Her appearance is a proven positive from all perspectives, and in all aspects.

I hope for Rachel Alexandra to also continue to reaffirm her three year old season this year. When she races she draws a fan base that is a total positive for this industry.

To have one great race mare, be followed by another great race mare, one could only dream for, but now we can hope for. Should they meet this season, it could only be better for the fans, the industry, and for all.

Whether Rachel's connections are prepared for her to continue to race, and/or meet with Zenyatta on the race track is the question.

Rachel's return to the races this season was an excellent performance. That is proven by the tape of the race, and by her beyers. In that loss she was beaten by a past proven champion on dirt in South America, who had not the opportunity to run on dirt in the USA until that day.

To say Rachel was not prepared that day, to not see that race as an outstanding prep is to deny fact. It is inconceivable. It does disservice to Rachel as a champion race horse, and gives cover to the human faults of Rachel's connections.

I say, race on Zenyatta, race on Rachel Alexandra, and may the twain soon meet.

10 Apr 2010 8:07 PM
Linda

Wonder why Zardana wasn’t entered in the Apple Blossom. I think she deserved to be in the race after beating RA.  Maybe she’s a lot better than people are giving her credit for.  It’s kind of ironic how John S. sends a mare to race against RA ( In which RA should have never run that race in the first place)ends up beating her and low and behold RA is pulled out of the race . Good bye $5,000,000,000.00! He's probably wishing he had not done that because that was the best chance of beating RA that he would of had and would have put Zenyatta close to being top earner. I think he kind of screwed himself didn’t he.  So he sends out Zen against nobody proving nothing.  Im sure Jess Jackson is thanking John S. for showing him the errors of his ways running RA too soon.

10 Apr 2010 8:56 PM
sodapopkid

I'm sorry, Ra has stayed in the barn to long and has lost out on the spotlight when her owner pulled her from the AB race. He not only made himself look bad but he made this situation look even badder.

Jackson should have let her continue to race on synthetics, and he should have let her run in the AB, she could have probalby pulled herself together after her prep race.

What happens when she comes back after her training if she loses another race, I will tell you what , he is going to retire her.

I do not look for RA to continue thru this racing season.

I think she is going to have an "off" season. I do not look for her to be anything like she was last year, of course she was ran to death last year against metiocre competition.

I do not ever see her in any race over a mile and never see her in any race against Zenyatta.

10 Apr 2010 9:06 PM
tvnewsbadge

Nice article. It should remind us all how fickle and fleeting fame and glory can be.

It's really sad how far Rachel has fallen from the mountaintop.

Last year, they were comparing her to Secretariat.

Today, she won't even get into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame when her time comes.

10 Apr 2010 9:10 PM
helsbelles

Rachel Alexandra is proving to be the tragic figure, through no fault of her own.  But, a select few determined that she was the ONE, which I never agreed with.  Brilliant article Steve.  

10 Apr 2010 9:13 PM
arlissholmes

Sorry, but Rachel has lots to prove.  For one, if she deserved last years HOY honor, she should meet Zenyatta.  However, she might not like the meeting too much.

10 Apr 2010 9:17 PM
Casey

Zenyatta,thank you-from one of your many "adoring young girls..."

10 Apr 2010 9:20 PM
Cynthia

Great article Steve. I have been a racing fan for over twenty years. Zenyatta is a very special animal that comes along maybe once in a lifetime. I believe she is the best racehorse since the 1970s. Thanks Zenyatta for bring new fans to the sport of racing We love you.

10 Apr 2010 9:26 PM
LackofPerspective

It's true that there is a devastating lack of perspective within the minds of today's racing fans. We hold Secretariat as the undisputed  king of the racing world still - but I doubt his legacy would remain untarnished in today's world of the the moment. It is true that Zenyatta is has accomplished a remarkable feat thus far, she is undefeated. This does not make her the best mare of all time. It is true that Rachel Alexandra gave us arguably the greatest season of racing ever run by a three year old filly. It still does make her the greatest of all time. That honor belongs to Kinscem, if Zenyatta can match that record (note that she raced against males on a regular basis)I will bow down and worship. There were people harping on the "interwebs" about how soon Rachel Alexandra would be retired after she ran a short race against a mare turning in her best performance to date on the American continent. I couldn't help but laugh.What did you say about Kelso? A little perspective is a marvelous thing and it can often be found by turning away from the buzz of a chatroom and opening up a racing history book.

10 Apr 2010 9:29 PM
Pam S.

Steve,

Great column; one of my favorites in fact.  You compared and contrasted Zenyatta and Rachel, 2010.  One is an ambassador for racing, rapidly becoming a national treasure, and the other is kind of hidden away.  

Well, I think the roots of the 2010 situation are to be found in 2009.  One horse was "babied," stayed close to home and ran in "powder puff" races (except for the last one).  The other horse was aggressively campaigned in hopes of winning HOY without contesting the Breeders' Cup.  

I did not always feel this way, but I see now that Zenyatta's 2009 schedule was designed with two goals in mind: (1) the BC; and (2) longevity, hopefully.  On the other hand, Rachel's schedule was unprecedented, and she herself was flashy and captivating and she was voted HOY.  

But now Zenyatta, at the age of 6, is practically on a goodwill tour, while Rachel's future is uncertain.  As plans go, I would have to say I prefer the Zenyatta plan to the Rachel plan.

10 Apr 2010 9:31 PM
helsbelles

Thank God, Zenyatta is FINALLY getting the accolades, recognition, and LOVE that she has always deserved.

10 Apr 2010 9:31 PM
Flynne

Thank you, Steve, for not holding Rachel's loss against her and still considering her a great horse. It's one thing to say you're a fan of the horse when it's winning, but when you're still saying you're a fan after they've lost and are no longer the "it" horse -- it's refreshing. There are too many pretenders in this sport's fan base.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you. Zenyatta is truly a blessing to the sport - they both are - and these are two horses that will be remembered 50 years or more from now. Both of them have accomplished what few have ever accomplished before, it at all, and should be equally respected for their achievements. How pathetic it is that many of this sport's fans cannot simply embrace this moment in racing and would prefer to trash talk the other horse.

10 Apr 2010 9:51 PM
Diana

Geez, Rachel is working at Churchill Downs (and quite well too), it's not like she's dropped off the face of the earth as some like to think.

 I'm a big fan of both mares, always have been. But I have to say, the AB was almost.... boring.  Please, please put Z in with some real competition.  Who knows what she can really do??

10 Apr 2010 9:52 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve-Very nice. Thanks. If they both stay healthy and Rachel still wants to run they will meet this year. Yes, Queen Zenyatta. Such a lovely Queen, and so kind to her subjects. She dances for them, she prances for them, and she wins for them and wins for them and wins for them. I'm honored to have been able to witness all of these wins, to be a part of this march down history lane. All who watch her and love her are part of this incredible story. I've said this before-It is impossible to win all of those races in a row coming from so far back. Isn't it amazing how she always knows just how much to give to win the race? Her last was so easy. It is easier on dirt. Three races have brought me to tears. Zenyatta's Breeder's Cup Classic win, Secretariat's Belmont Stakes win, and Smarty Jones loss in The Belmont Stakes. Zenyatta is the most amazing race horse of all time because of her unique antics, and the style of the wins. Dead last to first sixteen in a row. We all know that closers do not win as many races as front runners and pressers. Obstacles, pace, and bad luck are bound to get in the way. So how did she do it? Don't ask me. I think it's impossible.

10 Apr 2010 9:52 PM
moodygirl

Thank you Steve for describing the essence of Zenyatta! I feel priviledged just to witness her reign of the turf. Thank goodness for saying she is one of the greatest TBs of all time, because she is. I said today that I thought she was the greatest since Secretariat and the response was, "You have got to be kidding!" No joke at all.

She is so unique. There never has been a horse like her. She did not take the Triple Crown route to greatness because her size demanded it. People try to denigrate her Breeder's Cup Classic win because it was on polytrack. Would they be saying this if their male TC route horse had won? I don't think so. Instead of relishing in her greatness and what she is doing for the sport, they try to diminish her achievements. What a pity.

It is her easy source of power that so reminds me of Secretariat. I'm sure she must have an X-Factor heart also. She has a different running style than Secretariat, thus no 30 length wins. I think if they shared the same style run she would win by hefty leads also. I don't think we have seen her best yet. Mike Smith says he has never seen her bottom. When she wins it looks like she doesn't even work up a sweat.

With her gigantic size, conformation, good health, great training & care, internal drive to win (no whip needed), historic winning streak, love of people and poise; there has never been a horse like her. I was thinking about her today & how people say they are running out of superlatives to describe her and this song floated into my mind, "Nobody Does It Better..."

10 Apr 2010 9:53 PM
John T

Now and again a really good racehorse comes along and shows it

could have been even better on another racing surface.One such horse was Secretariat.In 1973 when

''Big Red''finally got his chance to run on turf in the Man O War Stakes he showed just how much he was made for that surface beating the likes of Tentam and Big Spruce with ease in a time just four fifths of a second less than his sensational win in the Belmont.In his only other start after that on a very wet soggy October afternoon

at Woodbine in the Canadian International he showed once again

what a great champion he could have been on turf.Now we come to Zenyatta who has run most of her races on a synthetic surface but yet when she runs on dirt is even

better.If all goes according to plan,it is going to take an exceptionable male or female to lower her colours over one and a quarter miles of Churchill Downs dirt on Breeders Cup Day.

10 Apr 2010 10:12 PM
Bob Z

So let's look to their future races....

Rachel should be set for the the La Troienne at Churchill the day of the Oaks...  That wold be 6 weeks since her last race...

If she can't be ready by then then I would have some serious concerns about whether she'll ever be back..

Team Zenyatta mentioned that they like Grade 1's at 1 1/8 miles and they mentioned New York...

The knock against her was that she didn't race outside California...

So I guess the question is how many times and where will she run now that she did Oaklawn...

Leaving the Breeders Cup aside... I could see her running at Churchill and Saratoga....

Somebody mentioned Belmont Park... but I think their was an issue last year with the detention barns...

I would love to see Monmouth Park in New Jersey be able to put something together... They run The Haskell there at 1 1/8 miles..

10 Apr 2010 10:15 PM
Funny1991

Rachel and Zenyatta are two of the greatest females has seen in a long time. We should stop off this bashing at one another. I feel in love this sport when I was only 12 and now i'm 19 and I'm starting to think to myself why the heck am I in a sport that has people bashing one horse or the other. CAN"T WE ALL STOP THIS AND ENJOY THEM RACING, or you will loose many people young people from racing.

Think of all the young kids who say Rachel win against the males in Preakness and all the kids seeing Zenyatta win against the males in the Classic. And now have to hear a bunch of older people bash their favorite horse because they love that horse.

For me when I swim I think of Rachel how she never gave up from start to finish and when I ride my horse she tries as hard as Rachel to win when we race other horses. I also love seeing Zenyatta win so easly, but i think she should starting facing actual competition (its like you put Phelps against high school swimmers).

I hope because I love both horses that they wont meet until the Classic because that will be the best race. The two greatest females representing the USA against the world. I like that sound.

So stop all this fighting and enjoy them racing.

10 Apr 2010 10:21 PM
Paula Higgins

Rachel Alexandra is not a "tragic figure." Geesh. At the worst, she is done racing. Whether she races again or not, she has a very special place in racing history. NOTHING will ever change that. She most certainly will make it into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame.  You all need to get a grip here. Rachel Alexandra did something no other filly ever did, and may never again. This is from a Zenyatta lover of the first rank. No one needs to knock Rachel to make Zenyatta look better. People lack credibility when they do that because the facts tell the truth of the matter. Both horses are one of a kind and magnificent in their uniqueness.

10 Apr 2010 10:25 PM
Diane J

Zenyatta can't pick who shows up in a race.  The AB is a grade 1 race - these types of races generally draw the better fillies/mares in training. She has beaten whoever showed up over the past sixteen races. Rachel is a great horse as well - hopefully we'll see more of her soon and she'll pick up where she left off last year.  As for me, Zen will always be my personal favorite, but that doesn't mean I will degrade RA to build up Zen.  That would be a disservice to Zen as well. Let's just be happy both are healthy and racing again this year.

10 Apr 2010 10:57 PM
sidekickflats

I just got back home from travelling to Hot Springs to see the Apple Blossum.  Obv. I was hoping to see both Zenyatta and Rachel but Zenyatta put on a great show on her own.  The weather was perfect and the crowd was appreciative of her performance.

Linda,

John Sheriffs was quoted in an article last week, saying that Zardana needed more time between races and that a mile 1/16 was better for her than a mile and an 1/8.  She is therefore being pointed to the La Troienne at Churchill.  Her owners wanted to run against Rachel in hopes of being invited to the Apple Blossum and she was, but when the purse went from 5 million to $500,000 they opted to give her more time.

Diana,

I think everyone would have liked to have seem more competition for Zenyatta at the Apple Blossum (especially a mare named Rachel) but 43 other fillies and mares were invited and only 4 showed up to run against Zenyatta.  That's not Zenyatta or her connections fault.  Was it Spectacular Bid's fault when he had a walkover in a stakes race in New York?  You can't race them and beat them if they don't show up.  Evidently, team Zenyatta are pointing to Grade 1' s at a mile and an 1/8 to prep for the BC again this year. Not sure when they will tackle the boys again but if she has to carry too much weight(she carried 127 last time out and as much as 129 last year) it might be more appealing to go against the boys sooner than the Classic. Not sure what filles and mares will want to race her this year.

10 Apr 2010 10:57 PM
Sharon

As always, your article is beautifully written.  Rachel is wonderful, BUT WHY NOT LET ZENYATTA HAVE HER DAY.  Is it always necessary to add something about Rachel?  

10 Apr 2010 11:01 PM
sidekickflats

Further to my previous post, Spectacular Bid's walkover was in the 1980 Woodward Stakes back when the race was run at a mile and a quarter.   You can see the race on You Tube.  

10 Apr 2010 11:04 PM
sodapopkid

Mr. Haskins, From the article written by Jay Hovdey on DRF.com today,  We may not see RA for a long time if at anytime.  He states that Asmussen recently was on a radio show and was asked about RA.  When asked, Asmussen practically said that he and his crew are "unsuccessful" at getting her back to were she was last year.  Anyone can read the article for themselves, I am just stating what I read in HOVDEY's article.....

10 Apr 2010 11:12 PM
jlp918

We were fortunate to have two magnificant horses electrify the racing world in 2009.  I am thankful that the Mosses decided to keep Zenyatta in training to continue where she left off last year.  While I hope that we will see Rachel race again soon, I question whether or not she will return based on a remark by Mr. Jackson during an interview by a member from HRTV.  When asked about Rachel, he gave his standard comment that the horse would tell them when her next race will be, and if not, she would be making babies.  ("Making babies" was his choice of words, not mine.) It is simply my opinion that if Rachel does not return to her 2009 form, we may not see her run again.  Hopefully, I am very wrong, but time will tell. Racing needs our stars.

10 Apr 2010 11:16 PM
maryglynn

Great Article Mr. Steve, I do love both of these fillies as i have said before I would love to have either one of them in my barn. When i was a young girl i was in Love with Ruffian and Zenyatta reminds me of her in looks. I think that horse racing has room for two great horses I know my heart does. I hope that the Rachel folks will take a page from the mosses book and take care of Rachel i think that we should applaude folks that can keep a horse in Great physical and mental condition. Zenyatta is 6 now and Looks wonderful . I have always said you look at the horse and find where they can shine. I pray for the safety of both of them I for one don't want to see the heart break of a breakdown. It is my hope that the folks who make the decisions about where to run these horses will look to the long range and seek the wisdom of our heavenly father .

10 Apr 2010 11:23 PM
oahunick

Rachel's triumphs (20+) and groundbreaking campaign may never be duplicated again.

And Steve's great Tale Of The Tape article prior to HOY was spot on.

"How can you can a loser between the two?"

Someone above made the statement that really cuts to the core ---

Something in our gut said that Zenyatta was the beast and it was Rachel that had the limitations.

That being said, hope Rachel gets it in gear and makes the newspaper this year.  We need her too.

Nobody goes down memory lane like Steve H.  I could read another Damascus/Doctor story every week.  Or Slew, or the great article he did on the "Iron Lady".

We wanna lament that Rachel is in the barn having setbacks?  No way!  

We wanna go down memory lane (2009) or talk about her potential to challenge Zenyatta?  Good grief ...

10 Apr 2010 11:40 PM
Footlick

Nice post, moodygirl

10 Apr 2010 11:41 PM
John

Steve,

First of all, I'm from New York.

That said, I fully and truly believe that the HOY was given to the wrong horse.

Steve, Zenyatta did not lose the title - she was denied it by 130 voters that believed that Rachel Alexandra was better.

I think now we all now know who is better and should have been HOY for 2009.

But that's history, and there is nothing anyone can do about it now.

As for your political correct pouring of syrup - please stop.

Rachel Alexandra had her moment in the sun in January. She had her time with all the attention. Good for her.

And I do hope she comes back racing.

But please, Steve - this is Zenyatta's time. Let her have it. She was denied two years in a row for top honors.

Don't dilute it by denying her limelight this time, like she was denied before.

11 Apr 2010 12:08 AM
David R

Steve is right on the money with everything he wrote. The last horse to raise the hair on the back of my neck they way Zenyatta does was John Henry. Although John Henry had a great personality himself, there has never been anything like Zenyatta when it comes to the personality of a thoroughbred. She does seem to be a human in racehorse clothing...

11 Apr 2010 12:15 AM
George

Rachel Who?

11 Apr 2010 12:18 AM
JT

Ridiculous..I see in all these comments about how mean Zenyatta fans are toward Rachel..and that's a bunch of bull.  I hear about how fickle racing fans are and how quickly we are forgetting what Rachel accomplished last year..Hogwash!  Who was it that all along said Zenyatta is good but just a synth horse (Rachelites)..Who was it that said she had to carry her track with her (Rachelites)..  Calling Rachel the Queen? BAH!!  Zenyatta is the Queen until she is unseated and I don't care WHO gets the HOY...  Zenyatta is UNDEFEATED 16 for 16.  She is up there with Citation and Cigar..She surpassed Personal Ensign who was the former Queen of Racing.  Rachel is the Princess..she deserves our respect and admiration. She has achieved some amazing accomplishments, and she's the reigning Horse of the Year.  But she is not the Queen....Zenyatta is the Queen until she is unseated or retired.  As much as all the Rachel fans talked about how Phenominal Rachel was and how ordinary Zenyatta was in comparison to her you would think that Rachel could have mopped the floor with her at 85-90% but no she couldn't even get by Zardana..  I'm not saying this with any nastiness directed toward Rachel..I love Rachel and I do think she's one of the best ever and has earned the right to be called that..but I'm tired of Zenyatta not being given her fair regards and accolades most notably from the Rachelites.

11 Apr 2010 12:23 AM
LauraS

When the Police released their album "Zenyatta Mondatta" way back in 1980, they were asked what the name meant.  Supposedly, the response was "nothing and everything" as it was a made-up phrase that sounded pretty cool.  Now, in 2010, we DO know what "Zenyatta" means: PERFECTION.

11 Apr 2010 12:30 AM
Matthew

The Apple Blossom Handicap that Zenyatta won was the race which she tied the record of Citation, Mister Frisky,and Cigar's sixteen consecutive wins, if Zenyatta wins another race maybe at Hollywood Park, she tied the record of seventeen consecutive wins set by Hong Kong Champion, Silent Witness. If Zenyatta wins three more races after that, she break the consecutive win record set by Peppers Pride in 2008.

11 Apr 2010 12:48 AM
Runfast159

I have to believe that the vast, vast majority of true racing fans (those of us who describe ourselves as passionate about the sport)have nothing but the utmost respect, admiration and adoration for both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

It is the nature of blogs in general to draw out personalities that are combative and vocal to begin with. People who find more passion engaging in fights anonymously online than they do in the sport itself.

I believe this to be a relatively small faction, not representative of us as a whole.

To not be overwhelmed with joy to have had the gift of Rachel Alexandra, who was simply the most devastating racehorse of 2009, and the gift that is continuing to give in Zenyatta, is to deny yourself of the greatest pleasures this sport has to offer.

It's a shame you would even have to write an article like this to remind us that the accolades and accomplishments of one does not diminish the other.

I have much gratitude to the connections of BOTH horses for bringing them back for one more year, in an era when so many of our stars are retired at 3.

11 Apr 2010 12:52 AM
ezevans

Thanks Steve.  Well said. With the lose of racing's "Queen Mother" Personal Ensign, it seemed only fitting that Zenyatta honor the crown with her score yesterday. 16-0..makes one look into the future. Could she go 17, 18, 19-0?  I love this horse and she has moved herself to the top of my list.  Beauty, attitude and damn, how consistent can a horse be.  That move, wow that move she makes every race.   You are right, no one, and I mean no one should short change Rachel.  Her campaign last year was brillant and even as a Z fan, I totally agreed with her selection as HOY.  I hope she continues to train well and to see her win many, many races.

11 Apr 2010 1:10 AM
jpsbman

Zenyatta is the people horse. I own a little bar in south east Texas. Before Zenyatta, none of my customers could give a damn about the sport of kings. But since I own the joint, we watch Zenyatta when she races and I am proud to say TB racing and Zenyatta has a bunch of new fans.

Zenyatta is God horse on Earth, we are so lucky to have her. There will never be another like her. Stay safe and sound big Z. We the people, love you much.

11 Apr 2010 1:21 AM
Gunfighter

Whoopie doo and neither is as good as GOLDIKOVA, that is a champion and going for a third BC win this year. 7 Grade/Group 1 wins in 3 diffrent countrys sure beats the US "wannabees"

11 Apr 2010 1:39 AM
Gary

I love them both. The only reason I was pulling for Zenyatta is that I believe over a period of time Zenyatta will be the one scripted in history as the best. Zenyatta has been doing this 3-4 years. Rachel so far one year. I've never seen a horse play to the crowd as Zenyatta. She is so special beyond anything. It was weaker competition in the Apple blossum but she continues to do her thing regardless what field it is.

11 Apr 2010 1:40 AM
CV

Wonderful column Steve. I don't understand why we can't celebrate all of our first-class horses.

Linda,

No, John Shirreffs didn't "screw himself" as you put it.

(1)The owner of Zardana, Arnold Zetcher, wanted to run her in the New Orleans Ladies rather than face Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita. Shirreffs is the trainer. What was he going to say, "No?"

(2)The last I read, Zardana is likely headed to the La Troienne Stakes, a     1 1/16-mile race April 30 at Churchill because Zetcher and Shirreffs said the shorter distance suited her better than the 1 1/8-mile Apple Blossom.

By the way, I'm sure you could have looked up this same information online yourself rather than write another breathless "conspiracy theory" post.

11 Apr 2010 1:51 AM
pas

LackofPerspective: are you speaking of yourself, or someone else? while i agree that winning 54 races under any circumstances is incredible, you also have to consider her competition. most of her wins were in Germany or Austria, not exactly the pinnacle of the racing world. she did travel to England and won the Goodwood, but did so after her main rival was injured and withdrawn. not her fault, but again, easier competition. so while Kincsem's race record is impressive, to put it in perspective requires one to consider all of the factors she raced under. a record alone, by no means, indicates how good a horse really is.

11 Apr 2010 2:16 AM
The Deacon

Breathtaking....Her majesty reigns....... Long live the Queen..............

11 Apr 2010 3:28 AM
smartyjones15

TWO different styles the two. As a horse fan we love the two equally. But in the end there can only be one ah(or dead heat). Rachel was great she got out front and horse of oposite sex just wouldnt want to pass her. She was much the best. But if you can remember when racing against the boys 09 was not the greatest of talents. Its not like she was racing a Barbaro or Afeet alex, and i wont even put her in the same category as smartyjones. As FOR Queen Zenyatta well her size should say it all. But if that doesnt convince you lets not forget what the BC is. And that older horses have slight advantage over immature 3 year olds. THe strengh the determination to come through bumping with not what we thought was the best that year, but what was the best at the time. THE bc escaladed Zenyatta over rachel. that race seperated the two. Lets be real East has more racing fans therefore the horse from the east got more votes. Plain and simple.

11 Apr 2010 3:44 AM
TexSpect

"Please, please put Z in with some real competition.  Who knows what she can really do??"......What a statement. There are many nominations to most races. Zenyatta does not have to seek out horses, she is the undefeated one. And, I don't think she has scratched out a race barring weather conditions. The connections announce where they will participate and if there is any "Competition" hopefully it will show up. The fact that there is good money for the runner-up positions is probably preventing walkovers. I am sure the trainers, Owners, and others concerned know their animals better than any fan. What you see is what you get. And I sure the "Competition" has completely evaluated their chances against this great horse called Zenyatta.

11 Apr 2010 4:30 AM
Lauren

Well said Steve!

I am in awe of Zenyatta even more now with her 16th straight win, and her name is quite fitting with the likes of Citation and Cigar. I love that Mr. and Mrs. Moss are sharing Zenyatta, and are pointing her towards the BC Classic again, which means we have at least the rest of 2010 to enjoy her!

While Rachel is an outstanding race horse, Zenyatta is just above and beyond! =D

11 Apr 2010 4:54 AM
ygator99

Very well written article steve.This sport needs those 2 to meet unfortunatly only 1 will win.

11 Apr 2010 7:30 AM
Will W

What else was Jackson to do after he painted himself into the corner with his comments about Rachel's conditioning and the premature date of the Apple Blossom. He was heard by track officialdom at Oaklawn, accommodated, and put on the spot with the change in the date of the race. Not only, as Steve said simply to be kind to Jess, did Jackson succumb to the lure of the event and to serving the interests of horse racing with its fans clamoring for the match up, but he put himself in the unenviable position of having to "put up or shut up" to save himself from public embarrassment. Reputation, image, and ego got involved and that's never good decision-making fodder when a horse's fitness is in question. If all was left to Asmussen, the outcome would most likely have been different. The long layoff and the bad weather in New Orleans that conspired to keep RA from achieving the fitness level required to contest with Zenyatta so early in the 2010 campaign would have been the sole decision-maker for Asmussen. As a trainer he operates under a different set of constraints than an owner who has been quite visible in his attempt to improve the sport by campaigning against drug use, no longer breeding for stamina and endurance but exclusively speed, and the premature retirement of horses solely for pecuniary interests to the harm of the sport. Left to Asmussen's judgment alone, the horse's conditioning would have decided the day, and Rachel would not have had her training schedule accelerated to push her prematurely into the lists against such a great race mare as Zenyatta. It's all about conditioning as it is with any athlete, be it man or animal. Fitness takes time. patience, and hard work. You can't defy nature and, as trainer, Asmussen was less likely than Jackson - if the decision had been solely his - to have tried to defy reality. Yet, this is not a dysfunctional family, Jackson, as well as a great sportsmen concerned with racing's future, is an intelligent fellow who is clearly capable of learning from his mistakes, and, in Asmussen's capable hands, Rachel will again be fit and ready to contest with Zenyatta. Barring injury, it will happen. As she demonstrated in the Apple Blossom Zenyatta is better than ever and ready to roll and there's nothing wrong with Rachel that a little conditioning won't fix. Let Zenyatta break Cigar and Citation's record on Derby day at Churchill Downs and then let the showdown commence as Rachel is readied again for battle by the country's leading trainer.

11 Apr 2010 8:13 AM
PRUDOFROMPUERTORICO

I am a horseman and have made my share of mistakes while thinking a particular horse could win a race without being 100% because of it superiority over the competition.I think that was the case with Rachel's owner.What bothers me was her trainer who I am sure knows better.In terms of managing their star I take my hat off to Zenyatta's connections.I hope Rachel recovers and they will finlly meet along the road, hopefully at the BREEDERS CUP.  

11 Apr 2010 8:39 AM
Somethingroyal

I was hoping Steve that you would write such an article. You have descibed Zenyatta and her connections to perfection. I was at Santa Anita to watch Zenyatta win the Santa Margarita. A friend who has access to the barn area  treated me to the test barn to wait for Zenyatta's arrival. I had the rail all to myself as she walked by me. She was so close I could have reached out and touched her. The sheer joy of having Zenyatta that close will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life.  

11 Apr 2010 8:50 AM
draynay

99% of the problem is Zenyatta CONTINUES to take on fillies and then claim she is so wonderful.  Competition MATTERS.  16 races and 15 against girls only.  If she is all that race against the boys already.  Rachel has 3 wins against G1 winning males on dirt and Zenyatta has NONE.  It really is that simple.  Will Zenyatta take on males BEFORE November at Chruchill ?  I doubt it and it's sad.

11 Apr 2010 9:17 AM
Katherine

Steve thank you for writing this beautiful article about these two great, great fillies. No one expresses the feelings the great ones inspire better than you. We are all so privileged to see both of them. I doubt we will ever see the like of these great fillies in our lifetime again, let alone at the same time in history.

11 Apr 2010 9:21 AM
Steve Haskin

I wish some people would stop making something out of nothing. Praising every aspect of Zenyatta and calling her one of the greatest horses, male or female, of all time, is shortchanging her? Whether you care to admit it or not, there are two great fillies racing now, and demonizing one and pretending she doesnt exist serves no purpose. You can be a Zenyatta fan AND a racing fan who loves to see great horses compete. There are some hopeless fools out there like me and others who actually like and respect both horses. All I'm trying to say is that we can celebrate Zenyatta, but let's not totally forget about or ignore the existence of Rachel, who may or may not return as the same filly we saw last year. I am as big a Zenyatta fan as anyone, and my heart races as fast an anyone when she runs, and I am as close to John and Dottie as I am anyone in racing.  And my Facebook albums are filled with Zenyatta photos I've taken. So to think I am stealing her thunder by keeping Rachel's name alive is ludicrous...in my opinion. If I am guilty of anything it's feeling sorry for Rachel at a time when she (her reputation) is down. Why wouldnt Zenyatta fans want to see Rachel do well to make their first meeting all the more exciting and anticipated and historic. I don't get it.

11 Apr 2010 9:30 AM
Turfqueen

Steve,

Great piece, BUT, let's just re-name it "A World of Her Own" I get that you are trying to be diplomatic, and I get that Rachel Alexandra was a phenomenal 3 year old filly, and all the hoping and wishing in the world may never get Rachel in a race with Zenyatta, but it's now time to call a spade a spade, or a diamond a diamond. I have followed Zenyatta's star since the day she broke her maiden. I hold Secretariat as the GREATEST horse I have ever seen. That has not changed. But Zenyatta is right below him, and MILES above anything else in the last 50 years. I think it's time for people to stop all the comparisons, just ENJOY this MARE. We will probably never see another one like her. She is exceptional, she is extra-ordinary. There is NO comparison; She is in a World of Her Own.

11 Apr 2010 9:32 AM
Slew

Steve, thank you for paying homage to both Queens.  They both earned and deserved respect.  They're both champions.  Nothing has brought the sport to the fore front as much as these 2 ladies have done.  Thank you again.

11 Apr 2010 9:47 AM
Slew

Laura S...I believe it's already been explained that Zenyatta means "top of the world"...as in zenith.  Or maybe that's what they want it to mean.  There is no clear explanation anywhere...only guesses.

11 Apr 2010 9:58 AM
Kevin

Mr. Haskin,

Yes, Yes, to your response to some comments made to your posting.

To restate my ending from my earlier comment:

"Race on Zenyatta, race on Rachel Alexandra, and may the twain soon meet".

11 Apr 2010 10:07 AM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

There is NO "getting it". I saw your article as the final chapter to the Apple Blossom diary and was very grateful for it. To me, it served as closure to the whole controversy surrounding that anticipated race. Others see it as a renewed call to arms... What you gonna do? Such is human nature. No wonder some people like horses better.

11 Apr 2010 10:15 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I don't remember the whole prediction but I do remember this from Andy Beyer before the 2009 Breeder's Cup Classic-"Toss Zenyatta."  Huh?? It's no wonder the speed figures for synthetics are all screwed up !!!!!!!!!!

11 Apr 2010 10:21 AM
sodapopkid

Steve, It's hard to give RAchel all this spotlight when she isn't even racing right now, and we don't know when or if she will come back,  The articles we read arent looking to promising,  It's hard to give a horse her due when she ain't doing anything right now.

On the other hand Zenyatta is doing what the world has been dying for for so long,  Rachel had all the hype last year because she was racing, she may be blowed out now,and may not return, and if she does we will be rooting for her.  Until then,  Zenyatta is getting the credit she deserves and this year the Mosses are giving the people what they have been wanting and needing with Zenyatta,  Alot of people have been dying to see her more on dirt and this is what is makeing her spotlight shine because she is doing her thing on  dirt, she has already won two of her races this year, We cant' live in last year's world, we have to move on and accept what is before us this year.  This is a whole new year, and the one's thats shining , let them shine.....

11 Apr 2010 10:34 AM
seattleslewfan77

Well said, Steve.  Anyone who denigrates one over the other is not a true horse racing fan!  They are both amazing animals and both deserve accolades.

11 Apr 2010 10:41 AM
Pam S.

So where will Queen Z race next?  Mosses et al, if you are reading, how about the Stephen Foster?  I think it's a G1 now, it's the right distance, and it's BOYS, with hopefully more than a couple of them showing up.  What better time to test out the Churchill track?  And if Rachel is ready by then, so much the better (but I would bet against it).

11 Apr 2010 10:53 AM
Max

Hi Steve, one of the earlier claims Zenyatta beat nothing in AB and so he/she is correct. It solidifies my point I made sometime ago to team Zenyatta, that is, quit the West and head East and strut her stuff. It's meaningless to run against those deadbeat west coast horses. Suggested races at Saratoga/Belmont/Arlington/Churchill maybe even Woodbine.

11 Apr 2010 11:01 AM
SGunne

Steve -

I'm with you why can't everyone just enjoy both Rachel and Zenyatta.  The racing world is so blessed to have both of them.  I just saw Zenyatta at Oaklawn for the past several days and she took my breath away each day.  I am also a hugh fan of Rachel's and remember each time I saw her last year.  I heard several so called Rachel fans at Oaklawn on Friday saying that they hoped Zenyatta would loose the Apple Blossom.  Someone even started a rumor that Zenyatta had stepped on a nail by her barn Friday morning.  I cannot understand this way of thinking. This is a time when horse racing should be at an all time high.  Everyone needs to take a deep breath and just enjoy these two wonderful horses.  

11 Apr 2010 11:02 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Bloogers and Fans- Rachel has nothing to do with her training regime.(and there was nothing wrong with it), or when she'll run. She had nothing to do with the idiocy of trying to force two horses to meet up on a particular date. Pretty much trying to set up a match race without even asking the owners/trainers when would be a good time. But I don't believe in match races anyway. They are dangerous. You hold the race hoping for a good sized field, and if horses are healthy, and well conditioned and it's a race that the owners/trainers think the horse can run well in, then they enter. It's all about timing. Mr Jackson KNEW that the timing was bad. That Rachel could not be ready for the caliber of performance that would be demanded of her in that race. BUT he decided to try to do it FOR THE GOOD OF THE SPORT in these difficult times. He did not need the money. I wanted Zenyatta to win Horse of the Year because I am a huge fan of her, but I had no problem with Rachel getting it. She had a phenominal year deserving of a HOY award. This is not Rachel vs. Zenyatta. This is two VERY GREAT race horses of different ages on different paths as Steve so eloquently stated. Don't continue to make this Rachel Vs. Zenyatta because of an award.

11 Apr 2010 11:16 AM
Mousse

Steve...The annoying part to all this RA/Z stuff is the fact that since the Woodward last year RA has been terribly mismanaged and Z has, outside of the racing world, been almost non existant.  She is a national treasure and the main stream media barely knows who she is or what she has accomplished.  RA on the other hand was schleped from track to track never given the opportunity to just "be a horse" running at her leisure, rolling in soft grass or mud, kicking her heals, squealing and chasing the wind.  All this could have revitalized her spirit and restored the sapped energies of that incredible 3 y.o. campaign.  So now we have Z rewriting history without RA to offer a challenge to the script.  How racing could screw this up is beyond belief!    

11 Apr 2010 11:24 AM
Linda

Thanks Steve, for a very balanced view of a couple of great race horses.  There are plenty of "fans" of horses, cars, athletes, politicians, etc who don't have a clue about what makes any of these great and spend their time trying to impress each other rather than being capable of being impressed by the accomplishments of the participants in the "game".  Hopefully they'll learn something if they stick with it over the years.  Thanks again for the perspective.  

11 Apr 2010 11:24 AM
racefanindenver2

Steve,

You don't need to keep Rachel's name alive.  It's quite alive from her conspicuous absence at the race on Friday.

The Apple Blossom was supposed to be a race for two super stars, and not a paid workout for just one.  

True race fans want both mares to meet at the top of their games.  We'll keep waiting, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

11 Apr 2010 11:29 AM
wendyg

Rachel had a good year. She is beautiful.  She may come back, but she never raced like Zenyatta does.  She does not let boys get so far ahead, and then fly past them with her ears up.  She does not run comparably to Zenyatta.  We need to not forget that Zenyatta is almost always way behind when she then makes her move and wins anyway.  What other racehorse does that almost every time.  I very highly doubt Rachel could do it on a good day.  It's not just that Zenyatta wins, it's how she wins and the show she puts on.  She is grateness like no other.  I fear her owners will race until she loses, and I hope they don't, but if she continues to win, she is unmatched.  I loved this column also.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Thank you.  

11 Apr 2010 11:32 AM
Robyn

Beautifully said Steve. I love both ladies, but I do think that last year, Zenyatta was overshadowed by Rachel. Then again it's not hard to see why that is--Rachel had a very flashy campaign, unprecedented for a three year old filly, whereas Zenyatta stayed home. So it's nice to see Queen Z getting her due. I am of the mindset that I just want Rachel to be sound and happy and after all her traveling last year I'm okay with her flying under the radar. She gave us a very memorable 2009. And like you said there's more than enough room for two immortals in this pantheon. The more superstars we have the more attention this sport gets for the RIGHT reasons.

And for everyone who ill wishes RA or Zenyatta, shame on you. Just shame. If you're going to stoop to hating a horse you might want to ask yourself why that is, and what you need to do to reset your priorities, because clearly something is wrong with you.

11 Apr 2010 11:34 AM
John

Steve,

We do get it.

However, like I earlier mentioned -this is Zenyatta's time.

Let her have it, and have it ALONE.

When Rachel comes back, and I hope she does, that's when we can resume all the banter regarding Rachel's accomplishments.

Steve, remember back in the spring and summer when Rachel Alexandra was receiving ALL of the attention from the fans and media alike - Zenyatta was like a forgotten horse in California.

And I don't remember that you and others in media cared to remind us of the brilliance of Zenyatta at that time...

11 Apr 2010 11:35 AM
wendyg

I have a question?  How would a race be fair for both Zenyatta and Rachel?  This is an honest question.  Zenyatta could be beaten if she did not have a long enough race to come from behind.  Rachel could be beaten if the race is too long.  What is a good distance to be fair to both?  I have wondered this for a long time?  

11 Apr 2010 11:38 AM
texmexcarole

Steve--

You always say it best! We're so lucky to have 2 of racing's greatest, especially when it's needed most. They may never meet on the track, but it certainly won't diminish the luster of Zen or RA.

11 Apr 2010 11:39 AM
Johnny

Steve:

Rachel so far is a one year wonder. Yes,she did great things last year but to mention her and Queen Z possibly the greatest race horse of all time in the same breath.

Queen Z will join Tiznow as the only 2 time B.C. Classic winner. 21-0 a perfect career I thank the racing Gods every time I watch a race or replay of Z she is a gift. Thank you Moss's    

11 Apr 2010 11:40 AM
Rachel O

So much has been said here already, but I'll have to say that to have two female race horses do what RA and Z have done has been better than pills and/or spas for my state of physical and emotional well-being over the last year. I love both of them.

I've been privileged to see Z race twice, and both times everybody's hair stood on end at the finish at the Clement Hirsch in '09 and the BCC. The Apple Blossom was far from spine-tingling except for the fact that it was her 16th win.

What is most important, and this may sound goofy to most people, I agree with Mike Smith who says that Z was 'sent from God!' I don't think he is kidding when he says that, and he knows a lot about her. A sign on the road to Oaklawn said something like: 'Beware! Prepare to meet God!' Many have said there is something unearthly about Zenyatta. There is. She is a healer, and I believe that's true of many horses. She is an angel in a gorgeous horse suit. She just makes us feel SO GOOD, no matter what our life circumstances are. She has a electric radiance and power that envelopes us and makes us weak in the knees.

I look forward to traveling from my small town in California to Louisville in the fall to see her and, hopefully, Rachel in the BCC.

11 Apr 2010 11:42 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

It'z ridiculouz what Zenyatta did in The Breederz Cup Clazzic 2009. Dead lazt, a zillion miles away, then zoomed pazt them to win. I remember zaying at the turn before the ztretch, "It doezn't look like zhe can do it thiz time." Then my jaw dropped zo fazt, I'm ztill having trouble chewing.

11 Apr 2010 11:43 AM
Randy

Draynay/Max,

Zenyatta is being compared now, by almost everyone, with Ruffian, as the greatest American female racehorse of all time.

From both fans and media, alike.

My question is why is it always brought up that Zenyatta, is a one state wonder, when in fact that Ruffian raced EVERY race, except the Sorority, in New York.

And in the Sorority, all they had to do was load her up in a van and go a few miles down the turnpike.

Then, someone always brings up the fact that Zenyatta hasn't faced any competition.

Other than losing to Foolish Pleasure in her ill fated match race, the only competition worth mentioning that Ruffian faced was Hot N Tasty, which she was ill advised to fly in all the way in from California only to lose by 2 lengths in the aforementioned Sorority.

Other than that, I can't remember Ruffian facing Grade 1 winners.

Zenyatta just crushed the winners of 18 Grade 1 races in the BCC.

And finally, about the weight (123 lbs.) that Zenyatta was carrying in AB.

Did you know that Ruffian NEVER carried more than 122 lbs. in her entire racing career, and even was 113 lbs. in one race.

These are just a few inconvenient facts some of us seem to forget.

11 Apr 2010 11:55 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I hope that Rachel and Zenyatta do meet up but not until The Breeder's Cup Classic where the spotlight will be on all of the greatest horses in the world including Mine That Bird and Quality Road, and a few great 3yo, and others. Not just Zenyatta vs. Rachel. There's no guarantee yet that Rachel wants to run at the level she did last year. She might want to breed. Is she waiting for that phone call from Giant's Causeway? Or does she still want to get into the ring with the best fighters in the world?

11 Apr 2010 11:56 AM
LaurieK

As has been said so many times in the interminable Z vs. RA debate, HOTY was for 2009.  Very well, at the moment RA is last year's horse, with almost a half-year of radio silence, 2nd in a prep race, and another five furlong work to account for the past 8 months or so.  In that time, Zenyatta has four dominant wins, a BC Classic championship, and has extended a unique winning streak to historic proportions. and who has done so in a unique and delightful style.  If the racing public finds one narrative more interesting than the other right now, is it really such a wonder?  If RA rounds back into form, the scales will move back to something close to equilibrium again.  Right now, though, the spotlight rightfully belongs to Zenyatta, and personally, I see the current level of affection for this remarkable mare as something that is long overdue.  Long live both Queens, and all hail the Diva!

11 Apr 2010 12:01 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, for the perspective. I fell in love with Zenyatta 2 years ago and am so very grateful for the opportunity to be able to watch a mare that will be historic in the future as she develops, not just her talent, but her personality. That last is what sets her apart from the others in my book. Like you said, she entertains like no other.

I'm with some others in that I don't think it matters anymore whether she and Rachel meet. I admired Rachel last year for her many historic accomplishments, but have a very strong feeling that they pushed her too hard and burned her out. Jess Jackson can be a hard person to pin down on specifics, he does play things close to the chest and changes his mind like the weather. I hope she comes back as good as she did last year, but have a strong feeling she will be retired soon.

11 Apr 2010 12:03 PM
Marilyn

I'm sorry, but Rachel is the 2009 DESERVING Horse of the Year.  She did more, against harder competition, in a shorter amount of time.  She will always be HOY, Zenyatta fans, get over it.  I'm sorry that you feel so cheated, I have nothing against her, how can ANYONE have anything against an animal that has no idea what antics is going on around them.  But if the Mosses wanted Zenyatta to get HOY they would have put her up against harder competition from the get go, and not wait until the BC.  Rachel will get back to where she was, for whoever said she's not the same horse, and when she's trained correctly, she'll be bigger, faster, and stronger, so watch your words.  On a final word, I am really pissed that in the Apple Blossom, there was no moment of silence, not even a mention of the TRUE champion who's record Zenyatta had been chasing for 3 years.  Her name was mentioned in almost every race until she broke her record, now, the day after she died, not even a word. NICE!

11 Apr 2010 12:06 PM
Funny1991

Rachel and Zenyatta are two of the greatest females has seen in a long time. We should stop off this bashing at one another. I feel in love this sport when I was only 12 and now i'm 19 and I'm starting to think to myself why the heck am I in a sport that has people bashing one horse or the other. CAN"T WE ALL STOP THIS AND ENJOY THEM RACING, or you will loose many people young people from racing.

Think of all the young kids who say Rachel win against the males in Preakness and all the kids seeing Zenyatta win against the males in the Classic. And now have to hear a bunch of older people bash their favorite horse because they love that horse.

For me when I swim I think of Rachel how she never gave up from start to finish and when I ride my horse she tries as hard as Rachel to win when we race other horses. I also love seeing Zenyatta win so easly, but i think she should starting facing actual competition (its like you put Phelps against high school swimmers).

I hope because I love both horses that they wont meet until the Classic because that will be the best race. The two greatest females representing the USA against the world. I like that sound.

So stop all this fighting and enjoy them racing.

11 Apr 2010 12:14 PM
Kicker

Hey Max,

What "dead beat" West Coast horses are you referring too?

Line of David - won the Arkansas Derby

American Lion - won the Illinois Derby

Evening Jewel - who won the Ashland

or

Zardana - who beat Rachel last month?

11 Apr 2010 12:18 PM
Cgriff

Steve,

I'll admit to wishing once in a while an article would just celebrate Zenyatta with no mention of Rachel - I have felt that the press was doing backflips last year for Rachel, while Zenyatta's coverage always had the caveat of "CA/low competion/synthetic.'

However - I really do hope that they both meet at some point.  Affirmed would never have been as great without Alydar, Secretariat had Sham and Citation had Stymie.

Instead of bashing or diminishing Rachel - I'd be more concerned that we may never see her come back to the track - Asmussen acknowledged on radio over the weekend that his team has "yet to start to get her back to her former competitive level."

To me - that sounds like something's changed in her - whether from the taxing campaign last year - or in turning from 3 to 4.  Not all mares continue with Zenyatta's incredible consistency of mind as race horses.  Maybe Rachel's lost interest in the job.

I hope not- but I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever see them together - which would be a real shame.

I also don't think that Zenyatta will take on the boys prior to Breeders Cup - but WOW - wouldn't her entry into the JCGC at Belmont be just the cat's meow?  She would LOVE Big Sandy!

Thanks for the great article!

11 Apr 2010 12:26 PM
Michael

Draynay....you never cease to amaze me with your ridiculous comments. There isn't a horse alive on the planet today that Zenyatta cannot run down. The sooner you realize this, the better off you'll be. I'm gonna say a prayer especially for you so that your bitterness and envy go away for good.

I like this article except for one thing. Jess Jackson IS ducking Zenyatta. Rachel's last race was a prep, nothing more. She lost to Zardana but still ran well enough to leave the rest of the field several lengths behind. Rachel should have still ran in the AB friday. I'm sure she would have run well there too. Of course she would have lost to Big Z but showing up is all that matters at the end of the day.

11 Apr 2010 12:30 PM
SpaMan

I cannot imagine anyone thinking Rachael would beat Zenyatta in a race. Zenyatta is superior. The eclipse voters got in wrong...Period.

11 Apr 2010 12:48 PM
davec

I with you turfqueen.  I think Zen is the greatest mare of all time.  What is scary is that I think she is probably better on the dirt than the synthetics.  She was closing in on that field (granted it was weak) on the backstretch friday under a normal gallop and her stride looked better than it does on synthetics.  It was the closest you could get to a walkover.  Rachel is no doubt a great one but Zen is as rare as Secretariat or the Bid.  

11 Apr 2010 12:51 PM
sodapopkid

If Rachel don't run in a race and win it by May, count her as history, She has already had one prep race and has been in training, I say, if we don't see her by May, She aint' coming back, No excuses other than she is retired.

11 Apr 2010 1:03 PM
Bonnie

YES Steve!  Why wouldn't Zenyatta fans want to see Rachel do well?  Good sportsmanship requires us to wish them both well.  They are BOTH very deserving fillies/mares, BOTH exceptionally talented.  I love them BOTH!  To praise one doesn't take away anything from the other.

11 Apr 2010 1:11 PM
Robin Bush

Steve,

Thanks for writing an article so admiring of these two otherworldly stars.  EACH holds a place as at least one of the best females of all time, as you mention.  I really don't understand this disparaging of one or the other either.  How could you not step back and just appreciate both of these precious gems in the brief time we have them?

Not to try to advertise, but I wrote an article that relates Zenyatta and Personal Ensign that I think many of you will enjoy.  There's no mention of Rachel because of the focus of the article, but I love her just as much as Zenyatta.  Take a look:

www.examiner.com/.../x-12303-Horse-Racing-Examiner~y2010m4d10-Zenyatta-and-Personal-Ensign-now-forever-linked

11 Apr 2010 1:12 PM
Steve Haskin

I have two final things to say and then I'm done. First off, every time Rachel won last year I gave Zenyatta her due in the same column. And second, I have two choices. Not having learned my lesson from past blogs about Rachel and Zenyatta and foolishly writing another one, I can either have the moderators close this down to comments or I can simply let people continue to spew their venom. I will leave it alone and allow all the misplaced animosity to come out. Attack each other and attack each horse all you want. I'm heading back to the relative sanity of the Derby trail. It's up to the moderators to decide which ones they want to keep up and which ones they want to delete. I don't envy their task.

11 Apr 2010 1:21 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, not to worry, the problem is theirs if they choose to knock Rachel or Zenyatta. It speaks volumes about the kind of people who would knock a horse that lives its life trying to please us by running its heart out. You write so movingly and have such a love for both horses; it is a beautiful thing to see. Most of us appreciate that and get it. Thank you so much for your blogs. It upsets me to see people knock Rachel (or Zenyatta) but then I put it into perspective and realize that these people have the capacity to love only one horse at a time. In short some of us have bigger hearts and some of us don't. I bet if they actually met Rachel or Zenyatta these people would change their tunes. How could you not love both?? It is really one of the reasons I don't want them to meet up. Yes, I know that makes me less of a sportswoman, but so be it. I can live with that.

11 Apr 2010 1:32 PM
Sandy

I love Rachel and always will

11 Apr 2010 1:42 PM
Allison

Steve, sorry for being upset about the blog; Your article was well written once again; however, Zenyatta should be on her own until RA actually demonstrates her own class. I honestly believe this is an emotional topic because people feel an unjust ruling with respect to HOY (including me).  Everybody knows that RA was overrated because of east cost bias particulary it became even more glaring since RA could not even beat Zarkava-John Sheriffs "C" team member. I must mention that Andy Beyer is clueless with respect on how to calculate championship racing.

11 Apr 2010 1:43 PM
tvnewsbadge

Michael said

"There isn't a horse alive on the planet today that Zenyatta cannot run down."

Seems that way, but I wouldn't get on board with that statement until she's actually done it. After all, we don't know what is going to come out of the TC series this year.

"Rachel should have still ran in the AB friday. I'm sure she would have run well there too. Of course she would have lost to Big Z but showing up is all that matters at the end of the day."

I don't believe that there's fan of either horse alive today that believes that Rachel Alexandra, at her current level of conditioning, could have taken Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom on Saturday.

Given that, I feel it's very disingenuous to expect Jess Jackson to offer up Rachel as a sacrificial lamb just to pacify Zenyatta fans who can't and won't put HoY 2009 behind them.

It would not have been  fair to Rachel and it would be a black eye for the sport to hype a race that everyone knew going in was "fixed".

11 Apr 2010 1:44 PM
Marilyn

sodapopkid - I don't think Zenyatta actually ran until June, if my memory is correct, so why this May deadline for Rachel?  And to the person who said that S. Asmussen said that she's not where she should be at this time, I'd like to know where you get this information, because if you actually read the NTRA website, you would get correct information as to how good she is running.  I don't know when she will be running, considering how secretive J. Jackson is, (I HATE that), but she is not done yet, they just forgot that she is not a superhero, but a horse that actually needs training, and now she's getting it.  And for the first time EVER, DRAYNAY, I agree with you 100%.  And Mr. Haskin, you are right, and I am going to follow you back to the derby trail. I hate all this mudslinging over 2 beautiful horses.

11 Apr 2010 1:46 PM
Mike

Im somewhat new to horseracing.I have been following it intently for about 10 years.I think its the same as any other sport.I am a Yankee and get into disagrements with Met and Red Sox fans all the time.Its not life and death but a form of entertainment that sometimes people get to heated about.I was curious if some oldtimers could chime in about the 60s and 70s with all the great horses that ran.Im sure there were verbal disagreements all time.When Secretariat won the triple crown were people saying he was not as good as Citation?And when Seattle Slew and Affirmed won were people saying their great but not as good as Secretariat?I think when you have to great horses Like Rachel and Z people are going to pick a side.Im just glad I am able to say I was able to see Rachel race in person 4 times.

11 Apr 2010 2:10 PM
Steve Haskin

Paula, what you're reading on here is the mild stuff compared to what was deleted.

11 Apr 2010 2:17 PM
Funny1991

Steve thanks for your blogs and your right that this all needs to stop. I agree and we should all love both.

11 Apr 2010 2:25 PM
Loves Horsercing

Mr Jackson ducked Zenyatta last year in the BC, it seems everything must be on his terms. As Mr Baffert said (while talking about Lucky) if you have a good horse he or she can run on anything.

Zenyatta has done that, she is the horse of the year in my eyes & in many peoples eyes.

11 Apr 2010 2:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve-Thank you for the clarification !!!!!!! (about the deleted stuff). That was a very important additional comment. Now I understand.

11 Apr 2010 3:02 PM
Peggy Lindsay

Thank you, Robin for your article.  And thank you Steve for your original blog and followup comments.  I had not been a fan of horseracing until last year when I fell in love with Rachel Alexandra and her accomplishments.  Since then I have been working backwards learning the horses and the history.  I lived through but did not know the facts of Ruffian's career until I read that Rachel was probably the greatest filly since Ruffian.  Even though her demise was over 30 years ago, I cried my eyes out when I saw her last race.  Same the other way around on learning about Dr. Fager, who was said (by his trainer) to be conceited, rank, and some other uncomplimentary adjectives about his personality.  My point is that most of you seem to have been following racing for some time.  Others of us are fans because we wanted to know more about it after seeing Rachel race last year.  Because of her I also made aquaintance with Zenyatta after reading about her in regards to Rachel's races.  I truly love and respect Zenyatta now too.  This is the first time I have ever responded to a blog because I feel that my main purpose is to learn more about horseracing before I can have something useful to contribute.  Thank all of you who have helped me learn.

11 Apr 2010 3:20 PM
Meydan Rocks!

To the Honorable Steve Haskin -

I greatly relish scooting up my chair to the table upon which your banquet of words and vivid descriptions await the hungry horse racing lover.

Thank you for quenching my life long thirst and stoking it at the same time.

You are a masha among mortals.  

Mazel tov!

PS: I am a Zenyatta leaning fan. But I gave my "vote" to Rachel for dominating the 3 year old fillies of her time and defeating the best 3 year old males of her class.

She also won against a gritty set of older males. For that feat, she shall be expedited on chariot wings to commune with the racing Gods on high for all eternity.

I leave my esteemed blog responders to ponder what accolades to bestow upon the enigmatic, enchanting, dancing, pirouetting and awe inspiring Zenyatta!

11 Apr 2010 3:24 PM
Diana

TexSpect,

 Yes, Z has scratched due to conditions at least once, the Oaks last year. I remember because I was there and excited to see her run in person.

I stand by my opinion that she should run against something other than other fillies/mares.

11 Apr 2010 3:52 PM
Rachel O

Steve,

I'm really sorry that so many comments had to be deleted because of the vitriol. We out here were not aware of that and were wondering why you were so testy when many of us wrote glowing things about both horses in our coments. Please give us a little credit.

The world is a very tough place right now. Horse racing is having its tough moments, too. Tempers are frayed. That's not to excuse he ones who are on the attack.

But we all need to take a look at what riles us. It's usually what we dislike and are least patient about in ourselves.

11 Apr 2010 3:58 PM
quarterhossgal

As we say in showing horses, you can beat them if you're siiting in the stands.  Zenyatta can only beat the horses that line up in the starting gate next to her. Let's remember it is not east coast versus west coast, it's great horses that run their hearts out in every race for our pleasure and entertainment. RA did a lot for the sport of horse racing last year and hopefully she will come back and thrill us again.  Right now let's enjoy the GREAT MARE,ZENYATTA.

11 Apr 2010 4:09 PM
dr fager01

Steve! Thanks for this fabulous article. Not only were you kind to Rachel, and Zenyatta in your eloquent oracle, but you hit the core words to heart when you stated, there is certainly room for two in the pantheon of greatness at one time. Very dissimilar to the scientific law of physics, when stated two entities cannot occupy the same space at the same time as catastrophe can or certainly will be the result. As most of us know, what Rachel accomplished in 2009 was outstanding and beyond belief, for those achievements she stands at the top to many fans that will always love that great filly for her great performances she brought to the masses of adoring fans. But on the other side of that coin is a beast, a beast that was awaken from a brief retirement, that's now looking to reek havoc on the racing world as was never witnessed before. This beast is the great Zenyatta. We all know her challenges won't be from just the '09 h.O.T.Y., but from that young bunch of upstart three year old crop that's puffing up their chests in the air believing one of them will be the next secretariat. Her challenges also will come from that older horse contingency who seeks revenge for their defeat in the '09 b.C.C. Undefeated she is, making a mockery of citation's 16 in a row. Once a in a club only shared exclusively with greats like cigar, who when tied the great citation's mark seemed to have had everything but a parade thrown for him. But the great lady Zen did it in the peaceful and quiet obscurity with no fuss, with her army of devoting fans witnessing and saying oh! Just 16 in a row. I must say Zenyatta is the gift that keeps on giving, not only has she achieved 16 in a row, she has done it while being undefeated. As for the doubters and haters at hand remember you have and are witnessing the likes of Man o' War all over again. As this legend grows, we have had 11 triple crown winners, but we have only had one Zenyatta.

11 Apr 2010 4:16 PM
Jan

Steve - you nailed it.  Loved the read.  Both girls are fantastic - like someone else said on here...too bad there are those that can only love one horse at a time.  I was just at Oaklawn and heard some of the ignorant, rude and obnixious comments...it made me ill. Anyway, I really, truly enjoyed reading this - keep up the good work!  And God bless Rachel and Zenyatta!

11 Apr 2010 4:23 PM
tvnewsbadge

Mike said

" I was curious if some oldtimers could chime in about the 60s and 70s with all the great horses that ran.Im sure there were verbal disagreements all time.When Secretariat won the triple crown were people saying he was not as good as Citation?And when Seattle Slew and Affirmed won were people saying their great but not as good as Secretariat?"

Well, I remember many heated discussions about which horse was better back then.

But what I DON'T remember are fans trying to trash the accomplishments and destroy the reputations of the other horses the way folks seem to be intent on doing these days.

11 Apr 2010 4:26 PM
ALB

I am both a RA & Z fan, but I must comment on this article. We, the fans, are tired of seeing Z "race" in glorified workouts! She has been coddled and babied her whole career. If she is one of the "Greats", then lets see it! Race her against the grade 1 males and in international competition! There's no reason she shouldn't have gone to Dubai and race in the World Cup! We WANT to see her run past the males on any surface! Lord only knows that Quality Road, Summer Bird and Gio Ponti (who's waiting for a rematch) are all waiting for Z to run against them. Quality Road is a beast and talk about a race for the ages!!!

11 Apr 2010 4:30 PM
Freetex

Your article on Zenyatta and Rachel is one I intend to place in my horse memory book.  What you said about each goddess was so worth keeping.

Yes Steve, it is almost like Zenyatta stepped out of some historical novel and came to life.  She is a sight to behold and enjoy.  She seems to connect with her status and basks in the adoration from the crowds.

Rachel's dominance last year can never be put aside.  Her persona is much different.  With Rachel, it is her beautiful face belying her amazing power over so many accomplished horses.

I feel so lucky to have experienced this time in history with both of them.      

11 Apr 2010 4:33 PM
Yes, we do get it

"Steve,

We do get it.

However, like I earlier mentioned -this is Zenyatta's time.

Let her have it, and have it ALONE.

When Rachel comes back, and I hope she does, that's when we can resume all the banter regarding Rachel's accomplishments.

Steve, remember back in the spring and summer when Rachel Alexandra was receiving ALL of the attention from the fans and media alike - Zenyatta was like a forgotten horse in California.

And I don't remember that you and others in media cared to remind us of the brilliance of Zenyatta at that time..."

This is a great post.  

We do get it, Steve, honestly.

Please remember this though, the favorite mantra of the Rachel supporters: "last year is LAST year".

Regarding THIS year, there is no reason at all to mention Rachel in an article where a

Grade 1 mare just landed 16 in a row.

Don't be surprised if some aren't happy with the inclusion.  There are a few who may think you opened the door for some of the less gracious comments.

11 Apr 2010 4:36 PM
wooo

Zenyatta won the Apple Blossom.  That is the current, there is nothing sadder than yesterdays champions.

11 Apr 2010 4:56 PM
Joy

Boy, I wish I had a filly that I've spent millions on through PR, trainers, jockeys, stable staff, security, on ad nauseum to see these comments. I have my own preferences but if people take away nothing more than this - last year we had 2 (not 1) fillies that shattered the glass ceiling reserved only for male horses in all the preceding years in horse racing. Yes we've seen individuals with brilliance - Personal Ensign, Ruffian just to name 2. At this particular moment we also happen to have on the grand arena of thoroughbred horseracing, an entertainer - a horse that probably is a be a bit of a tomboy, except for the fact she has manners, can dance in public and keep upwards of 40,000 people entertained just by being who she is.  I guess she learned that in Hollywood, Park that is.  So while people wait to see if her sidekick in ceiling bashing gets back in the game, and lobbing stones back and forth like barbarians from the North (I'm part Norwegian, I can say that) why don't we just enjoy what we have to day.  It won't be there forever.

11 Apr 2010 5:16 PM
shuttleworth

I saw Zenyatta this past weekend in her Apple Blossom win... talk about perfection! She is a stunning mare and very entertaining to watch! But RA is great too!! I hope these two will get the chance to meet up soon...

11 Apr 2010 5:58 PM
Freetex

Steve, I was shocked to read there are posts that are so vile they had to be deleted.  How pitiful.

There are times when my love of animals out weighs my esteem for humans, and this is one of them.

11 Apr 2010 6:04 PM
marktoothaker

The AB was awesome, but the better news is big Z is taking her show on the road so that fans all across the country can see one for the history books. I really hope someone other than TVG and HRTV will start showing her races so even more folks can have a chance to see history at work. I have my Oaks tickets and I really hope RA returns on the undercard to the same form on the same track she took my breath away on last year. Two fantastic girls will be a long time before racing has this chance again, these type dont come along very often so please everyone just enjoy it!!

11 Apr 2010 6:11 PM
tvnewsbadge

Yes, we do get it said ,

"Regarding THIS year, there is no reason at all to mention Rachel in an article where a

Grade 1 mare just landed 16 in a row."

But in all fairness, that's a sword that cuts both ways, doesn't it?

The Zenyatta fans are constantly bringing up Rachel themselves and re-hashing Hoy 09 whenever Zenyatta has another victory rather than letting the horse bask in the glory of her accomplishments.

In fairness to Mr. Haskin, he could hardly open a door that never been allowed to close now can he.

11 Apr 2010 6:11 PM
LDP

Steve,

I agree with you. I actually for the most part, have stopped in the back and forth because people are getting so rude. If any of you post on NTRA, I feel sorry for you becauses most of the posters over there are ignorat (I mean that word in it's actual meaning) and downright rude in their posts. I do see these comments come from both sides, but personally from what I read, Z fans outnumber the RA fans and can get much more rabid. To either side, I really don't understand why such hatred for a horse and it's fans is needed.

Personally I am a RA fan, though Curlin will be the horse that comes first with me. And this is a bit off topic, but I actually saw somebody still call him overrated? Seriously people, both he and Rachel had vigorous campaigns, raced in races where anybody, litterally anybody could show. If you don't like JJ, fine, but really layoff the horses. I personally don't like the way Moss acts and I really didn't like his daggerlike looks to JJ when he won HOTY. If JJ needs everything on his own terms and is purposfully ducking Zen, then Moss is a mad little kid who only brought Zen back to get his revenge on JJ for "stealing" HOTY. Personally, to me, though I don't like the man, sounds stupid.

I see double standars for each side. I see the Zen fans call RA out on her "weak" competition, calling out JJ on trying to find the softest spot possible, when Moss kept his filly hidden in California on synthetics against the same Cali fillies she had faced each year. IMO, at least JJ took on the boys with RA, at least he traveled with her. In a way, it was JJ that pushed Moss into running Zen in the Classic and into bring Zen back as a six yr old for a harder campaign. Had RA been kept in the filly races I would almost bet that Zen would've race in the Ladies Classic, yet again, and retired after that. A nice career, but the fans would've been left wondering, just how good was Zenyatta, and she would've had that astrisk next to her name. JJ hyping RA, and putting her in races where nobody else dared to go is what set this whole stage.

Now, IMO on the whole, let Zenyatta have the attention herself. No, that cannot be done. When do we ever mention Sunday Scilence without Easy Goer? Where do we ever leave out Alydar when we talk of Affirmed? We don't. Even though Affirmed won the most, even though he won the Triple Crown, we still can't mention Affirmed without mentioning Alydar. Even thoug SS won two of the TC races and the BC Classic over Easy Goer, we still cannot leave him out. Why because it is a rivalry. These horses would not be what they are today without the other. Alydar pushed Affirmed to greatness as did Easy Goer with Sunday Scilence. The same goes with RA and Zen. Though they have not officially met, it is a rivalry, and one without the other would not be the same. Zenyatta would retired or still racing fillies and Cali, and RA would not be forced to come back and defend her crown. You cannot mention one without the other.

11 Apr 2010 6:16 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Here's a list of just a few of the songs written about the Great Queen Zenyatta:

Dancing Queen

She's A Lady

Sixteen Candles

See Ya Later Alligator

11 Apr 2010 6:38 PM
sodapopkid

Marilyn:

I get all the information at DRF.com. YOu are welcome to go and read it for yourself,  the article is by Jay Hovdey, You will find it on the left side of the wedsite on the DRF.com home page.  I would not say anything that is not true, thats why I always add the website that I read the informaton at. So  people like you can go find the information first hand like I do.

11 Apr 2010 6:41 PM
sodapopkid

Marilyn,  I copied and pasted on here for you to read so you don't have to go and look it up. Here is Jay Hovdeys article.

In the wake of Zenyatta's tour of the course on Friday at Oaklawn Park, the racing world now will be roughly divided into a number of constituencies:

There will be those who, having exhausted their vocabulary in describing her athletic prowess, will resort to interpreting every nod, prance, pause or flick of the ears as behavior befitting the most famous human they know. Ever the trend-setter, I was out of the box this weekend with a Sinatra reference, but look for any of the following names to be summoned as her season unfolds: Meryl Streep, Margaret Thatcher, Ginger Rogers, Lady Gaga, Serena Williams, Paulina Porizkova, or, perhaps best of all, Ella Fitzgerald.

In another pew, there will be the terminal skeptics, those who still defend the presidency of Warren G. Harding, while dismissing out of hand every race Zenyatta has ever run over a synthetic surface. Two scores in the Apple Blossom are nowhere nearly enough to atone for those sins. Better she had been running solely on dirt in New Mexico. They will not be satisfied until Zenyatta beats the best posible men and boys on the oldest dirt in the land. And the Beyer number had better be good.

To answer their concerns, I have assembled a gang who will speculate endlessly over the coming weeks as to where Zenyatta will pop up next, and then next, and next, before finally touching down at Churchill Downs to defend her title in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Presumably, John Shirreffs is doing this as well. It was interesting to note that Jerry Moss went on record looking for Grade 1 races at a mile and one-eighth in New York and at Churchill Downs. I heard that with a wince, since it was just that kind of hopeful speculation that came back to bite the owner in 2009 when Zenyatta ended up staying in California. But then, where else would she run? How about here:

--June 12, $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, 1 1/8 miles, Churchill Downs

--Aug. 1, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap, 1 1/8 miles, Saratoga

--Sept. 4, $750,000 Woodward Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Saratoga

After that it's the Beldame at Belmont and then on to the Breeders' Cup.

As long as we're shopping on someone else's dime, there is also the Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 12, the Delaware Handicap on July 17, and the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 7, as well as the temptation of the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic out here in the synthetic West. (For the sentimental, there is also the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 29).

The races listed above, though, would be a conventional, classic route, in perfect keeping with the way Moss looks at the sport. Great as Zenyatta is, Moss sees no reason to place his mare above the game, holding tracks hostage until they come up with some kind of contrived, mega-event. The only variation I would urge them to consider would be a radical, daring move. And that would be to take on Quality Road in the $500,000 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on May 31. That might end the debate too soon, but what a mile it would be.

There is another group, over there in the quiet part of the room, still clinging to the hope that Rachel Alexandra will evolve into a formidable 4-year-old presence and take Zenyatta by the throat. We can only hope. I was not encouraged, however, while listening to her trainer, Steve Asmussen, interviewed by Roger Stein during his Saturday morning, Southern California-based radio show.

Asmussen was entertaining on a variety of subjects, but when it comes to Rachel Alexandra, he sounds like a man trying to discuss nuclear capabilities without the proper security clearance. What he did say, and it was revealing, was that while Rachel Alexandra is in fine fettle physically, his crew has been so far "unsuccessful" in returning her to what Asmussen defines as her competitive level of last year.

In some ways, this is liberating. For too long, for too many fans, it has been hard to think of Zenyatta without bringing Rachel Alexandra into the conversation, or discuss the future of Rachel Alexandria without accounting for Zenyatta's presence in the mix. Now, with Asmussen all but warning us off, we can only step back and wish him and the filly well, while savoring the big mare in action.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 04/10/2010 06:41:02 PM

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04/06/2010

Wild Things

Now that the dust has settled, the fires are out, and radiation levels have returned to the acceptable range, it is time to ponder the deeper impact of the Santa Anita Derby just run.

All of the easy questions have been answered: Sidney's Candy is the real deal. Lookin at Lucky needs a name change. Victor Espinoza committed a suspendable offense. Garrett Gomez was guilty of a $750 temper tantrum. And Bob and Jill Baffert are the most entertaining buddy cops since Cagney and Lacey. What remains debatable are those everlasting intangibles. Was there malice in Espinoza's heart when he tightened things up on Gomez? Did Gomez, a national champion four years running, flagrantly disregard Bob Baffert's instructions and put Lookin at Lucky in a tough spot? Did Richard Mandella not understand the eligibility rules for the Kentucky Derby in bringing the massive Setsuko to the front of the class very late in the game?

It is to the everlasting embarrassment of my profession that the scuffle between Gomez and Espinoza over their traffic snarl on the final turn made nearly every lead alongside the runaway win of Sidney's Candy. It was diverting entertainment, but hardly a bench-clearing brawl. There were even apologies accompanying the reports, as if it was an uncomfortable obligation to hype the hissy fit in lieu of proper appreciation of the impressive athletic performance duly witnessed. Sidney's Candy was every bit as dominating as Point Given, Sunday Silence, Winning Colors in winning the historic event, but I've seen better fights in the Home Depot return line. Back in the jocks' room, there was a certain amout of derisive laughter when Espinoza deployed his kung-fu moves on Gomez. Dang, you'd think it was hockey, or figure skating.

As for the Bafferts, the wounds they inflicted on Gomez and Espinoza cut a lot deeper, and they were impossible to ignore. Bob, rising to the defense of his colt, who finished a distance third, took Gomez to the public woodshed like no trainer since Buddy Delp crucified Ronnie Franklin for not winning the Florida Derby easily enough. Baffert usually cools out quickly and with a degree of good humor, but there is always a residue left behind, and jockeys have learned it is the price they sometimes pay for riding the Ferraris that issue from his barn.

Some of that residue may have lingered in Espinoza's system after he was unceremoniously dumped earlier this year from Misremembered, who went on to win the Santa Anita Handicap for the Bafferts in March. As for Jill Baffert's public flogging of Espinoza for his Santa Anita Derby transgressions--both real and inferred--she expressed sincere regrets for the display later that day, while insisting her concern was only for the safety of horses and riders. Still, her passionate tirade had the full attention of just about every major media outlet on the scene to cover the race.

An owner or a trainer should be able to replace a jockey without fear of that jockey going postal down the line. At the same time, there are subtle, non-lethal ways for riders to even the score if they feel there is a score that needs to be evened. Lookin at Lucky, reigning champ and one-time pre-Kentucky Derby favorite, seems to wake up with a bullseye painted on his rump. He has now had three straight races in which his best efforts have been sorely compromised by troubled trips. Gomez clearly reached his frustration point when Espinoza forced him to take up on the turn.

"I've only been in three fights since I've ridden out here," said Gomez, who came West a dozen or so years ago. And who, pray tell, were the others. "Matt Garcia and Pat Valenzuela," Gomez replied.

As for Setsuko, a towering son of Pleasantly Perfect who has now finished second in the Sham Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, he has the look of a Kentucky Derby colt and plenty of support at juicy odds in future books among the hardcore Mandellistas out there. Mandella, though, is an abstract impressionist in a Norman Rockwell world, probing at the roses in his own way in his own good time. But if there is, in fact, a Derby out there with Mandella's name on it, why do they keep spelling it Servis, Tagg, or Woolley?

Back in the days before the Derby mandated a 20-horse field (they call it a "limit," but that's a laugh), the runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby would be able to pack up and head for Louisville without a second thought. Now, he must wait in line, hat in hand, behind the first three finishers at places like Sunland Park, Delta Downs and Meydan, because his bankroll does not necessarily make the grade, even though his ability is beyond reproach.

The last time a true contender was crowded out of the Derby came in 2004, when Rock Hard Ten--who was DQed from a narrowly beaten second to third in the Santa Anita Derby--came up short on qualifying cash. Rocky went on to be second in the Preakness won by Smarty Jones, then came to full flower the following season. If Setsuko is left out in the cold, then ascends to immediate glory somewhere along the Triple Crown trail, he could kickstart a badly needed reform of the Kentucky Derby selection system. That would be a good thing. But Mandella would rather run.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 04/06/2010 11:23:52 PM

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04/01/2010

The Brink

On the backstretch at Santa Anita, in his stall at the Julio Canani barn, The Pamplemousse is still awaiting his call to come over for the Santa Anita Derby. The 2009 Santa Anita Derby.

He was a big, beautiful freak in action, and people were ready to pay good money to watch him run against Pioneerof the Nile in that Derby. But The Pamplemousse was doing business all along on a dicey tendon, and he was finally betrayed by the soft tissue in the days leading up to the race. He was scratched on the morning of the '09 Santa Anita Derby and has not run since, while Pioneerof the Nile won at Santa Anita and went on to finish second to Mine That Bird at Churchill Downs.

That was only the most recent in a long line of dramas surrounding the Santa Anita Derby, which through the years has been more of a Shakespearean soap opera than a horse race. Go back to the 1963 running and wince at the carnage on the first turn, when nearly half the field hit the deck and Candy Spots tiptoed through the fallen to go on and win. Ten years later, Sham probably did not need help to win, but he got it, from entrymate Knightly Dawn, who was pony expressed away from the gate by an aging Milo Valenzuela in order to hound Linda's Chief on the pace. Milo earned his money, and as a result, Sham got to run against Secretariat.

It took a coin toss to decide who would ride Affirmed in the 1978 Santa Anita Derby after Steve Cauthen was suspended. It came up right for Laffit Pincay and wrong for Angel Cordero. With Pincay aboard, the red horse won in a gallop. In 1980, after 17-year-old Pat Valenzuela rode Codex to victory, the press sat in stunned silence as Wayne Lukas and Tartan Farm racing manager John Nerud explained that the winner was not, in fact, nominated to the Kentucky Derby. So there.

More recently, Bob Baffert wondered aloud who was training The Deputy for the 2000 Santa Anita Derby, jockey Chris McCarron or trainer Jenine Sahadi, a crack that prompted Sahadi to walk away from the press conference. Three days later, her colt spoke loudest of all. Brother Derek would have been a good story in 2006 all by himself, raised as he was near a river in Southern Oregon, but the day belonged to his trainer, Dan Hendricks, who was still getting used to life in a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident the year before.

I love the Santa Anita Derby. Always have, from the ancient times of Hill Rise, Lucky Debonair and Majestic Prince, to the more modern incarnations made vastly entertaining because of Sunday Silence and A.P. Indy, Dinard and Best Pal, Free House and Silver Charm, Castledale and Rock Hard Ten. If we don't see the future Kentucky Derby winner in the field (Gato del Sol, Ferdinand and Giacomo were not that obvious), we do see talent that always seems to have a say at some point in the Triple Crown process.

I'm a fan of Sidney's Candy. We have not seen his best race yet. If he beats Lookin at Lucky, he should win. But if Lookin at Lucky should win out West on Saturday, he will do a service to the ongoing debate over racing surfaces that has hijacked much of the national conversation. The way he ran at Oaklawn Park in the Rebel was an inspiration, troubled and making up lost ground on the very good Noble's Promise to nail him on the line. That was on dirt, after Lucky had run on nothing but synthetic. End of discussion, at least for him.

Last year, Pioneerof the Nile tried his best to convince skeptics that synthetically oriented horses could switch to the dirt without losing a beat, and he ran a good race to be second in the Kentucky Derby. Alas, Pioneerof the Nile was rendered no more than a footnote by the supernatural performance of Mine That Bird. The only conclusion that could be drawn from the 2009 Kentucky Derby was that it was, without a doubt, a race that plays by no accepted morality. The first rule of handicapping the Derby, or competing in it for that matter, is, without question, "Forget what you know."

But first you've got to get there, which is where we are on a weekend that also features the Wood Memorial in New York and the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. There will be folks holding their breath in all three times zones, praying for just enough effort to win Saturday's battle without losing the May 1 war in Louisville. Just ask the people who were so disappointed when The Pamplemousse could not run. Canani says the colt has responded to therapies and is getting close to a return to training. If he makes it back, it will be a minor miracle. But so is holding together long enough to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 04/01/2010 06:13:11 PM

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03/23/2010

Stand Up

On an otherwise idyllic seaside afternoon a few years ago at Del Mar, Julie Krone dismounted after a race, grabbed a tack bucket and made a beeline for an opposing jockey.

"Hey, Jay," said the West's tallest handicapper, Bob Ike, peering down from the pressbox balcony. "I think your wife's gonna hit somebody."

Well, no one got hit, but the public display of temper got Krone a $300 fine from the stewards. It also got her a hero's welcome from her colleagues, both on horseback and on foot, since the object of her ire was a notoriously erratic rider who, according to just about everyone who rode against him, put others in jeopardy far more often than should have been officially tolerated. The next day, Krone had a dozen people offer to pay her fine.

This happy little tale came to mind Sunday morning when word went out that six trainers in New York offered themselves as the cutting edge of a dramatic protest over the failure of the New York politicians to get the slot machine ball rolling at Aqueduct. Those half dozen -- hereafter to be known as the Big A-6 -- each were fined $500 for failing to bring their horses to the detention barn by the 8 a.m. deadline. There were other costs inflicted by the cancellation of a race, including tax dollars, purse money and whatever the house gets, as well as any bad blood incurred among horseplayers convinced they had the first race nailed. I would submit, however, that desperate times require desperate measures, and the message sent by New York's horsemen at large hopefully served to shed a bright and shining light on the bizarre political stranglehold holding back a revenue stream that has been legally approved.

Of course, you can't embarrass a politician into doing the right thing. (I will avoid the temptation of citing news clips from South Carolina, Louisiana, Minnesota and the other 47 states in which the duly elected misbehave). Whatever public monies were lost in that single race is chump change compared to the huge number running on the meter as long as the New York slots aren't coming on line. If New York's elected state representatives are not moved by the millions in slot revenue lost, or the dire threat to the economic health of an honorable industry, what will get their attention? At some point the people in the street will grow exhausted by the counter-productive behavior of some latter-day court of Borgias running the show. Instead of cancelling a race here and there -- or even a Belmont Stakes, as NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward had the courage to utter aloud -- it might be time to cancel out the political careers of the governors, state senators and assembly members blocking progress. But what do I know? I'm from California, and everything is just fine out here.

What New York racing needs right now is Newt Gingrich, or at least some local New York version. Love him or not, Gingrich is the guy who flipped an entire branch of the U.S. government in 1994 by writing 10 things on a cocktail napkin and then repeating them over and over and over and over. To move the VLT issue sooner than later, there needs to be a face and a voice, wailing loud and long and into the night, every single day into whatever media megaphone is handy: "Save Jobs, Slots Now, Save Jobs."

Look, I know and everybody knows that slot machines are nothing more than a crutch for horse racing. And the crutch is already crumbling at some pari-mutuel/casino sites where the casino side is looking for reasons to dump the horses, or the dogs. Unless the pre-nup is ironclad (see Woodbine), the romance between horses and slots was never going to last longer than the average Hollywood marriage.

Still, the law is the law, and the sport in New York deserves the chance that slot money could provide competitive footing with its neighbors. Hats off to the Big A-6. Fed up with the system, they took one for the team. Prorated over the industry, those fines won't amount to much, but neither will the gesture unless so-called public servants can be convinced that there is such a thing as the greater good.

***

After word got out about my wife's freak injury at the facility where she boards and trains pleasure horses, there were a lot of very kind comments posted to this site, completely off topic and deeply appreciated. She is home now, after a week in the hospital, where the surgeon who put her left femur back together complained daily about the mass of muscle he needed to cut through to get to the bone.

"What did you do, exactly?" he wondered aloud, apparently unable to work the Google machine.

The last time I saw an incision like hers was on Chris McCarron, and before that Bill Shoemaker, so she is in good company, even if she didn't earn hers on the traditional field of play. There will be a certain amount of rehab before Julie Krone walks the walk again, but when she's ready, there is a beautiful palomino mare waiting for her, and she's already forgiven Julie for letting another horse mess her up.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/23/2010 02:12:32 AM

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03/14/2010

Z-Day

Arnold Zetcher said he couldn't hear the silence because the giddy bunch surrounding him at the Fair Grounds was making too much noise.

"It was kind of a strange feeling," Zetcher said. "I guess we did disappoint a lot of the fans who came to see Rachel Alexandra win. But wasn't our mare terrific?"

Yes, she was, Mr. Z. But don't look for Zardana to get the credit she deserves for being at the right track in the right place on Saturday to smack down the reigning Horse of the Year in the New Orleans Ladies. After all, the race was created to attract Rachel Alexandra, which means the Fair Grounds management did its job. And, as a proactive owner, Zetcher did his, pointing out to trainer John Shirreffs that he'd rather roll the dice on the road rather than stay home in California the same day and run against Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita.

The last time a house fell so deadly silent after a shocker like Saturday's in New Orleans was in August of 1996, when a sardined crowd of 44,181 at Del Mar stared in gap-jawed disbelief at the sight of Dare and Go racing past the "unbeatable" Cigar in the million-dollar Pacific Classic. Things were also pretty glum around Belmont Park that day in June of 2004 when Smarty Jones lost the Triple Crown to Birdstone before a packed house. And then there was the 2005 Kentucky Derby, also orchestrated by John Shirreffs, when Giacomo's 50-1 winning lunge at the wire had most of the 100,000 or so scrambling to check their programs.

At the very least, it is refreshing to be able to use the old "that's part of horse racing" cliche to describe a surprising result with no casualties--other than bruised egos and bankrolls--rather than some awful racetrack accident. Truly, anything can happen in a horse race, and it is always a mistake to operate under different assumptions. Zardana's theatrics did not rise to the level of Upset beating Man o' War, or Jim Dandy shocking Gallant Fox. But they did set the table for a fascinating season to follow, especially now that owner Jess Jackson has decided he will not run his filly against Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 9.

The events of last Saturday at Santa Anita and the Fair Grounds were never going to be conclusive. Those still skeptical of Zenyatta's quality will admire the way she overcome a bit of tricky traffic, but they will point out that she is still doing business in Southern California on synthetic tracks, which for some reason has clouded the ability to assess the broader meaning of her 15-0 record. At the same time, those who were entertained but not wildly impressed by Rachel Alexandra's record last year against 3-year-olds and second tier older runners are not justified in thinking any less of the filly after her loss to Zardana. If she was, in fact, dead short for the race, only her next race will tell the true tale. And never forget, no matter how good they are, no matter what they've done, no matter what accolades they've won--Man o' War, Citation, Kelso, Dr. Fager, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Cigar--sooner or later they all get beat.

Well, almost all of them.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/14/2010 07:57:47 PM

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03/13/2010

Time's Up

Not since Dan Quayle's vice-presidential debate with Lloyd Bentsen has a bar been set so low. Rachel Alexandra may need a race (headline in my paper). Rachel Alexandra will be only 80 percent (quote from Jess Jackson). Rachel Alexandra's return has been compromised by her long layoff, unseasonably wet weather, fluctuations in the Dow Jones. Heck, to hear it, Rachel Alexandra will be lucky to get around out there today in New Orleans without stopping at the half for nap.

This is all hooey, of course, a continuation of the parallel universe of chatter, spin and hyperbole that has surrounded Rachel Alexandra since her victory in the Kentucky Oaks last year and subsequent purchase by Jess Jackson. Weird, though, now that she was officially annointed as the best racehorse in the land for 2009, she suddenly becomes vulnerable, a frail thing beset by circumstances beyond her control.

"I'm very concerned with how fit she is," her trainer, Steve Asmussen, told Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Well, I will drink Jess Jackson's wine, but not the Kool-Aid. The last time I let a trainer sandbag my expectations about the return to competition of a top horse was in the fall of 2000, when Neil Drysdale all but said Fusiachi Pegasus would be lucky not to need a cab ride from the quarter pole to get through his late season comeback in the Jerome at Belmont Park, and I believed every word. All he did was beat El Corredor and Albert the Great under a hand ride.

This is not to question Asmussen's trepidation. The mystery of the Thoroughbred rises with his or her ability. Asmussen and his crew know more about Rachel Alexandra than any lucky bunch in this game, and still they are constantly amazed. They also know that uncertainty is always a piece of the puzzle, and to ignore such feelings is foolish. But, jeez, it's Rachel Alexandra, and if she can't beat this field pulling a plow, how can we trust in such things as gravity, electricity and indoor plumbing?

In the meantime, out in California on one of those funny racetracks that no one seems to like, Zenyatta will be asked to walk her beat while giving away a dozen pounds or more. This would be a concern, if not for the fact that Zenyatta is giving off the same vibes that, say, an aircraft carrier emits when heading out to sea. The only worry about her appearance today in the Santa Margarita is that it all will be over so quickly.

It is almost spring. The clocks are turning forward. Some of the snow is beginning to melt, and racing's two most radiant flowers are about to emerge. It is time to summon the exhortation of the malevolent dwarf from "Twin Peaks" and proclaim: "Let's rock."

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/13/2010 09:54:34 AM

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03/07/2010

Ladies' Day

Wanted: First Lady of California Horse Racing

Job Description: Give flesh and blood to the fantasy that the sport is run by something other than floundering guys in suits and ties.

Qualifications: The grace of Barbara Walter. The energy of Trudy McCaffery. The indomitability of Marje Everett. The passion of Susan Rowan.

Laden as it is with testosterone, horse racing has never been a comfortable place for talented women to flourish. Right now, the California's most influential handful among the majority gender include Marsha Naify and Madeline Auerbach (chairman and vice-chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California), Marie Moretti (director of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club), Leigh Ann Howard (president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association) and Bo Derek (California Horse Racing Board commissioner), along with trainers Carla Gaines, Kathy Walsh and Jenine Sahadi.

Sahadi is also president of the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation, which provides scholarships for the children of backstretch workers. In addition, the head of every reputable California rehabilitation and retirement organization for former Thoroughbred racehorses is a woman. The idea that these more benevolently oriented roles are only suited to women, or that men need not apply, is patently ridiculous. It only looks that way, and will continue to look that way, as long as most of the choice seats of influence are occupied by men.

Take note: There are two key job openings right now in the California sport, the well-salaried and potentially influential executive director positions for both the TOC and the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). If either one of those spots is filled by a woman, I shall personally stop the presses.

At any rate, it was refreshing to see two women step up at Santa Anita last Saturday in a big way. Jill Baffert, wife of the trainer of the same name, joined a distinguished list of women who have owned the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap with the victory of Misremembered (also owned in part by family friend George Jacobs), while earlier on the card, trainer Alexis Barba swept both major events for 3-year-old colts by taking the Pasadena Stakes on the grass with Make Music for Me and the Sham Stakes on the main track with Alphie's Bet.

Bob Baffert casts a long and mighty shadow, so you've got to hand it to Mrs. B. to be able to step out from behind her Hall of Fame husband to lay claim to such a noteworthy accomplishment. Misremembered is hardly a backyard project--even though I'm sure the Bafferts have a very nice backyard--but neither has he been coddled and marketed like a corporate asset. And while the breeding line officially says Bob Baffert, Misremembered is a family project all the way, and he earned his shot in the Santa Anita Handicap with a series of good races that put him on the threshold of a big effort to defeat the onrushing Neko Bay.

If the trainer is smart, and the game is lucky, the co-owner will do all the talking for Misremembered as his career unfolds. Jill Baffert is quick and mordantly funny in a "don't mess with Tennessee" kind of way, with charm and communication skills cultivated in the chatty world of local Kentucky television news. Sure, I know, Bobby B. is the king of the one-liners and self-deprecating quotes, sent by a stranger power to rescue lazy journalists desperate for a hook. But this can be a whole new act now, with Bob and Jill and their colt playing the crowd like racing's version of Will & Grace, or Abbott and Costello. It might not help the handle, but at least it could be fun.

As for Alexis Barba, the newest West Coast power player on the Triple Crown trail, her two winners Saturday matched her total for the year, proving that good horses can come from anywhere as long as there is a trainer like Barba involved. Trevor Denman had some trouble recollecting the pronunciation of her first name--it came out Alexi--while various HRTVoices insisted her last name was "Barbee," hopefully confusing it with the infamous Klaus rather than the plastic, anatomically daunting doll.

Californians respect and, for better or worse, will always think of Barba as the longtime assistant to the late Eddie Gregson, whose suicide in June of 2000 scrambled the psyches of anyone who spent significant time close to the white-hot flame of his intense personality. Barba was given a chance by a couple of Gregson's loyal clients, but that did not work out, and she has plugged along anyway, refusing to yield. Now, for patrons Ellen and Peter Johnson, Barba has come up with a pair of young aces. How far they'll go is anyone's guess--this far has been pretty good--but if the lessons of Gregson have lasted, they won't go where they don't belong. Barba had a ringside seat when Eddie gave up a nice colt named Icy Groom because the owner refused to heed Gregson's warning not to run in the Kentucky Derby. And it was Gregson who proclaimed, in the moments after he sent out Gato del Sol to win the 1982 Derby, that the colt would skip the Preakness and aim instead for the Belmont Stakes.

Such blasphemy tends to inform the deepest thoughts of California horsemen, who know they should want to win the Kentucky Derby more than life itself, but sometimes wonder about the cost. Barba was not looking much beyond Monday with either Make Music for Me, a son of Bernstein, or Alphie's Bet, a son of Tribal Rule who is owned in part by his breeder, Teresa McWilliams (both young stallions are by Storm Cat, while Gregson trained Candi's Gold, the damsire of Alphie's Bet). They will run somewhere serious next, and then a decision can be made.

"I more concerned that I wore this ugly thing today," Barba said, opening her overcoat to display a stylish black Indian kurta with some silvery neckline trim. "I got it in Dubai, when I went there for a friend's wedding, and I can't believe I let myself be talked into buying it. I guess it's my lucky outfit now."

She sounded just like a girl, and it sounded great.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/07/2010 06:34:35 PM

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03/03/2010

Forget it, Jake

Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Can you smell it? That's Oscar buzz, filling the air, and everybody seems to care. Never mind that this was the worst year for movies since movies were invented--including the year "Oilver!" won for Best Picture. So grim was the list in 2009 that instead of quality, the Academy went for quanitity and nominated 10, yes 10, movies for Best Picture. The winner will be anounced Sunday night, and how that ultimate winner was chosen is more complicated than filling out a Form 27B-stroke-6 (subreference, "Brazil"). The process was tackled and untangled with his usual aplomb by Hendrik Hertzberg in a recent issue of The New Yorker: (www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/02/15/100215taco_talk_hertzberg).

Still, 10 nominees? That's like a track meet for 6-year-olds. Everybody gets a ribbon. Since none of those 10 has the slightest connection to horse racing--unless you count the one that's named for the winner of the 1975 Belmont Stakes (here's the race... www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldqYWlQcpyI )--I am turning the microphone over to my good friend and razor sharp wit Mark Ratzky, handicapper and host of the Los Alamitos satellite betting site and a nut for movies for at least as long as Warren Beatty has been making them. Mark also had a hard time taking this year's crop seriously (I'd make an exception for "The Hurt Locker" and "District 9"), so he had some fun instead...

Mark's nominees are:

The Hurt Locker -- This gripping tale of synthetic tracks and the people who care for them will have you on the edge of your seat, weather permitting.

Precious -- A pair of unlikely heroes emerge in this inspiring story of a front-running, turf marathoner and his underdog trainer. Four stars, two hankies and 12 furlongs.

An Education -- Two stories in German, with subtitles. He's successful in business, breeding and racing horses, but discovers owning racetracks is an entirely different story. The second lives the American dream before coming close to terminating an entire state.

Avatar -- This one cost a fortune, is beautiful to look at, but ultimately there is nothing there. Original title, "The Green Monkey."

The Blind Side -- Horseplayers in the Bluegrass State wake up to find they're going to get a little bit less back on each winning wager.

Up in the Air -- Sidney Lumet directs this powerful tale of corruption, incompetence and greed with an entire sport hanging in the balance. In the tradition of "Serpico" and "Dog Day Afternoon," this is another fascinating look at the workings of the Big Apple.

Ratzky came up four nominees short of the wire, and I considered that a challenge. Here goes:

A Serious Man -- Todd Pletcher is serious about winning the Kentucky Derby. Very serious. So serious that he ends up with 15 of the 20 starters. The drama turns daffy when a gate malfunction...well, why spoil the ending?

Up -- Mike Leigh's cinema verite look at the rough and tumble world of steeplechase racing, featuring a memorable performance by Tobey Maguire as Jonathan Sheppard's assistant's cousin's former brother-in-law Miles Barrier.

Inglourious Basterds -- A cross between "Pulp Fiction" and "Akelah and the Bee." Quentin Tarantino gives the blood and splatter treatment to the spellcheckers at The Jockey Club who were just fine with Plugged Nickle, Deputed Testamony and Prince of Thieves.

District 9 -- Real science fiction, not that pretty 3D green girl in the forest stuff, the one with the tail to die for. This entry from South Africa, or maybe South Dakota, creates a world in which horses rule and humans scurry around on all fours, complaining and looking for an edge.

And the winner is...

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/03/2010 05:43:34 PM

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03/02/2010

Frankly

"I'm not threatening."

This is what Frank Stronach said, and I tried hard to believe it. But when a man of wealth and power makes demands, in so many words, and then mentions consequences if those demands are not met, "threatening" is usually one of the words that comes to mind, along with "duck," "cover" and "yikes!"

Now that the bankruptcy of his racing company is about to strip him of all but a few precious assets, Stronach seems grimly determined to make those remaining assets a success. In all cases, however, the climbs are uphill. In Florida, Gulfstream Park's fortunes appear to be irrevocably linked to a casino business that was mounted in an increasingly saturated gaming market and in a sprawling mall launched in an economy full of dread. In California, where there is no casino option available the racetracks as long as Native Americans control the dice, Stronach's strategy to maximize his Santa Anita and Golden Gate holdings seems to rely on economy of scale. He wants all the racing dates he can get, or else.

Stronach is finessing the "or else" part in a couple of cagey ways, based on a California racing community that is divided along two key lines. Among racetrack managements, it is Hollywood Park (aka Bay Meadows Land Co.) against the rest. While it awaits a more favorable real estate climate in which to develop the land, BMLC continues to get away with a barebones operation at Hollywood Park. Other tracks already covet the dates, but Hollywood holds the sword of its backstretch and training facilities over the game. In the meantime, owners and trainers have decided that the issue of racing surfaces is worth a civil war. And while they haven't gone as far as printing team T-shirts or issuing invitations to synthetic tea parties, there is a very real atmosphere of Hatfields and McCoys out there, with no one actively searching for compromising ground.

Stronach, who has gone head-to-head against some of the toughest business beasts in the automobile world, hopes to play the parallel conflicts to his advantage. He is challenging California's horse owners, trainers and breeders to get behind his push for deregulation--shorthand for going after Hollywood Park dates--while dangling the promise of a new dirt racetrack to replace the synthetic surface now in place at Santa Anita...if he can get that deregulation.

If he doesn't, what is the "or else" part of the equation? Santa Anita languishes, its operation funded only to a certain point? Physical improvements sidetracked? Pieces of the property hacked away and developed? Stronach would not say, only that there would be no new racetrack unless someone else wanted to pay for it. But he was not threatening.

How did California get to this point? You can track the time line backwards over the past decade and find any number of forks in the road taken by California's racing leaders. Yes, it would have been swell in 1999 if a partnership of California-based owners had been able to purchase Santa Anita from Meditrust, rather than an Austro-Canadian auto parts manufacturer with no experience in running a racetrack. Yes, the California Horse Racing Board should have looked a little harder at rubber-stamping the sale of Hollywood Park by Churchill Downs to a development company that was already tearing down pieces of Bay Meadows. And yes, the interests that promoted the installation of synthetic surfaces--representing horsemen, management and the California Horse Racing Board--should have given the technology a better test drive under Southern California's unique climactic conditions before a wholesale commitment to the technology.

That was all then. Here we are now, with Frank Stronach loudly touting "free enterprise" as the solution to all California's racing problems, because "free enterprise" is the American way. Of course, it was free enterprise that allowed Stronach to cast his sights southward from Ontario to purchase one of California's most treasured sports stadiums. It was free enterprise that gave a horse racing company like Churchill Downs a pass to carpetbag Hollywood Park and then flip the property to a land developer. And it was free enterprise that had the manufacturers of synthetic surfaces descending upon California like gulls at low tide, selling their wares to clients cornered by a regulatory mandate.

I happen to agree with Stronach that the California racing calendar is long overdue for a shake-up, especially in light of Hollywood Park's frustrating status as an ongoing physical asset. Good men and women have lain awake nights trying to figure this one out, though, and if the best solution is to spend the lobbying money get a green light from the legislature and then throw all the dates on a table, so be it. The last time the calendar underwent substantive revision was in 1981, when there was far more unity among the various racing factions. Back then, year-round racing and the concept of off-site betting looked like nothing but baking and delivering a bigger pie. Through legislation and regulation, California's racing interests were allowed to fulfill their deepest wish, which was to look just like New York racing, only better, with more sparkles and sunshine. Good times.

Stronach did not say how much money a track like Santa Anita needs to make before he considers it a success, or how many dates he would need to make the numbers work. Clearly, though, he is laser focused on more dates as the solution, with everything else to follow...or not. As for the alternatives, let's just say it did not occur to me to think Stronach was making a threat until he said he wasn't.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 03/02/2010 02:11:26 PM

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02/22/2010

The Games Begin

In a perfect world (a good movie, by the way, with Eastwood and Costner), that heady array of 3-year-old stakes run last Saturday would have been packaged and gift-wrapped on some kind of network (come back, Bravo!) for both efficient consumption and maximum impact. Instead, those sitting at home and tuned to the racing stations got them spread out all over the course of the afternoon, some live and some delayed, depending on whether or not your cable/satellite was TVG and/or HRTV friendly. This is the world in which racing fans live. Keeps them on their toes, if nothing else.

Beyond the ever-shrinking borders of racing, however, the rest of the sports hungry planet was feasting on Winter Olympics and late winter basketball (go Clips!), along with the Premier League football appetizers as the World Cup looms. Apologies to Pletcher, whose 3-year-olds mopped up in the Fountain of Youth, the Risen Star and the El Camino Real Derby, but the only Todd that made headlines above the fold last week was Lodwick, who finished fourth in the Nordic combined ski competition, brightly complementing the silver medal won by fellow American Johnny Spillane, who has had the decency to make something of a very cool name. Todd Pletcher might know how to ski, but he really doesn't have the time. And he definitely does not want to mess with the Nordic combined.

The marginal popularity of horse racing these days was driven home hard last week during the climactic moments of the Los Angeles Sports' Council's annual awards dinner. It was a nice event, and a number of athletes actually showed up. The centerpiece of the evening was a countdown of the Top 10 sports stories of 2009 that had a legitimate L.A. area hook, and would you believe that the No. 2 spot was taken by Zenyatta's victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic? Well, it was, ahead of both the Dodgers and the Angels making it to the league championships and the national title of the UC Irvine's women's water polo team. Weird thing, though. When Zenyatta's honor was announced, and owners Ann and Jerry Moss took the stage, the reaction in the large room was one of polite astonishment, as if to wonder how a novelty act got its nose under the tent flap of the collegiate and professional sports big top. Jerry Moss said all the right things about Zenyatta's place in the sports firmanent, and Trevor Denman, who introduced the Mosses, got in a tight little info-mercial for the game. And then they were gone, and it was back to balls and bats. The No. 1 honor went to the Lakers' NBA championship, by the way. Go figure.

I should not be discouraged, though. Kentucky Derby fever for 2010 is still in its incubation stage. There is still plenty of time for the heat to get turned up, and for impressive Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya to become a household name, or at least in households with an Egyptian flavor. According to Keti Sharif's A-Z Bellydance Site, an "eskendereya" is a "flirty Alexandrian dance with a milaya, or heavy veil, formerly used as a fashion accessory in the 40s" in which the dancer "wears a bourka (netted face veil) and a frilly mid-knee length dress." Sounds perfect with "My Old Kentucky Home."

Those of us stubborn souls who still like their racing live and in 3D, as well as HD, went without 3-year-old racing of note at Santa Anita over the weekend. We did, however, get to see the best sprinter in the country come back in fine form, when Bob Black Jack wired the 7-furlong San Carlos in his first start in 14 months. Trainer Jim Kasparoff was rightly beaming like a new dad after his star came through, and he should be proud. It was a training job worthy of the best. Now, Bob Black Jack will be pointed east, presumably for the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. Enjoy the show.

To cap off a blustery Saturday's sport at Santa Anita, Joy Scott and Ol'dogtown finally found the winner's circle in a $25,000 maiden claimer, only it wasn't as simple as that. Scott is 51 and the mother of a 21-year-old son. She does most of her riding at Los Alamitos, where she lands mounts on cheap Thoroughbreds going 4 1/2 furlongs and the odd Appaloosa or Arabian. Ol'dogtown was running for the 15th time, and the effort of winning clearly messed with his head. Pulling up, he ducked and dumped Scott, who underwent three surgeries for a 2001 ankle fracture and really didn't need the aggravation. Fans were treated to the sight of Ol'dogtown running free, up the stretch and headed for the barn, as Scott hitched a ride in the track ambulance. Not so fast, though, pal. Ol'dogtown was collared by an outrider and brought back to the winner's circle, where he was reunited with Scott for a photo that both of them deserved, and that the fans who lingered cheered. Scott dismounted, more gently this time, and was greeted with a big hug from David Flores, who'd already had a pretty good day aboard Bob Black Jack. Then she limped back to the room, a winner.

Posted by Jay Hovdey 02/22/2010 01:13:09 PM

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About

Jay Hovdey has been Executive Columnist for Daily Racing Form since 1998. Previously, he covered horse racing for The Blood-Horse and the Thoroughbred Record, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Reader's Digest. He is the winner of four Eclipse Awards and the author of the biographies Whittingham - A Thoroughbred Racing Legend and Cigar - America's Horse.

Recent Posts

Now What

Wild Things

The Brink

Stand Up

Z-Day

Time's Up

Ladies' Day

Forget it, Jake

Frankly

The Games Begin

Recent Comments

Vicki on Now What

Qev on Now What

Ernie on Now What

pollo on Now What

Steve on Now What

11 Apr 2010 6:47 PM
helsbelles

Steve Haskin wrote:  "If I am guilty of anything it's feeling sorry for Rachel at a time when she (her reputation) is down."  

Paula Higgins, this is the sentiment I detected in Steve's article, and it is what I was referring to in my earlier post when I commented that Rachel is becoming a tragic figure.  In retrospect, I wish I had used the term "sad figure".  I hope that clarifies it for you, and there really was no need for you to display sarcasm.  

11 Apr 2010 6:56 PM
Steve Haskin

Yes, Rachel, if I sounded testy it's because of the number of comments that had to be deleted. I have since left it to the moderators and they've deleted as many if not more than I have. I do appreciate all the nice (and sane) comments, whether liking the column, agreeing with me, or disagreeing in a civil manner. I hate to say this, because I do appreciate the vast majority of people who read the blog and comment, but some of the comments border on obsessive and a misguided disdain for a horse. It's actually kind of scary. To all those who did respond in a normal manner, I thank you.

11 Apr 2010 7:02 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I know it must be disheartening to read the more vile stuff. Please accept my apologies for their obnoxious comments. You should not be subjected to that kind of rubbish. But let me say this, the majority of us are so grateful to you for your eloquence and love of the sport and these horses. We are the ones you are writing for and  believe me, a blog from you is something memorable that we look forward to. As a nurse, I work with the general public too. There are all kinds of people out there and some of them are a long way from warm and fuzzy. (In the world of medicine we call it their "pre-morbid personalities," meaning they were turkeys before they got sick, not after, and they will always be turkeys). It's the downside of dealing with the general public. Steve, you are one of the good guys. A person who sees the best and not the worst in any situation. Don't change.

11 Apr 2010 7:12 PM
Zips Secret

Great article Steve, glad to see that you are finally starting to appreciate Zenyatta.  I loved Rachel last year and since I am in California truly hoped that she would at least come to the Breeder's Cup last year and race in the Distaff (I truly don't believe she is a 1 1/4 horse), I think that was unfortunate and put a bad taste in everyone's mouth for her connections.  

For those who complain that Zenyatta doesn't face anyone, what control do her connections have to control that?  If you look at Personal Ensign's races, very few of those were with more than 3 or 4 horses and I hear no one complaining that she didn't beat anything.  Zenyatta nor her connections can control her competition, she's entered in Grade 1 races, no one wants to race against her.  What an amazing mare and I'm so glad I've gotten to see her in person.  I hope they both have great years, but I doubt they will race against each other, so we'll just have to enjoy them as we get them.

11 Apr 2010 7:14 PM
joe c.

The ugliness of our recent political discourse seems to spill over into this sport, when the attributes of these two magnificent champions are discussed.  Let's celebrate the blessing of both without ugliness of partisanship.  I thrill to the memory of RA's Preakness as I do Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup.  So much has tested me-the tragedy of Eight Belles, the bittersweet memory of Barbaro, and the drug scandals played out against track and political mismanagement.  Even the Belmont Stakes is in jeopardy, as well as Saratoga.  Let's celebrate the best, while we can:  two champions, Rachel and Zenyatta.

11 Apr 2010 7:19 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

As District Manager of Regional Operations and VP of Domestic Operations of The Steve Haskin Fanatical Fan Club I would like to thank you on behalf of the club and all of your fans worldwide for your insightful and eloquent writings, and reports from the track. We sincerely believe that you are THE TOP Horse Race writer in history. I am ordering that a fund drive begin immediately so that we may purchase you an Anti Venom Spewing Kit which includes the following: One anti venom spewing laser gun, one anti venom spewing PEZ dispenser, one anti venom spewing shield, one anti venom spewing coat, and one anti venom spewing hat. Please don't change. Write whatever you want. We love it. And thank you for countless hours of enjoyment from your articles, books, and videos.

11 Apr 2010 7:36 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Paula Higgins

  If you haven't done so yet-Go to the old blog under Triple Crown Talk, blog-"A New Top Ten and Thoughts on Rachel/Zenyatta." I thought you would be the one that would most enjoy it. It is down at the bottom, post #622. It's about Zenyatta and John Shirreffs.

11 Apr 2010 7:59 PM
Steve Haskin

Paula and Dr. D, thank you for your kind words. I appreciate it. Dr. D. I like your brand of humor.

Zips Secret, I'm glad you liked the article, but "Glad you're finally geting to appreciate Zenyatta?" Do you really believe I havent appreciated her before this race? Have you been reading my columns? I have appreciated her since the 2009 Apple Blossom.

11 Apr 2010 8:01 PM
Steve Haskin

Joe C, extremely well said!

11 Apr 2010 8:03 PM
RGGC

Steve, try not to let these "haters" get you down. They are all over the internet, not only on your blog. Why they can't appreciate two wonderful mares is beyond me. I feel if you don't realize how fortunate we are to have two such wonderful equine stars, you are really not a of fan of horseracing and should start watching hockey or soccer. That way your animosity wont go to waste!

Keep writing those wonderful stories Steve, no one does it better.

11 Apr 2010 8:16 PM
Eric Rickard

LETS ALL GIVE UP THE RA BASHING AND ZENYATTA BASHING, THEY ARE BOTH GREAT. My only comment is to don't be disappointed if RA does not perform like she did last year Horses change ; wether that is from 2 to 3. Or 3 to 4. Sometimes they are not as good. I can give many examples. Ra beat whom they ran against her, Zenyatta did the same. AThey should have shared the Honor . Lets all agree that racing is better for the both of them.

LONG LIVE THE SPORT OF KINGS.

11 Apr 2010 8:35 PM
LaQua713

Mr. Haskin, as a young twenty-something who has just been enveloped into the Thoroughbred world and the sensuous frenzy that is racing, I bow to you for becoming my leading inspiration towards a career in equine journalism. Kudos to you for not getting caught up in the snarky comments that dog these two great athletes (I admit, I've tossed in one or two in Zenyatta's favor)! If pedestals need be constructed, surely these two females would stand on those constructed of only the finest and purest grain of marble which oozes perfection as do Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra!

Thank you again for being a true writer and inspiration in the area of equine journalism!

11 Apr 2010 8:55 PM
Mark

Steve, I am a huge R A Fan.  How can you not be?  But, I'm less of a fan of her new connections.

I didn't think Z would win the Classic. Against the world's best males? Then they ran the Classic.

Simply in the Classic, the top 3 year old males which RA had beaten -- Z beat also -- but Z gave them a pretty large head start.  Actually, Z also spotted the top older males in the world a pretty large head start -- and at the wire all were behind her.

Amazing!

What does this mean?  Z hasn't yet been beaten.  She is doing well -- so well she was "unretired".

RA -- not doing so well.  Her connections were quick to run her back in just two weeks after purchase -- to win the Preakness.    They then won three additional races with her in 2009.  Sheer Genius! HOTY!

But in race # 5 for her new connections,  RA lost to the third best female in JS's barn. Time to now become realistic about the dream $5 million payday.

Z's connections are 16 for 16. Z literally danced the dance.

There is no question about either the quality of Z or the quality RA exhibited last year.

But there are questions. Will / Can RA ever be the same?   Was it really the right thing for RA -- to subject a 3 year old filly to that 2009 schedule?  Was it really done just for the "good of the game"?

Lots of questions.  To date, few palatable answers.  But, RA's current owner does have another HOTY trophy -- again as a result of acquiring his winning horse during the year from another.

Funny thing is -- it appears that no one may have told JS's third best mare about those trophies.

11 Apr 2010 9:02 PM
Paula Higgins

Dr Drunkinbum, I will look for that blog. By the way, you are simply hilarious!!!!!!! You are funny without being mean, a real accomplishment. Laughed my head off at the post above.

11 Apr 2010 9:31 PM
Zookeeper

Dr Drunkinbum,

You are the sanest among us. Your quirky sense of humor never fails to double me over in fits of laughter. Thank you for bringing sunshine into the arena (pun intended).

Mr. Haskin,

I second and triple the pleas of your adoring fans to not give up and to continue to delight us with your wonderful writing. We need you very badly. Besides who will clue us about smallish horses in plain brown wrapping if not you?

To all fans of horseracing,

There's an article on DRF.com regarding Zenyatta's possible next start. I'm electronically challenged (among other things) so I don't know how to post a direct link to that article. If you are interested, I'm sure you can find it, since I was able to. At the bottom of the Home Page you can click on a box to see Monday's front page and you will find an incredible picture of Zenyatta in the AB with all 4 feet off the ground. Now, she can even fly! Is there no end to her talent?

11 Apr 2010 9:38 PM
Zips Secret

Sorry Steve, I was wrong, you have written some nice articles on Zenyatta and I stand corrected.  I was incorrect in my wording, what I meant was that it is nice that those on the East are starting to appreciate her.  Both great mares and have already told my husband we will be going to Churchill for the Breeder's Cup, hopefully to watch both and even if they each run in a different race it will be a treat.

11 Apr 2010 9:42 PM
sodapopkid

Mr. Haskins, I apologize for all of Hovdeys reports,  I thought I had stopped at the first and intended article,  Once again, I apologize for so many of his articles posted when I copy and pasted them.

11 Apr 2010 9:45 PM
Paula Higgins

Dr Drunkinbum I loved it!! Actually I loved the last three on that blog. You are a hoot. Sign me up for the Steve Haskin Fan Club.

11 Apr 2010 10:01 PM
julie o

I don't thimk we've been this lucky with great horses running at the same time since the 70s.  I am so sorry that in this day and age it's "acceptable" to hate things that shouldn't be hated, spew rage for no reason, and force our anger on others.  It seems that being rude is fashionable.  A healthy discussion about two great horses shouldn't involve hurt feelings, foul language, personal attacks, or belittling one mare to make the other look better.  We already have our opinions, and being insulting or worse just won"t make me agree with you.

 Mr Haskins, I really enjoyed your article and the reminder that our year can get better once (if) Rachel decides to race again.  I always look forward to your articles and this one was as good as all your others.  I can barely imagine how bad the deleted comments must have been, and you certainly didn't deserve it.

11 Apr 2010 10:43 PM
txhorsefan

Steve, what a beautiful article!!  I just got back from Hot Springs, made sure my daughter and the cats and dogs are all ok and didn't miss us too much, and now finally have a chance to look at the computer and read the articles about racing I missed over the weekend.  Naturally, I always look for your byline first and this entry is so great because I'm still on such a high from having actually seen Zenyatta with my own eyes.  I can't say I saw the race because from where we were, it was impossible to actually see much of it, but at least I did get to see her going by at the beginning of the race, behind everyone and then again at end of it when she was ahead of them all!  She is definitely one of the greats and I am completely smitten with all her charisma, yet I still find enough room in my heart to love Rachel Alexandra also.  I read a few of the comments and decided that I did not have enough time to continue as I was beginning to get so discouraged that your great article paying tribute to Zenyatta and rejoicing in the talents of Rachel Alexandra, has triggered more of the negativity that we do not need.  Thank you once again for sharing with us.

11 Apr 2010 11:28 PM
Jodie

Love how those plastic West Coast horses are kicking butt on the dirt.

Zenyatta is truly 100 percent better on dirt.  But as I  have always  said, a horse with the heart of a Campion will win and run on any surface.

11 Apr 2010 11:40 PM
larryb

I feel this is stupid, neither has face each other at peak form. They were both great at peak form BUT neither has faced each other at peak form or faced Quality Road at peak form so this nonsense before i replied is worthless.

11 Apr 2010 11:42 PM
Daunice

Steve,

  Thanks for the eloquent ode to both Zenyatta & Rachel. Many fans adore both horses and believe both should have been HOY. You are so right in saying they inhabit parallel worlds.

   Some 3 yr old colts never recover from the rigors of the Triple Crown races. What a toll Rachel's campaign must have taken on her. Some fillies are not the same at 4 as they were at 3.  We should all be patient and hope her form returns.

   I have had the good fortune to see both Rachel and Zenyatta training. Although I live in the East, I've actually seen Zenyatta more - both BCs & schooling at CD.

   For me, the 2008 BC was all about "the girls" (except Midnight Lute). Zenyatta was the star of that show. It was just a prelude. Zenyatta's 2009 Classic was a magical, almost supernatural experience.

   Note to everyone: although Mr. Haskin has backstretch access, talks to everyone, sees all the top horses - I've seen him chasing after Curlin at the SA paddock(am) with his little camera -likewise with Zenyatta - just like us regular awestuck regular fans! He is a true fan of the horse (not just a fine turf writer).    

11 Apr 2010 11:58 PM
moodygirl

Steve, I commiserate with you regarding all the horse bashing. That is why I appreciated the wonderful things you said about Zenyatta.

Every time I make an attempt to glory in her achievements I'm immediately jumped on with both feet by some RA fan, or anti female TB fan and all Zenyatta's greatness is mocked, belittled and flat out ridiculed. I NEVER say anything negative about RA in my comment!

I felt my opinions about Zenyatta gained credibility with your column. I felt validated, so I thank you.

Why all this nastiness? I think people are more rude in general. Courtesy is no longer a cultural value. Cursing and personal attacks are normal conversation these days.

Tvnewsbadge, I too remember when you could have a heated debate over who was the best, Secretariat or Man O' War, without this venal behavior, which frankly takes all the fun out of it! And just from my perspective, the blogs & forums I have read have been biased in favor of RA with the bashing of Zenyatta by RA's fans. So I guess it goes both ways. It is a low down dirty shame.

Thank you to Footlick too.

TB fans have been through a lot. It's been a long time since there was a Triple Crown Winner to idolize. The media didn't cover racing anymore. The catastrophic breakdowns were horrendous to watch and added a level of fear and anxiety to just watching the races.

After watching Barbaro in 2006, I had to take a year off from watching. I just didn't think I could handle seeing another.

Then with trepidation, I began again in 2008 and I saw Eightbelles die. I was not watching anymore. By chance in 2009 I caught the Derby with Mine That Bird & Calvin and who doesn't love to see the underdog win? I decided to chance it one more time and watched the Preakness and I

rediscovered the adrenalin pumping joy and excitement by watching Rachel Alexandra. She was the cure for me! She was the most exciting thing I'd seen in many years.

Then toward the end of the season I began to follow Zenyatta. I grow more in awe of her everyday. I am 55 years old and I have sent for a Zenyatta DVD and a POSTER from the Hollywood Park Giftshop! This is not typical behavior for me to say the least. I'm trying to decide what place of honor I will hang my Zenyatta poster.

I am again a flat out, fanatical TB horseracing fan. These 2 ladies did that for me and a lot of other people too. Enjoy it while we can folks! This is once in a lifetime stuff. I really thought I might die without ever seeing anything in racing as great or exciting as Secretariat. I now believe I am; it just came in a different form, a female form and not just one but two.

12 Apr 2010 12:15 AM
Steve Haskin

La Qua, thanks for the kind words and good luck with your journalistic quest. I can see you have a way with words.

Daunice, so you caught me with my little camera, huh? My secret has been revealed. You're right, I am a fan before anything else.

Zips Secret, no problem.

Sodapopkid, I'm not sure what youre referring to. I dont mind you quoting from Hovdey's columns.

txhorsefan, thanks, glad you were able to get down there for the race.

Regarding Rachel, would it surprise me if she wasnt the same horse as last year? No. As I've written, those 5 months without a work is baffling. I've also written that she didnt look like the same Rachel in the NO Ladies and I did not like her major work for the race. But that happens with fillies, and if it turns out she's not the same horse for whatever reasons -- Asmussen has not been bubbling over with confidence -- it should not detract what she accomplished last year.

12 Apr 2010 12:51 AM
The Deacon

Steve, you are a class act. Your reverence for the sport, and your elequent writing has been a Godsend in these troubled times. If we had these blogs back in the day can you imagine what these haters would have said about the Affirmed and Alydar, or the Sunday Silence and Easy Goer rivalry just to name two. Both horses are brilliant. Zen has been campaigned much more dilligently, and Rachel had a very testing 3 year old season. Can't think of too many fillies or colts who have ever come back from such a grueling 3 year old campaign, can you. Such an angry world we live in and people show their true colors in these blogs. You are right Steve, its on to the Derby. Finally, no matter if Rachel should ever race again, the memories she provided us last year will last a lifetime. Each memory and action packed race have a place in all of our hearts.

Kudos Steve................

12 Apr 2010 1:10 AM
Gary Lynn

In Saturday's Bluegrass Stakes, Stately Victor's Daily Racing Form's "distance" figure was the highest of the field (114). Whose was next? Of course, Paddy's (110). Interactif (109) and First Dude (108) completed the top four. A twenty-four dollar exacta and trifecta box of those runners would have netted nearly 5K. Boxing the top two gets the hefty exacta. Yes, folks, sometimes it is that simple!

12 Apr 2010 4:46 AM
sodapopkid

I may be wrong here Steve,  but I think one of the problems for RA is she doesnt' have a permanent barn. She was moved from Wiggins to ASmussen and they have moved her to three different places for training. I would expect she has feelings too and doesn't like to keep having to get used to so many different barns all the time.

On the otherhand,  Look at Zenyatta's life,  she is treated like royalty, she has had the same barn, the same trainer, massage therapist, hotwalker,groomsman, and mario.  She is never shipped without her main group going with her.  Her owners  adore her and want to keep her happy and fit.

Now people complain about Zenyatta's schedules , well, the Mosses love her and want to keep her fit, they dont want to drain her, I think they are the absolute best owners in the business, IF I were a TB, I would want to belong to them.

12 Apr 2010 6:59 AM
Rebecca

Finally someone that speaks with some sense. I love Rachel Alexandra. She is a beautiful and special horse. So is Zenyatta. How can people be so cruel and it is not just fans that speak so horribly about Rachel. The articles that are written are mean spirited. As if Rachel is scared to race Zenyatta.  Rachel has no say in her races. That should be obvious or she wouldn't have raced and lost in March. She would have waited until she was 100% and she would have won easily. Rachel and Zenyatta are both great horses. We are just lucky to be able to watch them and love them. I love them both! I just want Rachel to come back and win again to shut up her critics. Run fast my beautiful Rachel, but stay safe and healthy.

12 Apr 2010 8:33 AM
Gavin J.

I have to commend Jess Jackson for giving Rachel a nice layoff this winter. Too often horses are raced around the calendar and we forget that they need down time to heal, rest, grow and relax. I have been following Zenyatta since her big win last fall and can't help but root for her still unbeaten record to remain so. But I do think Rachel will return or exceed her fitness level of last year and be a machine...tough to beat. I hope we get to see them compete but if not, it is so great to have 3 thoroughbred storylines to follow this spring. The triple crown and these two awesome mares. In Cleveland Ohio we don't get to see many Thoroughbred headlines but I'm throwing my first Kentucky Derby Party anyhow this year. Horse racing is something to get excited about this year and I hope to repeat my party this fall for the Breeders Cup. Can you imagine if we get a triple crown winner thrown into the mix with these 2 mares? Wow...now that's a thought!

12 Apr 2010 8:52 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Paula Higgins

  Thanks. I'm glad. You were signed up for The Steve Haskin Fan Club 6 months ago. Eventhough the dues are only $5 a month, with interest and late penalties you owe $729.34.

12 Apr 2010 9:21 AM
tvnewsbadge

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla in this room, and it could be a very sad one, is what's going to happen to Zenyatta's fan base should she ever lose?

Fans complain about the lack of respect Zenyatta got last year when Rachel was the superstar, but what goes undiscussed was that much of that was the result of former Zenyatta fans jumping ship for the new "flavor of the month".

It's not a pleasant thing to contemplate.

In the "old" days, Secretariat could lose, and more than one. And yet he's STILL to this day is considered the greatest racehorse that ever lived.

Today, a great and accomplished horse can lose once and all of a sudden it's like they never were.

We see that today with Rachel, and if Zenyatta ever loses, we'll see that with her.

12 Apr 2010 9:41 AM
Karen in Indiana

Looking at the photos in the slideshow for the Apple Blossom, the one that shows them all leaving the gate - all I can say is 'Look at the butt on that gal!'

Sodapopkid, same here. Their patience with her and the care of the team is the reason she is still on top of her game.

12 Apr 2010 9:42 AM
Rachel

With all the affection and respect Zen has earned and deserved, I think it would be a lot more fun to see her run like a Dahlia...all the big races against all the big horses all the time (yes, I know Dahlia was turf)...Zen is the Queen of Distaff and beat a very good field of males on synthetic...I'd love to see her in the Woodward or the JCGC, that's her PEER group...

12 Apr 2010 9:45 AM
CV

Zookeeper,

That's an amazing picture, isn't it? I think it's so striking because of the angle, it was taken from in front of her. You usually see the "four feet off the ground shots" from the side.

The same picture accompanies a DRF.com article headlined: "Dirt proves no obstacle for Zenyatta."

12 Apr 2010 9:59 AM
raceon

Mr. Haskin, Thank you so much for the great article.  I am a Zenyatta fan to the end.  What she brings into racing is amazing. She gives me goosebumps every time. I have a feeling that she will make HOTY this year and the only thing that could stop it would be a triple crown champ. I am sad for Rachel.  She won HOTY but at what cost?  I hope she is able to come back sound and race well this year, I just feel that too much was taken out of her with last year's campaign.  I hope that I am wrong.  Both ladies are lovely ambassadors for our very beautiful sport and have come along at a time when our sport needed them the most.  Again, thank you for your wonderful article.

12 Apr 2010 10:30 AM
sodapopkid

If you watch Zenyatta in training on Youtube.com, You can see John laying on the floor while talking to LIS, she is laying down, and I read that one of Zenyatt's massage therapists actually lay up under her massaging her, and you can see that John S. gives her her treat on occasion, her own cold Guinness beer. They treated her to her own birthday cake , they love this horse, thats why she is so happy and gives them in return what she does. Zenyatta is the perfect example of a well managed race horse.

John doesnt have so many horses that he cant' give the attention that he does, unlike Steve A. he has so many horses to train all over the place, I doubt he has time to hardly speak to his own wife, let alone give a race horse alot of love and affection like Zen gets.

I dont believe RA is a happy horse.

I hope I'm wrong.

And to whomever said that if Zenyatta loses she would be forgotten about? Don't you ever worry about that I have been a true Zenyatta fan til the day she retires and still will watch for her in the news,

We will love her even more if she does lose a race, then we will know she is like a regular race horse, like RA is.

I wish John S. could train RA and get her in the "Happy Barn" with Zenyatta.

I think they burned RA out last year, In her prep race you could see her turning her head like she won't happy, if she were being held back like Borel said, then why didnt' they just let her run in the AB and let her loose and run like she wants too.

I don't think she will ever return to what she was last year. JJ can thank himself for that.  Where is Ra half sister, Dashing Debbie that JJ purchased?  she lost her last race and she to has fallen off the earth.

I don't understand Mr. Jackson as a horse owner. He can't stand defeat and he never lets the racing fans know how the horses are doing , and he never commits to any race until the midnight hour.  That is not good sportsmanship.

12 Apr 2010 10:44 AM
sodapopkid

Mr. Haskins, You yourself have said that you have spent alot of time with the MOsses, around Zenyatta too.

My question is , Dont' you have to agree that Zenyatta is treated like royalty in John's barn? And wouldnt' you agree she is treated better than most mares/colts that you have seen?

You know the Mosses wouldn't have it any other way, Right? Mr.Haskins, Don't you agree?

12 Apr 2010 10:49 AM
Pam S.

Sodapopkid, you might be right  about Rachel maybe feeling like a gypsy.  I always wondered, if she was going to be off for so long without any training at all, why not 60 days or so at a farm?  Seems like that would have recharged her batteries.

TVnewsbadge, if the great Zenyatta loses a race, as nearly all of the great ones have, this fan right here will absolutely think no less of her.  Fellow subjects of Queen Z, are you with me on this one?  Thought so.

Maybe slightly off topic, but I have to say, what's up with all the Calif. horses coming to Oaklawn and leaving with the money?  Did Oaklawn put in a synthetic track and just not tell anyone??  To me, it really muddies the argument that I heard last year about synthetics being so totally different from dirt (and totally vile as well).  Maybe the best situation would be for all dirt tracks to install a synthetic training surface.

12 Apr 2010 11:19 AM
wendyg

It seems like the same people are posting here.  I posted a comment and a question yesterday or Saturday, and it is not here.  It was not derogatory or mean.  Are there only certain people who can post and receive replies?  I would really like to have had my question answered.  

12 Apr 2010 11:42 AM
wendyg

Sorry, I just located my posts.  Please forgive me.  I was just really hoping for an answer to the question I posted.  I will read farther.  Thank you moderator for putting up with some of us. :-)

12 Apr 2010 11:44 AM
SMTDL

I am a big fan of both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra ..but am diappointed in seeing so many short memories. One has to admit that RA's accomplishments pushed Zenyatta into the BC Classic.Her connections seemed more concerned about retiring her undefeated than expanding her record with more challenging races.I wish they had run her in the Pacific Classic also if not  a NON-California ,dirt race against males.They have no one to blame but their conservative,abbreviated,local 5 race 2009 campaign for some people not being as big on Zenyatta as they expect!!It was an outstanding win in the BC Classic but the rest of 2009 was not enough to "eclipse" what Rachel accomplished.I am glad they have already raced her on dirt this year and look forward to a more challenging campaign in 2010.I hope she races males on dirt and finally is in a  race against Rachel Alexandra.Its good that we have a rivalry to contemplate..Like Alydar /Affirmed;Secretariat/Sham and hopefully enough races between them to setle any debates.In the meantime I see both as being on the short list of best female racehorses!!It would be awesome for one of them to achieve enough greatness to be alone at the top of that list by the end of 2010!

12 Apr 2010 11:46 AM
wendyg

I just had one short thought. I used to run.  I could run 3 miles on a good day, (I know others can do more), but for me that was good.  However, I stopped running for a year.  Though I have tried to go back to it, I cannot run like I used to.  RA was wonderful last year, and I voted for both her and Zenyatta in each of their races.  However, while Zenyatta appears to have a touch of testosterone in her (giggle), RA is a mare, and is at the time in her life where making babies might be her thing now.  She ran hard last year.  If she never shows greatness on the track again, keep in mind that she can show it through progeny.  She is not gone, even if she doesn't race anymore.  Her new boyfriend may be curlin. I'd give up racing if I was a horse too. lol.  Take care everyone and happy thoughts.  

12 Apr 2010 11:53 AM
Michelle

I love both Zenyatta and Rachel and really don't understand the bashing of either horse.  The horses go where their owners and trainers choose for them to go.  So if you are going to bash anyone bash the owners not the horse.  These two are two of the greatest this sport has ever seen - male or female.  I don't think you have to choose one and hate the other.  Go Zenyatta and Go Rachel!!!

12 Apr 2010 12:02 PM
Zookeeper

Someone suggested that the most ardent supporters of Rachel Alexandra came from the Zenyatta camp of zealots who jumped ship for the newest star. Since I don't know the minds of other Z fans, I will speak only for myself.

I was a Zenyatta maniac way before Rachel ever entered the picture and I remain the same to this day. The possibilities of her losing a race are very real to me and IF she does lose, my heart will remain with her that day and FOREVER.

The first time I saw Rachel run was in last year's Kentucky Oaks. It was a jaw dropping performance and I admired her very much that day and every time she ran afterwards. The day she really got my heart was with her valiant effort in the New Orleans Ladies. Here was this Champion HOTY restrained to the point of making her rank, everything altered, from her equipment to her running style. Even her mane was not allowed to flow freely as it had been before. The only thing that remained unchanged was her heart and because of that she won mine. She lost to a better prepared tough mare but the rest of the field was far, far behind. I felt for her then, the way I had never felt before. She lost the race but she won not only my admiration and my respect, as she had before, but she also captured my heart. I'm sure Zenyatta doesn't mind sharing it.  :)

12 Apr 2010 12:07 PM
tvnewsbadge

Pam S said

"if the great Zenyatta loses a race, as nearly all of the great ones have, this fan right here will absolutely think no less of her."  

And that's commendable, but unfortunately will not be true of many many OTHER Zenyatta fans.

For evidence of this , just look at the comments made by a great number of Zenyatta fans in this and other forums.

Consider how so many of them are gauging her greatness based SOLELY on her physical beauty and her undefeated record.

It's been said of recent troubled human athletes that in the eyes of the fans, the only sin they can commit is to lose.

If Zenyatta ever loses, we'll find that is just as true for our equine champions as their human counterparts.

In fact, Rachel has already proved the truth of it.

12 Apr 2010 12:11 PM
Steve Haskin

Wendy, the fairest distance would be 1 1/8 miles. both have run some of their best races at that distance. But remember, Zenyatta has won most of her races at 1 1/16 miles and Rachel won the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles, so I believe they would be competitive at most any distance. But 1 1/8 miles seem the fairest to me.

12 Apr 2010 12:13 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Sodapopkid

  I have a lot of respect for you and enjoy your posts. You gave us some nice glimpses into the Zenyatta homelife, and made some good points about her and Rachel. That is why they rested her, because she had such a hard campaign. It's Ok to wait to the midnight hour. You want to make sure your horse is sound and ready. It has nothing to do with sportsmanship. And it's OK to not like to lose also, especially with such a talented horse and a lot of money on the line when it comes to breeding. That is the case with most top horses. If it wasn't for The Apple Blossum and Mr Jackson deciding to try to run in it for the good of the game everything would be on track. It takes time to come back from a layoff to compete at the top Grade One level. The only thing we don't know is if Rachel wants to compete at the top level. Give them time and we'll know the answer. At the time I thought it was too soon for Rachel to run in a race like The Preakness but if Mr. Jackson didn't run her in that race then she wouldn't have had the amazing year she did and get HOY. It was a risk he took that paid off. He is not afraid to lose if his horse is ready. He doesn't want to race and lose if his horse isn't ready, just like most owners and trainers. Especially those who own Stars.

12 Apr 2010 12:19 PM
SMTDL

Rachel worked 6F in 1:12 this morning!!!! A much better work than before the New Orleans race..Looks like she is on her way back to her 2009 form!!

12 Apr 2010 12:21 PM
sodapopkid

I think this year we are going to keep getting what we want with Zenyatta,  She is a beast, and she can run with the big guns, Yes, give her QR, hopefully he wont wimp out the next time like he did the first time he saw her.

He's a big boy and let him fend for his own, We aint never seen what the Mighty Mare can do when up against boys on dirt, We know the damage she done to them on synthetics, she will do the same on dirt too.

Zenyatta has it in her to win, and win she does,

If she runs in the S.Foster , I guess only males will take her on, I know Ra won't be in there, JJ won't do that, so Zenyatta will have to run with some colts, I guess, I guess some of them will wimp out too.

The only thing about Z is she scares away the competition, she is a bad mamma jamma on the tracks, and she knows it...

12 Apr 2010 12:22 PM
Zookeeper

CV,

You're right! It's the angle, that's why it was so striking to me. It looked like a trick picture. She dances, she runs, she flies, she even levitates! Amazing!

12 Apr 2010 12:24 PM
helsbelles

Citing societies so-called decay for the current animosity is missing the point entirely.  The horse racing establishment has the ability to do virtually anything it wants (look how easily it arranged for a $5 million race and accomodated with a changed date and distance).  It had a golden opportunity to do the right thing, to benefit from a win-win situation by honoring both mares with co-HOY.  But instead, it shot itself in the foot by creating hard feelings and negativity within it's fanbase, and then has the audacity to say:   "Go away, just don't go away mad".  

12 Apr 2010 12:25 PM
Stacy

Michelle, I have to agree with you. I think that both horses are wonderful and great for racing. But, I would like to see Zenyatta's connections run a better campaign with her.  For the last two years she has ran in the same races beating the same horses. I would like to see them step "out of the box" with her. The only reason she did not win HOY last year is because RA ran a tougher campaign. I would have loved to have seen her travel to Dubai and run in the Dubai World Cup. I really think she could have won it.

12 Apr 2010 12:35 PM
GreyK

Mr. Haskin said: I wish some people would stop making something out of nothing. Praising every aspect of Zenyatta and calling her one of the greatest horses, male or female, of all time, is shortchanging her?

*******************

On another forum I was called "condescending" for failing to priase her with sufficient fervor.  And that's the trouble.  There is no way to grovel and pant enough to please some Zenyatta fans.  I've already read the tired complaint that RA fans say mean things about Zenyatta.  Whoever wrote that, please read through all the comments as I did and give me one example of that.  Oh wait, I guess if you think anything that fails to be worshipful of Zenyatta and also takes a pot shot at Rachel is "mean", you do have a bigger problem than understanding why Rachel Alexandra won Horse of the Year.      

12 Apr 2010 1:14 PM
Shiznik

"I was a kid back in Secretariat's heyday but I don't remember such nastiness when he got beat -- even after his T.C. triumph."  

Serena,

There was no internet with blog after blog to read all the fans' comments in 1973.  

This Zenyatta vs Rachel phenomenon has gone well beyond fans arguing who is the best horse.  In fact, the horses have very little to do with it anymore. The horses were the impetus for this ugliness, but, the on going anger and nastiness between the two camps is about the individuals arguing not about the two horses.

It's about me (figuratively) vs you and who can make the other look the worst.  It's about "I'm right and your wrong."  It is about anything and everything except the two horses.  It's time the brighter ones start to realize this and leave it alone.  I have to assume their are some bright ones out there, right?

12 Apr 2010 1:14 PM
sweet terchi

As always Steve, I enjoy reading what you have to say. In my book, both horses shall be remembered for everything they have accomplished. I am a fan of both, although I favor Zen, and I think only because I have seen her in person and she's a Cali girl like me. It doesn't matter to me that RA had her winning streak broken, she has always given her best against all odds. Same goes for Zen. What they have already accomplished is in the record books. As for myself, what a delightful treat to be a witness to the racing of two outstanding female thoroughbreds at the SAME time!! In my book, RA is at a disadvantage right now because I agree with sodapopkid. It would be extremely helpful to settle in one spot for awhile, have the same keepers with her, and not be rushed. She is a once in a lifetime horse, and should be treated as such......... like Zenyatta.

12 Apr 2010 1:26 PM
moodygirl

Sodapapkid, before I became a full time TB racing fan I was a psychiatric social worker. I worked with kids in the foster care system whose parental rights were terminated and needed a permanent adoptive home.

Please bear with me because I think this human example can illustrate your point about Rachel Alexandra and her gypsy-like lifestyle.

The key to working with those children was understanding the effects of separation, loss, and the need for permanence in their lives. Children growing up in fostercare, going from home to home and then turned out at age 18 are not happy human beings, infact they are quite dysfunctional. That is why it is so important to find a permanent adoptive home.

We need the safety, security and love (no matter how rotten you behave) that comes with a permanent home. Human beings need that in order to be a functional member of society & certainly to ever have a hope of being happy.

I thought about this when I read your comments about RA's lifestyle contrasted with Zenyatta's.

No they are not human but they do have emotions & emotional needs. I think Rachel had her "Happy Barn" with her 2 yrs. with Hal Wiggins. Then she abruptly went to "fostercare" with the Jacksons. She has went from barn to barn. There has been no Home for her. Does anyone even know if she has a permanent companion like another horse, cat or anything?

The Great racehorses had those. There are many examples but the ones that pop to my mind are Kincsem, 54 wins, who had a cat that went everwhere with her. She was getting off a ship one day to go to a race and she missed the cat. She refused to leave, calling to the cat for 2 hours until the cat heard her & returned.

Even Man O War had a companion horse that went everywhere with him. He grieved terribly when she died. He also had one groom his entire life. When the groom died he only lived about a year and died himself.

I hope I haven't humanized this too much for some of you but I think it may illustrate the tough spot she may be in. Horses have more than physical needs and need all of their needs met to do their best.

12 Apr 2010 2:13 PM
Beth

I have never seen a racehorse with the rare combination of talent and personality as Zenyatta has.  She positively loves to race and she feeds on  the crowds and the excitement.

Her "strut" in paddock and saddling enclosure and paddock before her races is just totally unique.

She wins her races with such authority and crosses the wire with her head up and her ears pricked.  She is a God-send to this sport which so needs good horses to draw the crowds to the  tracks.

As far as Rachel Alexander goes, I think we all know  what the result of the Apple Blossom had been even if Rachel had showed up-Zenyatta still would have won.

She might have had to work a little harder for it.

Rachel has been "on the shelf" too long (since last August).

She seems to have lost a step-hopefully she will get it back soon.

12 Apr 2010 2:25 PM
RS

Rachel's still as good as she was last year. She will be back to take Zenyatta on, and it will be a close race.

12 Apr 2010 2:44 PM
Dona

One of the great pleasures from Zenyatta winning the Apple Blossom was the anticipation of reading all the papers and blogs about Her Greatness. I got up an hour earlier than usual today to enjoy my coffee and spend a leisure rainy monday morning reliving all the glory and goose bumps of this past weekend. Ouch! What happened! I didn't expect to be re-Racheling. Have to say Steve, I can't give you a pass on this one. It would have been great had you not felt it necessary to include Rachel. I sincerely hope she can come back and do well, not for her owner or trainer but for those that think Zenyatta can't beat her. I believe that if/when that happens, bashers are still going to down play Zenyatta now that the door is open to say Rachel's not the same as last year and etc, etc, ect. Yeah, I enjoyed watching Rachel last year, that is, until the last one. Were I her owner, I would have gone Baffert/Gomez on Borel for that ride. It was sickening and the consequence maybe that she's never going to be the same. That being said, her present owner and trainer don't exactly have a free  pass for that matter and they have done nothing in this year's turn of events to redeem themselves. Although to be quite honest, for me, that is impossible.

I could go on and on about the great mare, how much I love and admire her or worship the ground  (real and synthetic) she glides over, prances and dances on, or paws and stomps her feet on,  declaring herself for all to see. I laugh when doubters say wait till she has to face Quality Road, I saw it, I was there! Quality Road took one look at her and went bananas in the Breeders Cup preliminaries. The Coach wasn't joking when he said "he wished he could put cup blinkers on Be Fair for saturdays Apple Blossom!. Yes, he was but he wasn't. Anybody else see Zenyatta in the saddeling arena before the Breeders Cup race? Around and around she went, neck bowed, pawing, snorting fire and the tension was thick as fog, owners, trainers staring in disbelief. It's a wonder only Quality Road wimped out. Jack Van Berg used to say John Henry won a lot of his races in the paddock, giving every opponent the evil eye before the race even started. We're not the only ones to recognize a presage in the making.

I lift my coffee cup to all the races over the weekend, celebrating all the winners. It's not a case of what have you done lately, Rachel. She wasn't a participant and she should have been left for another time. This time belongs to Zenyatta and tomorrow is another day.

12 Apr 2010 3:03 PM
GJU

Dr. Drunkinbum,

Don't forget the song Her Strut by Bob Seger. I especially like the lines

...."She gives them quite a battle

All that they can handle

She'll bruise some

She'll hurt some too"

If we think hard enough, we can put together enough songs for a Zenyatta's Greatest Hits cd! I'm hoping (She's) Sexy + 17 will make the cut!

12 Apr 2010 3:21 PM
vrocgal@yahoo.com

One can't help but wonder maybe it would have better if Rachel Alexander had been turned out to grass at a respite farm and just allowed "to be a horse" for a while? This kind of freshening often does wonders for horses.  After a while, they get tired of being idle and they love getting back to work

Instead she was kept on the track  and spent all that down-time in a stall and being galloped occasionally and maybe led out of her stall to graze once in a while.

Could this have soured her attitude about racing?

12 Apr 2010 4:23 PM
Diana

Rachel is working quite well at Churchill, I love how some people have her practically a retired broodmare as she will "never be the same". <roll eyes>

I saw her up close and personal in Saratoga last year, she looked like she had quite a happy life to me, cooling out under the trees, getting her bath, posing for photos, interested in everything. I have a great shot where she is looking right at me, gave me goosebumps.  She did not look like an unhappy horse.

I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I could care less if the two ever meet on the track.  They are both such stupendous mares, I truly hate to see one lose to another. And of course the extremist fans will have all kinds of nasty things to say about the winner, and excuses for the loser. It won't ever end, even if they end up racing one another.

So I'll just continue to go along admiring both girls, and hoping and praying they each retire safely.

12 Apr 2010 4:39 PM
sodapopkid

You are so right Donna.  RA fans want to give Zenyatta her due respect but cant bring themselves to do it unless they bring up RA,  You are right, This is Zenyatta's time, Although she didnt face much in the AB, She raced whatever was brave enough to take her on, and to date, everything that RA that was any good, Zenyatta has beat them all in one race.

12 Apr 2010 4:58 PM
DinkyDiva

Thank You Steve for the article and I'm sorry that you have had to delete some of these nasty comments.  There really shouldn't be any.  But, on other blogs, people have gotten so rude and nasty towards one another and towards the Two Great Divas that it's sickening!

I am a die hard Zen fan but, I love Rach too.  I just don't appreciate Rach's connections.  I loved watching Rach's races last year but, think they pushed her too hard and maybe, washed her up.  In time, we will see.  But, right now, let the Reining Queen have her spot light that is much deserved.  Zen is so much more than just a Race Horse, she is the "peoples horse!"  When was the last time we really heard that?  With the greats as Secratariat and Seattle Slew to name just a couple great Race Horses!  But, she is so much more than that.  She absolutley loves what she does and it shows how happy she truly is!  The fans greet her with applause and she does a lil dance for them.  Amazing!!!  When have we seen this connection between fans and a Queen?  I don't ever really recall anything like it.

Again, Steve thank you and ignore those other fools out there that rant and rave and have tantrums like a two year old!

12 Apr 2010 5:02 PM
tvnewsbadge

I don't buy attempts to ascribe higher level human responses and feelings to race horses, but it's fair to say  Hal Wiggins was the one responsible for what Rachel had become last year.

It's a fair conclusion that  Steve Asmussen and Jack Jackson were able to milk that to their own advantage, their goal being  to continue the ride on the glory train that began with Curlin for another year.

Assuming that Rachel's connections didn't cook her in pursuit of personal glory, we could have a situation today where Asmussen simply doesn't quite know what to do with Rachel.

If that's the case, and Jackson is unwilling to send her to another trainer, then maybe he should just retire her.

12 Apr 2010 5:05 PM
Zarkava

Dr Drunkinbum 11 Apr 2010 11:16 AM

Great post.

Stopped reading after that, because I wanted to turn the computer off in a good mood. =)

12 Apr 2010 5:49 PM
helsbelles

I love what you wrote Dona, and I wish I could express myself like you do every time.  I too worship the ground, be it natural dirt or synthetic, that Zenyatta walks on.  Steve would, and did, call that obsessive.  Steve, I resemble that remark, and am proud of it!  

I do agree that east coast based writers always bring up Rachel (whose name always appears first) when they write about Zenyatta -- case in point, the title of the BH article about Zenyatta's Apple Blossom read:  "No Rachel, BUT the Zenyatta show goes on".  I was appauled.  I think when Zenyatta has her first baby, the headline will read:  "Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra's rival Zenyatta has first foal".  I have come to expect and accept it.  Where I disagree with you Dona, and others, is that this applies to Steve Haskin in this article.  He weaved the two mares experiences (brilliantly, as only he can) into a historical perspective, instead of just rah-rah Zenyatta.  Steve's heart will never be in question.  

12 Apr 2010 6:07 PM
Paula Higgins

Dr Drunkinbum, I just paid my endodontist $1,400 cash up front for the SECOND time in two weeks for root canals ($2,800). Therefore, I cannot possibly pay  my back dues to The Steve Haskins Fan Club, which come to $729.00 plus change. However, I can pay  $7.29 LOL.

moodygirl, I cannot tell you how much I enoyed your post about Kinscem and Man O'War. Simply wonderful little tidbits I didn't know. Animals bond just like people don't they?

you can count me as among the people who will love Zenyatta and Rachel whether they win or lose. I think I would love them even more.

Speaking of Rachel, she had a GREAT work today, which gladdened my heart. She may be on the way back.

12 Apr 2010 6:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Helsbelles, please read my comments carefully before referring to them innacurately.

you wrote: "I too worship the ground, be it natural dirt or synthetic, that Zenyatta walks on.  Steve would, and did, call that obsessive.  Steve, I resemble that remark, and am proud of it!"

First off I dont know what "resemble the remark" means, second, my comment you referred to read: "I do appreciate the vast majority of people who read the blog and comment, but some of the comments border on obsessive and a misguided disdain for a horse."

Now, read it again and tell me if I said obsessive in regard to worshipping Zenyatta or obsessive in regard to one's disdain for a horse. Disdain as in intense dislike.  

12 Apr 2010 6:54 PM
L.Stein

I TRULY AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT RACHEL AND I REALLY HOPE SHE COMES BACK INTO GOOD FORM, ALTHOUGH I AM SKEPTICAL BECAUSE OF SUCH A VIGOROUS CAMPAIGN LAST YEAR. I WILL SAY THOUGH, JUST BECAUSE ZENYATTA DID NOT GET HORSE OF THE YEAR LAST YEAR, DOES NOT MEAN FOR ONE MINUTE SHE WAS ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE QUEEN. SHE HAS PROVEN THAT OVER AND OVER AGAIN. ONE DAY WHEN SHE STOPS WINNING IF SHE IS NOT RETIRED BEFORE THAT SHE WILL GIVE UP THE REIGNING QUEEN TITLE, BUT SHE WILL ALWAYS BE A QUEEN TO ME. I HAVE NEVER SEEN A HORSE WITH THAT MUCH PRESENCE ON THE TRACK OR OFF. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!! LIKE ANN MOSS SAYS "EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC."

12 Apr 2010 7:03 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

      While I am being redundant, Once again, Bravo on another perfectly written piece...

It is beyond me that people can't appreciate both of these great Champion's, Zenyatta and Rachel...

Here is the lastest video of Zenyatta taken by Mr. Shirreffs yesterday, April 11th, Priceless...

www.youtube.com/watch

12 Apr 2010 7:07 PM
YYZGUY

Dona you hit the nail on the head. I don't understand need for most writers to have to reference the 2009 HOTY to Zenyatta constantly. Up until the HOTY was announced, was understandable. They were both considered for the award, the votes were counted and the 3yo filly won the contest. Even up until there was speculation they were going to meet in the Apple Blossom, understandable. But once the matchup was off, time to move on. It's horse racing and the story is about who won, not who didn't show up. The reason horses such as Affirmed and Alydar are talked about together to this day, is because they raced against each other on the racetrack, many times. Until the 2009 HOTY actually enters the same starting gate as Zenyatta, there is no rivalry worth mentioning. Zenyattas accomplishments stand on there own.  

12 Apr 2010 7:46 PM
LDP

I really love how some people still can't just love them both. Donna, I am a die hard RA fan, but I think Zenyatta is fantastic too. I don't understand why a person can't see that even though they have a favorite, that the other is still a great horse and deserves respect. Also for the intense hatred of many to JJ and SA. JJ didn't have to bring Curlin back at four, let alone travel to Dubai, try turf, or go to BC to please the crowd, yet he did. He could've just retired Curlin as soon as he got majority interest, or kept him as an inactive racehorse, but he didn't. JJ also didn't have to buy RA and send her on a campaign that had the nation comparing her to Ruffian and calling her one of the best horses of the decade. He could've run her in the Preakness then just kept her against fillies or let her old owners run her against a bunch of overmatched fillies. He was the one who gained the publicity for the sport, HE allowed RA to show her strength and carry the sport, HE allowed her to be a superhorse. Then, even after the season she had, when most owners wouldn't even bother to try and follow it up with another season, he brings her back as a four year old. He could've retired her after her loss, but he didn't. Many of you will say he just hasn't yet, but you also said that with in a couple of weeks we would see RA retired, well it's been more than a couple of weeks and RA just fired a bullet at CD.

Someone said that RA fans want to give Zen fans her due, but can't, well in all honesty the crazed fans that are on the Z side and give her more rational fans a bad name, can't even bring themselves to praise RA. Somebody called RA the "four month wonder." Seriously? She ran from mid Feb to early Sept, and gave racing one of the most thrilling rides ever. By the same token ppl call Zen the Cali wonder, which is absurd. I will admit I get aggrevated when a Z fan brings up all the fabulous accomplishments of Z then bashes RA for trying to find weak competiton when taking on boys. I also find it rediculous when a RA fan says something a stupid as Cali wonder and blasts Zen. I offer my opinion and facts on why I think RA is the better, but I will not sit here and bash either one of them!

I hate it also with those who say let Z have all the attention, well I have news for you people. THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Do you think Swaps was mentioned without Nashua, Sunday Silence w/o Easy Goer, or dare I say Affirmed w/o Alydar. As far as I know people still can't think of one w/o the other, even though SS beat him in 2 out of the 3 TC races and the BCC? Do people leave out Alydar because he fell short in each of the TC races and could only manage to beat Affirmed, what twice, once by DQ? The same goes with RA and Zen or Zen and RA. They may not have met on the track yet, but they are rivals who seem to continually push each other. Last year RA pushed Zen to the Classic, now Zen's success will push RA to have an even greater season, and we will end up seeing a match up for the ages. Can anyone imagine the Classic? SB, MTB, RA, Esk, LAL, Zen, and QR? Just those names are enough to make any horse racing lover move to the edge of their seats. These two are rivals and will go down in racing history as the greatest female rivalry in the history of racing, just like Affirmed and Alydar are the best male rivalry. In a rivalry history remembers BOTH horses, not just one BOTH. So please accept that it's not just going to be RA, or it's not just going to be Zen. It will forever be BOTH.

12 Apr 2010 8:27 PM
Matthew W

Assmussen on Sat (Stein Show) said "Rachel's not Rachel--yet"...in regards to the query would you go if Zenyatta entered that 1 1/16 Churchill race on Oaks Day...leading some to wonder aloud if they ever will meet--If I own Zen, it's no less than 1 1/8 v fillies/no less than 1 1/4 v Quality Road, and yes, Steve, neither filly needs the other--they are both great--Zenyatta, for three years on top, and Rachel, for that amazing 8 for 8 in eight months! I only hope she's still that good, as many are the "one season wonders"--her Fairgrounds loss did nothing to her luster, and if she's not quite the same horse as she was last year, I do not want to see her try Zenyatta, and vice-versa....

12 Apr 2010 9:34 PM
kyoaks09

After having just returned from Hot Springs for the Apple Blossom I have to say that I was very happy that I made the trip and I was thrilled to death that Zenyatta won.  She entertained all with her dancing and pawing pre-race antics and then went on to win with such ease that it looked absolutely effortless.  Congratulations are in order to Zenyatta, Mile Smith, Mr. Shirreffs, Mr. and Mrs. Moss, Zenyatta fans, and all of her connections on her 16th win in the Apple Blossom.  She is one of a kind and is truly an incredible mare.

With the above being said, I’d like to respond to several previous posts.

tvnewsbadge,  

As a Rachel fan, I’d like to thank you for what appears to me to be very level headed comments posted by you.  From several of your previous posts, I know that you are a Zenyatta fan with a heart for all horses and for the sport of horseracing.  I especially appreciated your comments about not wanting to see Rachel “offered up as a sacrificial lamb” knowing that she was in no way prepared to race Zenyatta at the point of the Apple Blossom.  Sadly, I have to agree with you that there are fans of BOTH horses that may “jump ship” just as soon as one looses.  You indicated that Rachel had already proven that.  I’d like for you to know that this Rachel fan has not “jumped ship” and does not intend to, but that in no way is intended to reflect negatively on Zenyatta.  There has never been and will never be a nasty comment posted by me about Zenyatta.  She does not deserve it.  Thank you again for your objective attitude.

Linda,

You indicated that you felt that if Mr. Haskin had a vote for Horse of the Year that he voted for Rachel.  If my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Haskin was interviewed on TVG’s “Blinker’s Off” show and specifically stated that he abstained from voting due to the fact that he felt like a vote for one horse would be a vote against the other and he refused to do that.  He further stated that he didn’t like the way the whole process was handled and that he felt like voters should have been allowed to split their votes.  If I am incorrect in my recollection of this, please correct me Mr. Haskin and I do apologize.  It’s just difficult for me to let someone think something that may not be accurate.

Sodapopkid,

I totally agree with you about the differences in the connections of Rachel and Zenyatta.  Zenyatta does seem to be treated like royalty, as she should be, and I wish I could say I felt the same was happening for Rachel.  I think moodygirl hit the nail on the head when she said Rachel had her “Happy Barn” with Hal Wiggins.  His barn was the first one she called home as a filly at the racetrack and Hal had more than enough attention, affection, and love to give to her.  Everyone in his barn made over her and loved her.  She was truly missed.

As far as praising Zenyatta without mentioning Rachel goes, I see nothing wrong with that and I believe that if the situations were reversed,  Zenyatta fans choosing to praise Rachel would also comment on Zenyatta.  I think it’s to be expected.  Accept the positive comments toward Zenyatta and say thank you.  We do mean well.

I had completely forgotten about Dashing Debbie.  Good question about what happened to her.

Zookeeper,

I loved your entire post today at 12:07.  Your comments are what I like to think of a true horseracing fan.  The 2009 Rachel was great.  Why try to change her?  You might be interested in a comment I found today in a Bloodhorse article.

“We’re trying to get her back in the rhythm that she had success with last year, because we were very unsuccessful in trying to alter that,” said Asmusen.

Maybe there’s still hope.

12 Apr 2010 9:45 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zarkava-Thanks !!!!

GJU-I think they've written a ton of songs about her.

12 Apr 2010 9:53 PM
sidekickflats

I was glad to see Rachel had a good work today.  Hopefully we will see her in a race in the not to distant future.  

Someone mentioned Zen and Rachel's first foals.  I think Rachel's should be named Sweeter than Wine

and Zen's should be named Speed Figure This.

12 Apr 2010 9:54 PM
Dona

Let me make this clear, I love Steve's column. I truly enjoy his commentary. Being a long time daily reader of the great Jim Murrary, it pains me to say this, but there's not many out there that can, as you so eloquently put it, "weave the two mares experience into a historical perspective". My point was, I wanted to read about Zenyatta and or any other winners this past weekend. I did not want a Rachel perspective because Rachel didn't race. You see, I don't believe Rachel has anything to do with what Zenyatta has accomplished and vice versa. Yes, I know it's all about them meeting, who's the best with everyone wanting a match up but I'm beginning to wonder if there's only going to be a loser. The signs are becoming ominous. Rachel's defeat changed everything for some out there. Mark my words, no matter what Zenyatta does, there are those that will down play her ability, refuse to give her the accolades she deserves and whine away with their pitiful excuses for the fallen foe or dismiss them entirely. You see, try as we may, there is no rivalry. These mares are as different as night and day, each in their own right have had the limelight, each with their own path. Different. Totally different. Had Rachel come to California, it may have been different. Had Rachel not lost to Zardana, it may have been different. Now, the important thing is Zenyatta being unbeaten. That's the story, that's what's happening, history of unparalled accomplishment in our lifetimes. Zenyatta not Rachel. As Rachel fans say, referring to 2008, that was last year and what has she done now. They are right about one thing, what was, was. Rachel is not now or will ever be unbeaten. That's not a feat she can share with Zenyatta, and therin lies my point. Zenyatta won this past weekend, traveled out of state, ran on dirt, remains unbeaten but still has to share the glory with Rachel from someone that I disagreed with. Am I obsessive with Zenyatta? I don't believe so. I think it's a case of being trained or untrained (apologies to Man on Fire for stealing that line) and I think I'm trained. I've had a lifetime of getting ready for Zenyatta. I stood in front of her, a few feet away and shook so much, I could hardly take her picture. Native Diver and John Henry had the same effect on me. People ask if there was ever a horse that played the crowd like Zenyatta does and yes, they both did. Not the same way, but both would stop, turn, and stare at the adoring masses, taking it all in, then going about their business of winning. Great horses know they are different. I truly believe that. Now, if the people could only know this, maybe we would give the mighty their kuddos when they earn it. History stands in Zenyatta's way not Rachel. I want to see Zenyatta do it. What ever that is and where ever she runs, I want to see it. I also want to read about it and relive it. Bathing in this special mare's accomplishment is inspiring and invigorating. I like that feeling.

13 Apr 2010 12:10 AM
hotstepper

Zenyatta and Rachel will always be talked about together because they're the best female horses ever racing in the same years. I think their accomplishments are equal so far, and Rachel's last race should be disregarded because they tried to change her running style, that's why she got beat. I love them both, but Zenyatta is my favorite.

13 Apr 2010 12:47 AM
moodygirl

Karen in Indiana, What a hoot! I thought exactly the same thing when I saw that picture of Zenyatta leaving the starting gate with the other horses. Her hind end looked twice the size of the others.

Tvnewsbadge, I don't think Rachel's fans are abandoning ship. I think it is the dissatisfaction with Jess Jackson's care & management of her that is causing a bad taste in their mouths. Zenyatta won't lose her fans either. Sports fans are not as fickle as you think; again my example of the long suffering Cleveland Browns fans. Talking about Zenyatta's winning streak, looks & size are part of her greatness; the same as talking about RA's history making 2009 season. Fans love a come back. They will still be rooting for RA and Zenyatta if she ever loses.

Drunkinbum, one more thing. Were you drinking just a little too much when you said Jess Jackson tried to run RA in the AB for the good of the sport? Perhaps you were just being kind like Mr. Haskin.

13 Apr 2010 1:47 AM
shane

Well for all of you people who think Rachel is not Rachel anymore....she just fired a nice bullet 1:12 galloped out in a 1:25.....I hope she goes in the LaTrieone and woooooops Zardana's butt. Then we will see whats up for the rest of the year....I'm happy now

13 Apr 2010 9:06 AM
berttheclock

With apologies to a regular poster, Zenyatta does appear to have a passion for purses of another kind.  The first place money purses, that is.

13 Apr 2010 9:36 AM
Bob Z

Greg J,

Thank you for posting the vid of Zenyatta...

Team Zenyatta is winning the PR campaign by submitting these behind the scenes videos of her....

I hope they continue to do that...

Now if we could get another camp to do the same that would be good...

13 Apr 2010 9:37 AM
Slew

TV newsbadge: having been around since before Citation, his was the first I remember.  Finally televised in 1952, I have watched them all since.  I cannot recall there ever being such vile and venom even through the 70's with 3 Triple Crown winners.  There were of course sportswriters who might criticize one horse or another, but never with such vitriol as in the RA/Zen controversy.  Of course, there wasn't the instant gratification back then like the blogs of today where every Tom, Dick or Mary has to add their 2 or 5 cents.  Back in the 70's, the Slew was my favorite, but there was absolutely nothing I could say against Secretariat or Affirmed.  They were all flawless...and if you loved one, you still respected the others.  Perhaps the biggest controversies back then were over the jockeys, never the horses.  We had Arcaro, and Shoemaker, Hartack and Turcotte.  People either loved or hated the jockeys...NEVER, NEVER the horses.  I still don't understand how anyone can call themselves a fan of horse racing, and then turn around and disparage any horse.  It's an oxymoron of extremities.  Perhaps the controversy over RA/Zen is just a symptom of a general societal ill...a lack of respect for anything and anyone except our own self-centered world, where we "think" that we are the only person whose opinion counts.

13 Apr 2010 9:39 AM
Dona

Greg J. - Your the Man!

Just poured my coffee, sat down and wow!  Love this horse and the people around her. Greg, this made my day and it's only a little past 7a.m.

I was very remiss in not thanking sodapopkid (my nick name was similar when I was a kid) and helsbelles for their kind comments. I have a tendency to rant and rave, duh, about some things and it's hard for me to stay focused. I think it's a curse of the times and not my downfalling. There's too much going on with things to do for me to recognize my limitations or maybe I'm too busy being a haranguer. In any event, thanks Steve and bloodhorse for giving us a venturesome place to visit.

I'm incapable of putting any thought of the Derby contenders down until I digest and dispart the latest earnings list. Seems like a reasonable excuse to me.

13 Apr 2010 10:15 AM
Slew

I just remembered, the biggest controversy over horses was 1977 between Affirmed and Alydar...but no one ever bashed either one since Alydar is the only horse ever to place in all 3 legs of the Triple Crown.

13 Apr 2010 10:34 AM
MonicaV

Zookeeper,

You are a true horse lover and a classy person as well.  That was a wonderfully heartfelt post and I'm so glad you blog.  I get so tired of the fact that most people cannot appreciate both horses, having to trash the one that they don't love.  There are way too few people like you.  Thanks for sharing your big heart.

13 Apr 2010 11:18 AM
Blue Blue Sea

Thanks for a great article. I will forever be in the Rachel camp, but you can't be a true fan of the game and not appreciate each of these awesome racehorses - and let's leave it at that - we always refer to them as fillies or mares - but they are greats, pure and simple

13 Apr 2010 11:50 AM
SMTDL

I agree with earlier comments about over-zealous Zenyatta fans denigrating Rachel Alexandra.While Zenyatta is great, she certainly can't be called the greatest horse ever( as some are doing) and a reasonable debate on best female racehorse of all time can certainly be made.Being undefeated and physically majestic don't automatically make for greatness.Some comments are heavier on those aspects than competition,race times ,race surface and locales.Like it or not Zenyatta HAS been more of a synthetic track specialist,and regional or local horse;just having her 2nd race outside Calif and just her 2nd race on a dirt track.Albeit 2 races on synthetic surfaces were Breeder's Cup races and therefore are very significant!!These are just facts not criticisms.So how do her accomplishments get so inflated by some.Case in point,I keep hearing how her Apple Blossom race was amazing.Why is winning a grade 1 mile an an eighth race in just 150.17 so amazing even if its by almost 5 lengths.Nice and impressive performance but not extraordinary by most standards.

I just would like to see Zenyatta do more to get get such lofty exhaltation esp when it comes by denigrating significant accomplishments by other horses.I too am a big fan of both Rachel and Zenyatta and think they are very close in ability and would race each other very competitively!

13 Apr 2010 12:10 PM
Zookeeper

Greg J.,

Thank you for the link to the new Zenyatta video. Sweet!

13 Apr 2010 12:18 PM
MonicaV

I realize that fillies can be brilliant one year then just lose it the next.  Rachel came back and was beaten by a horse that she would have demolished last year.  In my humble opinion, she just wasn't ready.  I don't believe Mr. Jackson did anything wrong.  When he mentioned Rachel racing against Zen at the Eclipse awards, he said the AB was too soon for her as she had missed training from the rainy weather.  When the big matchup was declared for the two of them with a 5million purse, it seemed like it would be a good idea and the interest was phenomenal. JJ was game with an extra week but Rachel wasn't ready.  She had been off for 5 months and apparently, the strain of the Woodward win caused her a 100 pound loss and fatigue.  She needed time to recoup.  She didn't win her first race back but she is still Rachel.  Equipment change and trying to change her running style back to stalking probably upset her and she truly wasn't fit yet.  Rachel is a horse in a million.  She was born with a will to win and an undaunted spirit.  I have not the slightest doubt that Rachel will return to form and I will go even further...I think she will be better than last year.  She needed the time she was off and she needed that first race.  She is coming into her prime and she will return as wonderful and as competitive as before.  She isn't finished yet and I have not abandoned her because of her loss, losses happen, it does not diminish her in any way.  She will provide more thrills this year make this racing year as good as last year.  Bless both Rachel and Zenyatta for giving us so much to look forward to.

13 Apr 2010 1:34 PM
sodapopkid

LDP, Why can't you ever acknowledge Zenyatta without bringing RA into the picture.  If you feel you can't do it, then dont comment on Zenyatta,  You don't want us to do Ra like that,  most of us just don't comment because we dont want to rain on either one's parade at the time.  And you are always saying smack to someone else, we dont live for JJ and whatever horses he is running, Curling, why do we care about hearing about him comeing back at four,  truth is , he shoud still be running at six.  Quit trying to rain on Zenyatta's parade , when your horse gets back on the tracks , you can celebrate all you want to,  until then let others get their due credit without hearing of other horses.  Because ,, right now, Aint none of them as famous as Zenyatta.

13 Apr 2010 2:25 PM
kathleen

Oh, they love to watch her......strut, oh, they do respect her but......they love to watch her....strut.  GJU, how fitting is that song for the Queen.  What an amazing animal, why is she sharing the limelight.  It should shine where it belongs.  It's 2010, not 2009.

13 Apr 2010 2:26 PM
sodapopkid

Ra fans: Ra had one good bullet work, great for her, now next month she should be able to face Zenyatta. right?????

13 Apr 2010 2:46 PM
chris

Steve...When Ali fought Frazier in 1971, I can remember listening to the round by round re-cap on the radio, and was crushed when Ali lost late in the fight.  By the end of the Thrilla in Manilla, it was impossible not to have the utmost respect for them both.  So it is with these two horses.  One can root for one or the other, but it is impossible to objectively not have the greatest admiration for both.  Incidentally, "I resemble that remark" was made famous by Curly Howard of the Three Stooges when Moe would call him a knucklehead or some other inanity.

13 Apr 2010 3:00 PM
Pam S.

I speculated in an earlier post that the Stephen Foster might be a good next start for Zenyatta, and it looks like the Mosses are considering it.  But what about Rachel?  When might her next start be?  I guess it won't be the La Troienne because it's getting close and they probably didn't nominate.  

On Friday, watching the Apple Blossom at a race book (because I don't get HRTV), I sat next to a guy and we talked about Rachel.  He said he didn't think she would start until the Saratoga meet.  I asked him why he thought it would be so long, and he said, "Because Zenyatta would not show up, or would be at a disadvantage if she did, because of the East Coast summer humidity."  ???  One fan's opinion.

I'm originally from PA, and I do remember it would get very hot and humid sometimes in the summer.  If Queen Z caught a humid day at Saratoga or Delaware, would that be enough to beat her?  Personally, I don't think so.  I could picture Rachel in the Ruffian Hcp, but hope we won't have to wait that long.

13 Apr 2010 3:11 PM
15945

I feel like most posts now come with a disclaimer, so here's mine: I admire both horses greatly, but in a race between the two, I'd be rooting for Zenyatta. Rachel's 2009 campaign was nothing short of brilliant, but I wish everyone who knocked the Zenyatta camp's choices would consider this: what consequences did Rachel's grueling year have and which horse seems more poised to dominate 2010? Rachel consistently left everything she had on the track in her determination, to the point where it's hard to tell if she'll bounce back as a four year old, especially now without the weight breaks she got last year. In contrast, the Shirreffs barn seems to have a fully fresh and better than ever six year old ready for battle. So, in my opinion, it's fine for people to bash Zenyatta on the basis of her schedule, but only if you can appreciate her trainer's ability in keeping her sound and fresh for so long and only if you can admit that the path that Asmussen and Jackson chose may have been the filly's downfall, however nobly she rose to the challenge.

13 Apr 2010 3:13 PM
pas

Slew: but remember in, what, 1989? Sunday Silence was bashed quite a bit by people who thought no matter what he did, Easy Goer was the better horse. he won two legs of the Triple Crown and won the BCC over EG, and still people didn't want him. a number of people voted against him and for EG for HOTY. they met 4 times, SS winning 3 of them, 2 in the biggest races of the year, and EG should get HOTY? poor horse had to be shipped to Japan to get any love from breeders. and then he was a god over there. he deserved better from Americans.

13 Apr 2010 5:19 PM
LDP

Sodapopkid,

How exactly did I trash talk here or rain on anybody's parade. I basicly said quit fighting and learn to love both. Nobody left Alydar out of the picture and nobody ever will because he helped make Affirmed who he was. It is the same way with RA and Zen, you can't do it unless you are one of those fans, who as Steve said, harbor a great disdain for one of the horses. I love both an I am happy Zenyatta won, I am happy she came out of Cali, and I am overjoyed she is looking at the Stephen Foster and other races like the Whitney and Woodward. I cannot wait to see her in the gate for those races and I can't wait until she, RA and countless of other big names show up in the BCC to face off. Zenyatta is finally being unleashed and I am OVERJOYED about it. Now the world will get to see just how great she is. So please, quit making your false accusations, especially when you yourself do your own fair amount of trash talking, and back off.

13 Apr 2010 5:49 PM
MonicaV

sodapopkid,

nobody said Rachel would beat Zenyatta after one good work.  It just means she's on the road back.

13 Apr 2010 5:55 PM
Slew

I goofed...the Affirmed/Alydar rivalry was 1978.

And by the 70's new jockeys emerged such as Cruguet, Pincay, Delahoussaye, Turcotte..etc...and Shoemaker was still riding then too.

13 Apr 2010 5:56 PM
Paula Higgins

berthteclock, LOL I got it!!!! Yes, and for the record there isn't a purse I own that makes me happier than those two fillys.

13 Apr 2010 6:24 PM
Slew

Pas:  I was a Sunday Silence fan...so I was really thrilled for him.  Yes, people latched on to a rivalry, but it's never been as thoroughly violent as the RA/Zen arguments.   Enuff said.  Folks...if you're a true horse racing fan...you appreciate all of the horses that run....if you don't...you're just a blogger trying to scream louder than everyone else....but definitely not a fan of the horses themselves.

13 Apr 2010 6:51 PM
kyoaks09

Pam S.,

I, too, think and have read that Zenyatta might be pointing toward the Stephen Foster.  It seems like the perfect place for her to get a race in especially with the Breeders' Cup being at CD this year.  I would love to be present to see her take on the boys and I already know I'll be in Louisville at that time!!!

Although there's been no comment on where Rachel might race next, I do know that she WAS nominated for the 1 1/16 La Troienne to be run on April 30th.  Nominations closed on April 7th and there were a total of 26 nominated for the race.  We all know though, that just because she was nominated does NOT mean she will run.  There are always many more nominations than there are starters and Rachel could easily fall into that category.

13 Apr 2010 7:18 PM
Greg J.

Dona,

     Glad that made your day :)

Here is a short video, But, Just as good...

Zenyatta Bowing for her fans:

www.youtube.com/watch

13 Apr 2010 9:20 PM
Matthew W

They want to dirt Zenyatta--she'll be on display out there--I love this! I love thinking about these two giants of the turf--and they're fillies! I saw Cascapedia try males at 1 1/4--almost winning--I rate a thoroughbred at 1 1/4, dirt--I have ZERO fillies on my top 100---if Zenyatta keeps it up, my gosh, I never thought a filly could compete with the boys like these two have done! If they want to try Zenyatta, they all will get their chance, three cheers for The Moss's--for throwing care to the wind, for taking their unbeaten mare on the road---that is a most sporting gesture!

13 Apr 2010 9:22 PM
sodapopkid

nobody said Rachel would beat Zenyatta after one good work.  It just means she's on the road back

Yeah, thats what I thought. She will have to have about 20 of them workouts before JJ puts her in a race with Zenyata.

13 Apr 2010 9:38 PM
Zookeeper

kyoaks & Monica V.,

Thank you for understanding what I was trying to say. Words can be so lacking...

13 Apr 2010 9:48 PM
sidekickflats

Sea the Stars - Zenyatta ??

I was browsing the web and on The Examiner website is a quote from Joh Sherriffs saying that he would recommend Zen going to Sea The Stars when she is retired.  I believe that Zarkava is in foal to him now.  So both the big undefeated Z's going to Stars? Interesting.  Of course that doesn't mean that they will end up doing that but it looks like they might think outside the box a bit.

13 Apr 2010 10:10 PM
moodygirl

I have never been to Churchill Downs or to a big race for that matter. Today I got a brain storm and realized I could see Zenyatta in person if she goes to the Stephen Foster. Churchill D is in driving distance so I went on line to see if I could get tickets. The only tickets left were general Admission, standing room only. They were only $3 so I'm not out much if she doesn't show up.

I said why not? and bought some. I'm very excited. I didn't think I would EVER get a chance to see her in person. I know there is the Breeders Cup and I requested information on tickets, but you never know what the future holds.

It feels like back in the day when your favorite rock star was coming to town and you camped out all night waiting for it.

I really need some advice from you Churchill veterans out there. With my standing room only tickets where should I try to stand to get a good look at Mighty Mare? How early should I get there? the tickets say 11:30am. Any advice you can share will be appreciated.

Also what do you all think about RA's good workout time this week, especially in light of Asmussens comment a few days earlier that she was not back to where she was last year, or something along those lines. I don't have the exact quote right now.

14 Apr 2010 12:51 AM
Gary Lynn

LDP...JJ "allowed her to be a superhorse." How do you know what Hal Wiggins might have had in mind for later that year. Maybe she would have shown up at Santa Anita if she had not busted a gut against males in late summer. Also, you use the term rivals somewhat loosely. The examples you give were "true" rivals as they met head-to-head. Are you a Red Sox or Yankee fan? A true rivalry. And in NO way did Rachel push Zenyatta to the Classic. It was that camps game plan all along.

14 Apr 2010 3:39 AM
Sharon Scarpello

Wow...what a beautifully written, thoughtful piece.

14 Apr 2010 7:20 AM
kathleen

moodygirl,  I always love your comments.  You're right about companion animals for race horses.  That is where the term 'getting your goat' came from.  Many racehorses had goats for companionship, and a rival trainer would sometimes steal the opponents goat prior to a big race.  

Dona, you capture my feelings about the Z master quite well.  I've been around horses most of my life, and she is truely unique.  There is a communication between horses that few humans can pick up on, and Zenyatta is clearly letting the competition know she's going to kick a--!

14 Apr 2010 10:08 AM
sodapopkid

SIDEKICKFLATS:

I have always hoped Zenyatta would be bred to STS,  My gosh, can you imagine what a price  they could get for the foals???   The Mosses would probably keep Zen's foals though. At least a couple of them.

14 Apr 2010 10:38 AM
sodapopkid

GREG J:

That is simply beautiful,  isnt it Ra fans, you have to agree.

When have we ever seen a horse do the entertaining like this girl does? When? Never.

GregJ, she is the best race horse in the world, I don't think Z will ever want to retire, she loves to race and she loves to dance, she loves the attention she gets,  she is perfect and soooooooooooooo special and she knows it.

14 Apr 2010 10:48 AM
Linza

I hope Zenyatta runs in New York!! Belmont would be more doable, but I'd drive to Saratoga. Someone mentioned the humidity - she's gotta be used to heat being in California, but I hadn't thought about humidity.

14 Apr 2010 10:48 AM
MonicaV

Moodygirl,

If  you're within driving distance to Churchill, GO!  I've been there a few times all the way from CA.  It is well worth it!  Zenyatta will more than likely run there and you can see her in person.  There is nothing like seeing a horse like that up close.  It is such a thrill to see greatness standing right there in front of you not to mention being at such a historic track.  It's beautiful and the museum is not to be missed.

I hope you go!

14 Apr 2010 11:01 AM
MonicaV

Greg J.,

I really enjoyed the clip of Zen and the Zenyatta horse figure!  She is such a sweet girl!

14 Apr 2010 11:06 AM
MonicaV

pas,

You are so right!  I loved Sunday Silence and Easy Goer but being a Californian, Sunday was my favorite.  I remember a year or two ago, the retired jockeys were doing some race exhibitions and Pat Day mentioned that Easy Goer was a better horse than Sunday.  Still, Sunday Silence gets no respect.  Having beaten EG 3 out of 4 times still doesn't mean anything.  I was very fortunate to have seen the both race and will always remember how great they both were.

14 Apr 2010 11:11 AM
Slew

Moodygirl..I loved your thoughts...to add my meager contribution, Smarty Jones had a companion pony who also was his lead pony for races.  They called him Butterscotch. The companion traveled everywhere with Smarty Jones.  Because horse are essentially herd animals, they do need that kinship.

14 Apr 2010 11:15 AM
MonicaV

LDP,

Nobody needs to help you out, you're quite capable of defending yourself!  I just don't think another blogger should tell you what you can and cannot mention in your posts.  You have the right to say whatever you want but you already expressed yourself beautifully as always.

14 Apr 2010 11:15 AM
Slew

I might add...a lot of racehorses have had companions..Exterminator had successive companions all named Peanuts; Pebbles had a companion horse, and this little gem I found on line about the great Kelso: "But keeping Kelso happy was hard work. His owners bought him lots of dogs, so he was one racehorse that had pets. He also wouldn’t travel without his best friend, a racehorse named Sea Spirit, known as Pete, who was Kelso’s companion for fifteen years." Lovely

14 Apr 2010 11:32 AM
sidekickflats

So the same day as the Stephen Foster is a grade 2, mile and 1/8 race for fillies and mares called the Fleur De Lis.  Could we see Rachel in that and Zen in the Stephen Foster?

They might prefer 1  1/16 for Rachel's race but who knows.  

14 Apr 2010 1:16 PM
kathleen

greg j, thanks for the link to the bow.  It just put a big smile on my face.

14 Apr 2010 3:05 PM
LDP

Gary Lynn,

If it was there plan all along, tell me why they waited until the post postitions were drawn to make their decision? Had RA not been running last year I doubt Zen would've gone in the Classic, seeing that another unbeaten season, even if all against fillies, would've been enough to earn her the crown. The Mosses knew that the ONLY option to have a possiblity winning HOTY was to run in and win the Classic. Had RA lost the Woodward, I highly doubt Zenyatta would've been entered in the Classic.

Also, Wiggens wouldn't have ever entered her against colts, never, because it was the owner's belief that "fillies should run with fillies and stallions with stallions." He also stated that the TC was a showcase for future stallions. Well, that didn't quite work out last year since the first two legs were won by a gelding and a filly. So, had she not been bought by JJ, she would've never raced colts, which is part of why her HOTY season was so historic. She could've very well have gone to the BC and won had she been kept with her previous connections, but she would not have had the historic year she had last year without Jess Jackson.

I already outlined why they are rivals, dispite the fact they have not officially met on the track. That is in fact the only way they are not rivals, everything else the compete for. The competed for HOTY, they compete to the nations leading filly/mare, even flat out horse. They push each other, despite having never met. By Zenyatta coming back and probably going to run, what seems to be, a historical season, she is pushing RA to come back and have an even better season than her 09 season. RA's historic season last year was what promted the Classic. They may not have met, but they are always compared, and alway seem to be indirectly pushing the other to do more daring things.

Monica V,

You have a much kinder way with words than I seem to have, but I have agreed with every post you have put up on this thread. Thank your for the compliment. I try to keep things real, and don't really care if someone want to try to tell me to tone it down. If I believe it's true, and nobody has proven facts to shut me up, well then I'm just going to keep on with my preaching.

14 Apr 2010 3:19 PM
moodygirl

Greg J, THANK You!!!! I wanted to see that video of Zenyatta taking a bow so much & didn't know where to look. Mike Smith said she did that for the first time and it was not shown on the TV broadcast. It made my day. The announcer sounded like he was introducing the heavy weight boxing champion of the world and then she takes a bow as if on cue. WOW!

14 Apr 2010 4:38 PM
Diane J

Just a random thought...can RA and Zen really be considered rivals if they've never raced against each other?  I think the rivalry is on the fans' part, not the horses.  

14 Apr 2010 4:50 PM
helsbelles

Steve, I did read the sentence again, several times in fact.  The word "and" made me think you were referring to two separate things, one being obsession and the other being disdain.  Actually, I am releaved because I felt a little hurt that you were mocking my zeal for Zenyatta, which I see now you were not.  Again, I apologize for the misunderstanding;  I would never intentionally misquote you.

14 Apr 2010 5:25 PM
sodapopkid

LDP:

Since you seem to have first hand knowledge of Ra all the time, tell me this, How many races this year do you see JJ running to put Ra in that will have Zenyatta in them,  Zenyatta is going to run on dirt two more times this year we know for sure,  so, tell me ,will he make sure the next race on dirt for   Zenyatta , will he make sure he has Ra in it??????

You know Zen came for Ra in the AB, and Ra was a NO Show, so now it is up to JJ to go hunt Zneyatta down,  So do you think by June RA will be ready to meet Zenny on dirt????

What could possibly thwart that???

14 Apr 2010 6:08 PM
Karen in Texas

moodygirl---Your post regarding companions and consistency in the lives of animals, including racehorses, made a valid point. Perhaps Rachel does have a special friend or two that we simply do not know about at this time. As the Asmussen-trained Curlin travelled the world, he was allowed to have his special "pony", Pancho, with him constantly and they became famous for their togetherness. I am linking an article on them here.

As I remember it, Skip Away's entourage included several cats. Someone else mentioned Smarty Jones and Butterscotch, and there was a bond between Barbaro and Messaging as well. I will attempt to find out whether Rachel has a companion animal or friend---I suspect she does.

cs.bloodhorse.com/.../pancho-update-livin-it-up-at-oaklawn-park.aspx

14 Apr 2010 6:30 PM
Susan

Greg J,

Thank you for posting the video. That's really a "kodak moment". We won't ever see THAT again!

14 Apr 2010 6:37 PM
Zookeeper

Diane J,

I agree with you. The rivalry (as of now) is only in the people's mind. If they never race each other, the racing history books will probably detail the fantastic career of each horse without ever mentioning the other because there is no point in it, if they have not met on the track. Completely different than Affirmed & Alydar.

Now, on a list of the greatest horses, they will be compared the same way that Secretariat and Man of War are. Not as actual rivals but as to who was the best race horse.

LDP,

As you well know, opinions are not facts. It is difficult to dispute opinions, especially if they are based on assumptions of what other people thought or would have done IF such & such had occured or not occured. Speculations are fun but they are only speculations and can not be disputed the way that facts are. And THAT's my opinion! lol!

14 Apr 2010 6:50 PM
helsbelles

Steve, I won't bother you again with this issue, but there would have been no misunderstanding if the sentence had read:  I hate to say this, because I do appreciate the vast majority of people who read the blog and comment, but some of the comments border on an obsessive and misguided disdain for a horse (rather than some of the comments border on obsessive and a misguided disdain for a horse).  Mr. Haskin, I told you I look forward to reading EVERY WORD you write in 2010.  One of my faults is that I do read things too carefully.  Again, I apologize for my misinterpretation.

14 Apr 2010 6:59 PM
John

Steve,

Enough already!  Wasn't it YOU that wanted to vote for both horses for HOY, or NOT VOTE AT ALL?

Steve, it's time to get off the fence.

It's either Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra.

Your're pandering to Rachel Alexandra during this time that obviously belongs to Zenyatta is just further cover-up of your indecision.

Steve, it's either Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta.

Others in the media have recently fessed up and admitted their huge mistake in backing Rachel Alexandra for HOY.

Steve Finley of ESPN.com that voted RA for HOY just called Zenyatta the "best horse in the world".

Clair Novak of NTRA called Zenyatta "a national treasure".

Joe Drape of the New York Times called Zenyatta "the perfect racehorse".

Art Wilson of the Pasadena Star News called Zenyatta not only the greatest female racehorse of alltime but the GREATEST racehorse of alltime.

Beth Harris of the Associated Press called Zenyatta a gift 'from God'.

And many, many more.

Steve, it's time to get off the fence.

It's either Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta.

14 Apr 2010 7:05 PM
DinkyDiva

I can never get enough of watching Zen in everything she does.  Her character and charisma are like that of no other horse I have ever, ever seen!

14 Apr 2010 7:38 PM
LDP

Soda,

Where did I ever claim to have firsthand knowledge? I've been stating facts that have already occured to back up my opinion, unlike you have been. Even in this post where you say "Zenyatta came for RA in the AB" you are wrong. The AB was on Zenyatta's list of races before Cella ever mentioned a "Race for the Ages." In fact before Cella made such a big deal of it, JJ didn't want to start in it. Now you can say he did it for the money or for the good of the sport, with his track record with Curlin and with RA last year, I would say his agreeing to try and ready RA for the AB was for the good of the sport. You can have your own opinion on that matter.

IMO her last race did a lot to get her back into shape, she needed it. The move to CD also probably helped, since it is probably her favorite track. In saying the race was good for her, I would not say it was enough to prep her for the AB. If I were JJ and Steve I would run her in the stakes on Oaks day. 8.5 furlongs against both Careless Jewel and Zardana would go a good way in prepping her for her next race, which I would have as the Stephen Foster. For her next races I would keep her with older fillies in the Ruffian or DE Handicapp and Personal Ensign. Here is where I would do something a bit different. Either I would enter her in the JCGC, for a final prep, if JJ thinks that wouldn't take too much out of her, or I would go in the Flower Bowl. A win over males and a win on turf would make for great season. Then of course I expect the BCC.

So apparently there are two races off the bat I think will have the two meet. Zen could go in the Personal Ensign or JCGC, but personally I wouldn't expect more than two.

14 Apr 2010 7:44 PM
kyoaks09

Greg J.,

Thank you so much for the link to the Zenyatta video.  It was wonderful. I can't help but smile inside when I think about how much she is loved and it's easy to see why.

Zookeeper,

You're welcome.  I appreciate and welcome all who show true feelings and respect for both Rachel and Zenyatta and no, I really don't think Zenyatta will mind.  If I could get close enough to Rachel I'd ask her if she minded if a little of my heart went to Zenyatta, but no one is getting past Amy (Rachel's guard). Rachel's a sweetie so I'll just have to assume she wouldn't.

moodygirl,

I completely agree with Monica V.  If you are within driving distance to CD then by all means go.  I would strongly recommend getting there at least 30 minutes to an hour before the gates open.  Stephen Foster day is usually the second largest day next to Oaks /Derby (with the exception of BC).  Night racing was also quite popular last year.  

I'd also like to suggest that you tour the Derby Muesum.  There was substantial water damage last year due to flooding in parts of Louisville and I don't think that the Museum opens again until close to Derby. It costs about $10 for the admission and if you want, you can pay an extra fee to take a backside tour.  If you've never been on the backside of a track, I'd suggest it.

Assuming you have time, make your way to 3rd Street and Central.  Just down from that intersection is Wagner's.  It's an old time pharmacy with a soda fountain type restaurant in it.  They serve breakfast (beginning at a very early hour) where if you hit it just right you just might see a trainer or two.  Most of the people in there have their racing forms and programs with them and are talking the upcoming or previous day's races. There are horse racing pictures covering every wall.  The history in there is worth your time, in my opinion.

One last suggestion - The Muesum and the tours are great and   Wagner's is fun but you can't do everything in one day.  You might be able to do an early breakfast at Wagner's before the Stephen Foster but I wouldn't try the Museum the same day.  Go and have fun.

Gary Lynn,

You mentioned that no one really knew what Hal might have done if he'd gotten to keep Rachel.  Let's just say that plans were already being discussed (during Oaks/ Derby week) about a trip to California.

sidekickflats,

I could definitely live with Rachel in the Fleur De Lis.  Thanks for mentioning that as a possibility.  I'd never thought of it.

LDP,

As far as Rachel facing the boys with her previous owner Dolph Morrison goes, part of the information quoted by all (not just you) was taken out of context.  The statement was made that "fillies should run with fillies and colts with colts".  Mr. Morrison did make that statement.  I was in the winners' circle when he made it and I had personally heard him say it previously.  I'm not saying I agree with the statement, but it was said.  That statement is what everyone heard and the media took it and ran with it.  In the press conference after the Oaks (and I was there, too) Mr. Morrison again made the same statement.  He was then asked "So you're saying Rachel will never face the boys?" to which he laughed and replied, "Now, I didn't say that.  I said in the Triple Crown races."  As a breeder, Mr. Morrison believed that the Triple Crown races were intended to be a "showcase for the stallions".  Again, I'm not saying that I agree with it.  I'm just stating his feelings about it.  As you or Gary Lynn pointed out, it didn't turn out that way though with a gelding winning the Derby and a filly winning the Preakness.

I have to agree with you that if Mr. Morrison still owned Rachel, we wouldn't have seen her run the campaign that she did last year.  She wouldn't have run in any of Triple Crown races but I can't say whether or not she would've faced the boys later on in the year. I don't believe she would've run 8 times in the year but I do believe she would've been in the Breeders' Cup (Lady's Classic or Classic I can't say).  

14 Apr 2010 10:48 PM
kyoaks09

John,

I just read your last post and if I were you, I wouldn't be looking for a response from Mr. Haskin and I wouldn't blame him for not responding.  No one likes to be pushed.  Why should he have to choose?  He was not the only voter that wanted to be allowed to "split the vote".  What would have been so wrong with honoring both Rachel and Zenyatta?  I can't help but wonder if we wouldn't be where we are rignt now if they had both shared the title.

You listed five different names along with what each of them said about Zenyatta.  I can't disagree with any of their comments and in fact I agree with them.  My question to you is - Who are the "others in the media" that "have recently fessed up and admitted their huge mistake..."?  I didn't any notice names to go along with that.  If you have them, I would suggest that you list those also.  The comments made by the five people you named were, I assume, all made recently as opposed to last year.  I hope you're not taking their comments to mean that they made a "huge mistake".

14 Apr 2010 11:22 PM
Zookeeper

LDP,

I think that you should train both Rachel and Zenyatta, since you already have their schedules worked out. lol!

Don't get mad, I'm just teasing you.  :)

14 Apr 2010 11:32 PM
Footlick

The great French filly Allez France had a goat, after tries with other animals that she chased out of her stall.  The goat was the only animal she liked.  she hated other fillies.  She would paw the ground when she heard any of them.  She didn't like the males much better, and her trainer said she tolerated humans like the were a necessary evil.

15 Apr 2010 12:04 AM
Footlick

As for commenting about Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra- I'd rather not.  Nothing new is being said, and it just keeps going 'roud and 'round.........

15 Apr 2010 12:06 AM
LDP

John,

Why must it be on or the other? There are a lot of people who still love both equally. This a blog, you have no right to tell someone what they MUST do. If Steve wants to be fair and love both equally, let him be. It's a whole lot better than see the zealots and rachelites from each side degenerate a blog into a bunch of meaningless, personal insults.

Zookeeper,

I am not tryint to say my opinion is right or wrong. I know I cannot say that until the two actually do race each other. I am saying I bring facts, and pretty strong facts, normally, to back up what I say.

15 Apr 2010 5:56 AM
Greg J.

John,

    Seriously? It is either Rachel or Zenyatta?  I feel sad for you that you feel the need to "tell" Mr. Haskin that he needs to pick one or the other.  I appreciate the fans that respect both Champions for what they have accomplished and don't feel the need to get into some juvenile argument like you are involved in.  Time to grow up John...

15 Apr 2010 7:45 AM
MonicaV

LDP,

Don't ever change.  You have a fire in you that comes out in your posts.  It's your passion for the horse and for the sport.  You stand up for yourself and don't back down, a quality to be admired.  As I have said before, you are a most unusual person for one so young and I expect that you will be successful in anything you might want to do because you are intelligent and always seeking more knowledge.  I don't know that I am kinder in my words but I am older and with age comes a difference of  what one perceives as important.  Your priorities change with age.  Fighting about who is better regarding RA and Zen is a fruitless battle and really not important as it is just opinion anyway.  What troubles me is how some people are always on the attack.  I don't get that fighting with others over a race horse is that important.  If someone loves Zen over RA or the other way around, that's a personal choice and it is every individual's right but some people set themselves up as the all-knowing, infallible defender of their horse.  Spewing venom and hatred in the name of a horse does not honor the horse, it only makes people resentful.  I have never seen you be hateful, you will be argumentative at times but that's good to feel free to do that.

Mr. Haskin is a great writer and a great horse lover and that's why he will not pick Zen over RA.  He refused to vote for one or the other.  Guess what, John?  That is his right and not something you can dictate to anyone.  No one has the right to tell anyone else how to think or feel.  The things you said are exactly what I was speaking about earlier in this post.  Chill out and enjoy Zenyatta and love her as much as you want, she's more than worthy of that but don't think you can tell others what they can feel or think or choose because as far as I know, nobody appointed you to that position.

15 Apr 2010 11:33 AM
John

Greg J,

"Time to grow up, John..."

I'm afraid son that there were some in the media that called this particular stance of either voting for both or none at all a sign of weakness and indecdision - not me.

My point is simply that we're at a definite 'fork in the road' where one Zenyatta is going in one direction towards being considered within the top ten, or perhaps the top five all time great rachorses in history.

The other, Rachel Alexandra, clearly not as great. In fact, we don't know where she'll end up at when all is said and done.

But there is a definite seperating apart going on now. This is easy to see.

That's the big point. Can't we put all of the Rachel Alexandra accolades on hold till she comes back?

Presently, Zenyatta is heads and shoulders above Rachel Alexandra and must be considered as much.  

That's the difference.

And Greg J. I'm been following horseracing since the early 1960's...

15 Apr 2010 11:47 AM
Bob Z

So since we haven't heard anything other than Rachel worked 6 furlongs in 1:12 ...

I'm wondering what the thought process is for her next race...

Put yourself in the mind of Team Rachel...

The La Troienne is April 30th but that seems too close to run in if we haven't heard much in the way of her being where they want her...

The Stephen Foster is another 6 weeks beyond that... June 12th.

So what do you do with the Foster if its another 6 weeks away and its a very good race for Zenyatta to run in too...

Do you feel as though you have to get one win (looking sharp) under the belt before taking on Zenyatta in the Foster?

If you were going to run in the Foster than you would have to run in the next 2-3 weeks in order to have enough time to recuperate...

You don't want it to look like she is ready to run and rested and you duck Zenyatta in the Foster...

So if the La Troienne is too soon ... what race is between the LT and the Foster where Rachel could test herself before taking on Zenyatta later ...?

How about the Met Mile at Belmont that somebody suggested.... on May 31st...

Its another 4 weeks after the La Troienne and 2 weeks before the Foster... perfect timing if one needs the work but also a reason to hold off on taking on Zenyatta..

Taking on Quality Road (and winning) at a mile would be a good test...

On the other hand .. what is so bad about coming in second to a horse like Zenyatta?    Maybe just stay in training, get sharp and skip getting a win just to get a win and take on Zenyatta in the Foster...?

If Rachel stays in training for another 2 months without racing and meets Zenyatta at the Foster... what other scenario would put her into a better position to win?

... another 2 months of training with the target 2 months out...

If she can't get ready for that then I don't know about the rest of the season... we might not see Zen and Rache together until the Breeders Cup...

For Zenyatta ... after the Foster... other than the Breeders Cup  ... where could she meet Rachel before the BC?  

Somebody suggested the Woodward at Saratoga..

It looks like if they don't meet in the Foster it might not be before the fall at Saratoga or Belmont...

If it was me and the La Troienne was too close... I would wait and run Rachel in the Foster... but I'm not privy to all the inside issues and concerns..

Amazing... last year the swirl was that Zenyatta was ducking Rachel by not coming east...

This year its setting up to be the opposite.... the swirl not the reality...

15 Apr 2010 12:00 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

     On a side note, Since you have been great on updates about Kip Deville, Any update on how he is doing since his colic surgery?  Thanks in advance...

15 Apr 2010 1:06 PM
Somethingroyal

After reading through some of these posts. It's a good thing Rachel and Zenyatta can't read. I think they would be ashamed of  the humans who claim to love them. All for the sake of making a point. I can't even begin to imagine what the deleted posts mentioned. How people can write such hateful things about a horse is beyond my comprehension. In all my 35 years of following horse racing. Have I ever found people as hateful as they are today. I guess sitting behind the protection of a computer has given people the green light to be rude and disresepctful towards anything that catches their eye. Wake up people! These two once in a lifetime gifts will be gone before you know what hit you.    

15 Apr 2010 1:25 PM
moodygirl

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and information on the SF and Churchill Downs, especially all the inside scoop from KYOAKS09, that was great. I'd still like a suggestion on where I might be able to get a close look at the Mighty Mare. I don't know if the areas  where they saddle up or start the post parade, after the race or whatever are restricted for just certain people or how to get access.

Thanks to all the folks who posted more information on companion animals. I love that kind of stuff & I think I'll start keeping track of them as I run across more. I appreciate the nice things some of you have said. I was really afraid I was just too sappy compared to the more knowledgeable.

Here is something new I ran across in the horse.com, from 1O Principals of Exercise Physiology: "While the precise timeline varies according to the individual horse and type of training, the unfortunate truth is that it takes about twice as much time to build up fitness as it does to lose it. If you went out of town for two weeks for the holidays, you can count on about four weeks of training to to get your horse back to where he was before you left."

That put what is going on with Rachel's condition in perspective for me. Basically 6 months off means a year to get back to where she was. That can explain how Asmussen can say she is fit yet not 100% back to where she was. It was encouraging to me that the length of time needed to recondition her may be what is going on and not that she was overworked and will never recover, as often said.

www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx

15 Apr 2010 1:40 PM
Greg J.

John,

     First, Your quote, "It's either Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta.", One question for you John, Why one or the other?

     Second, With all due respect, I know it is a figure of speech, BUT, I am not your "son", So please don't refer to me as such, Thank You...

15 Apr 2010 1:44 PM
sidekickflats

Here's more what I think Rachel's schedule may be like. I don't have inside information, this is just my opinion. I don't think that Rachel particularly wants a mile and a quarter especially against males. I also don't think that she'll be ready in time for the La Troienne based on one work.  But goodness knows I could be wrong.

June 12th - Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares at a mile and a 16th.   That would be the same day of the Stephen Foster that might attract Zenyatta.  The Fleur De Lis is also that day at Churchill but it is a grade 2 at a mile and an 8th.  

August 1st - There's a grade 1 race for fillies and mares at Saratoga.  The distance is a mile and 1/8.

Assuming all is well, a possible repeat in the Woodward?  It is on 9/4  and also a mile 1/8th.

Early Oct at Belmont is the Beldame.  First chance to meet Zen ?  Grade 1 , mile 1/8th race.

Sets up for the Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic.  On Nov. 5th or 6th.

Again, I'm not knocking Rachel.  I just think her strengths are at a mile to a mile and an 1/8th.   Def. don't think she'll attempt the Met Mile without a tremendous victory already in the bag.

15 Apr 2010 2:10 PM
sidekickflats

The Saratoga race is the Ruffian Handicap.  That would probably depend on the amount of weight she would have to carry.

15 Apr 2010 2:28 PM
LDP

Zookeeper,

Lol. I could never think you were being mean, except for that one time, but since then, nope. That merely what I think will happen, and kind of what I hope happens. I don't know what to expect from the Zen group, just knowing that they will be searching for some good races this year.

15 Apr 2010 3:05 PM
John

Steve Finley of ESPN.com, whom was a huge Rachel Alexandra fan, said the following in a recent article,

"Before anyone can get too excited about a Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra meeting, Rachel needs to do something on the racetrack to prove she'd at least put up a decent fight against the monster from California".

"...at LEAST PUT UP A DECENT FIGHT..."

Wow.

It's not Zenyatta & Rachel anymore.

It's not Zenyatta & Quality Road.

And it's certainly not Zenyatta & Eskendereya.

It's only Zenyatta & history now.

15 Apr 2010 4:10 PM
Dona

News flash...........old news, that is.

After the Apple Blossom win, Mr. Moss said we are going to plot a course for Zenyatta with the ultimate goal being the Breeders classic. We like 11/8f and Grade 1s, if Rachel wants to joins us somewhere along the way, she's most welcome. Take this to the bank, Zenyattas' conections are only interested in keeping her in top form, happy and on their timetable. Whether she meets Rachel or anyone else for that matter does not concern them. It's the same now as it was last year. They want her to win but safely and under the right circumstances is their primary concern. LDP, you couldn't be more wrong about the decision to run in the classic. Neither Rachel nor the HOY award were considered. The deciding factors were; 1. The retirement of Sea The Stars, 2. The resultant quality of the nominees, 3. Mike Smiths' assurance that Zenyatta had not bottomed out in any of her previous races, 4. Zenyattas' connections belief that her pedigree warranted more distance and her previous performances seemily confirmed that fact. There are hints; note, nobody would commit to the exact plan for Zenyatta because they wanted to make sure all their ducks were in order before making the public announcement that would increase the ongoing pressure of being in the public eye. IN short, everything was for the benefit of the horse and making sure it was the right decision to make. Remember, they had an unbeaten mare, headed for retirement, and they wanted to keep it that way. When the opportunity became clear that winning the classic was possible, the decision was made to risk her record for a classic win. That decision turned out to be a no brainer. Expecting the likes of Einstein, Quality Road, Summer Bird or Gio Ponte to compete was never a deterrent. Seems the only questions ever asked were how good was Sea The Stars, could he handle the surface and was she really at her peak performance level. Only one question remains unanswered now and that is "How good is Zenyatta". Australias' Magic Millions managing director David Chester called her "one of the greatest mares the world has ever seen". That quote was just a few days ago. I think she's beginning to get her due respect. One selfish part of me wants to keep her here in California, where her fans love her and have all along. Another part says that she belongs to the world and everyone should have the chance to see her strut and dance. Then again, there's that Eastern element that will always be a thorn for Californians going back as far as I can remember. I recall Swaps never getting the chance to run in the last two tripple crown races because his owner, Mr Ellsworth, had such disdain for the Eastern sports writers. There are some that will never accept her but that's not something we can change so go do your thing Zenyatta and the devil be damned for the non believers. Should Zenyatta slip along her destined path, it will only prove she's mortal and not the seemingly mystical mighty unworldly fleet footed equine gossamer goddess her amorous fans proclaim. Whatever you call the faithful, please included this totally devoted and smitten fan.

Oh yeah, loved the little bow video, Greg.

15 Apr 2010 4:35 PM
sodapopkid

Jess Jackson is not going to put Ra in a race against Zenyatta until RA has about one or two race wins before it.  He is not going to "throw her into the fire" in a duel with the mighty mare anytime soon, you can bet on that.

IF at all she ever races Zenyatta, it wont' be as soon as we would like it to be.

Possibly later in the season, if at all.  I don't think JJ is worried about it.

And he can run her in races that she can win and still when time comes to confront the Mighty Mare, he can stilll say that she isnt' up to where we want her to be, and not even race against ZEn and retire RA. with still a couple of wins for her in 2010 and never face Z at all.   In the meantime he is working on a colt he recently purchased, so look for  him to focus on his new colt soon.

15 Apr 2010 8:16 PM
Zookeeper

WOW! Dona, and I thought we had run out of superlatives!

15 Apr 2010 8:41 PM
sidekickflats

Moody girl,

It's been awhile since I've been to Churchill, but I think your best chance to see Zen up close is to get there early and get a place by the saddling paddock. I used to do that for the Derby.  It makes for a long day but you will get to see her up close. You can watch the race on the jumbotron in the saddling area.  I've still got pictures that I took of Sunday Silence and Easy Goer and Unbridled when I stayed by the paddock.

15 Apr 2010 8:48 PM
Bob Z

SideKickFlats,

"June 12th - Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares at a mile and a 16th.   That would be the same day of the Stephen Foster that might attract Zenyatta.  The Fleur De Lis is also that day at Churchill but it is a grade 2 at a mile and an 8th."  

Yes but... if she runs on the same day as Zenyatta in the Foster... and runs in another race... what reason could they give for not running in the Foster against Zenyatta?

"Again, I'm not knocking Rachel.  I just think her strengths are at a mile to a mile and an 1/8th.   Def. don't think she'll attempt the Met Mile without a tremendous victory already in the bag."

But the Met Mile would be right in her wheel house ...  as far as distance... I would think that would be a good one for her... What would be the reason not to run in it...?

Conpetition?  Quality Road?

15 Apr 2010 9:28 PM
Bob Z

Moody Girl,

"That put what is going on with Rachel's condition in perspective for me. Basically 6 months off means a year to get back to where she was. That can explain how Asmussen can say she is fit yet not 100% back to where she was. It was encouraging to me that the length of time needed to recondition her may be what is going on and not that she was overworked and will never recover, as often said.

www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx

So then why on earth did they commit to the Apple Blossom and force the issue with running in the Fair Grounds Ladies if she wasn't going to be fit.. or back where she was...

Her last race was September 5th... She had 4 months off...  

She only started working out in late January I think because of the weather... So if thats true that it takes twice the time to get back to condition then Rachel wasn't going to be ready until June or July ...

15 Apr 2010 9:39 PM
John

Greg J.,

"Why one and not the other?"

That's easy.

At this time, Zenyatta is the one, and not the other.

Like I mentioned a couple of times already - it's Zenyatta's time.

Let her have it and have it alone.

Last spring and summer it was all Rachel Alexandra. It was Rachel this and Rachel that.

There was hardly a peep of mention for Zenyatta, although she was still undefeated, reigning Breeders' Cup Distaff Champ, and the second best American horse in 2008.

Then in one of Steve's articles that came after Rachel's Preakness the comparison between her and Ruffian was brought up, again with no mention of Zenyatta, even though Zenyatta was still undefeated, reigning Breeders' Cup Distaff Champ, and second best American racehorse in 2008.

There were even several bloggers that commented after this article asking "What about Zenyatta? or How about Zenyatta?"

Zenyatta was a forgotten horse in California.

But now it's Zenyatta's time.

Rachel Alexandra is out of the picture, at least for now.

Please read my blog about Steve Finley. He even mentions that RA should re-establish herself on the track before even thinking of engaging Zenyatta.

Again, it's not Zenyatta AND Rachel Alexandra, or ANY other horse for that fact.

It's only Zenyatta and history.

Let her have it and have it alone.

15 Apr 2010 10:24 PM
sodapopkid

Bob Z,  If Rachel dont' race until June Or July, then how is she suppose to race in the 3 race card as JJ talked about?  Not going to happen, he is not going up against Z that many times. Each time he knows he could be facing defeat at it's best...........And you all know, Ra has much more stronger competition this year than what she faced last year.  He already saw that first part of the year.  

15 Apr 2010 11:11 PM
sidekickflats

Bob Z,

The Met Mile comes first so let's start with that.  The Met Mile is on May 31st.  But it is against the boys and yes against Quality Road.  I can't think that Jess Jackson would throw Rachel into that race at all much less without a prep race(ie a winning prep race).   It's now the middle of April.  Rachel just had a good work which is encouraging but ever since Zardana beat her, the Rachel camp has been saying that she is not up to her level of last year. So all of a sudden, she runs in the La Troienne at a mile and a 16th then shortens up to a mile against the boys?  I don't think that will happen. And they haven't committed to any race yet. I don't think they will run in the La Troeinne either but who knows.

As far as reasoning goes regarding the Foster.  I don't think anyone expects Rachel to run against the boys and Zen this early in the year (middle of June)so no excuse needed. You have to remember that Zen has 2 races already this year and is running out of options of where to run.  She carried 129 pounds to victory in last years Vanity which is the same weekend.  How much would they make her carry this year 132?  It makes sense to run her at Churchill.  It doesn't make sense to run Rachel, with 1 prep(and loss) , no 2nd race committed to yet against Zen and the boys in the Stephen Foster.  The Fleur De Lis might be a good spot for a return to the races for Rachel with it being at Churchill which she likes and at a distance she likes but would Jess like her to run on the undercard???  I don't think so.  I think he will move her somewhere and get an easy race back and then try to move forward from there.

I'm not implying that Team Rachel is ducking anyone. I just think that they want to get her back to her "old self" and get a victory in her before trying beat the top older horses of either sex.  And I think that process  will take longer than the 8 weeks we have between now and the Foster.

15 Apr 2010 11:12 PM
tvnewsbadge

John said

"Others in the media have recently fessed up and admitted their huge mistake in backing Rachel Alexandra for HOY."

And then lists some examples.

John post reminds me of all those "Law and Order" episodes where one of the lawyers gets up and asks the witness who has changed his story "Were you lying then or are you lying now?"

Assuming John is reporting his examples in context, I ask how can anyone respect or value the judgement or opinion of a person who can so easily switch from one side to the other?

Were these folks lying THEN (when they voted Rachel HoY), or are they lying NOW (when according John they are claiming that Zenyatta is the greatest thing since sliced bread)?

More than likely, they're not lying at all. They're simply acknowledging what we all suspect  and that is that last year Rachel was the better horse and so far this year, Zenyatta is the golden girl.

Will she stay their favorite?

Wait until after the Triple Crown series and we could very well have a brand new flavor of the month.

15 Apr 2010 11:38 PM
sodapopkid

John, You are so right. This is Zenyatta's time, Ra had the opportunity to join in the fun , but she had to decline by her owner's choice.  IF she comes back on the tracks and does something , then people can rejoice for her,  but until she does "something"  then leave her be.  We cant' live in yesterdays world ,,This is horseracing,  Move ON...............

16 Apr 2010 6:28 AM
moodygirl

nBob Z, You said, "Why on earth did they commit to the Apple Blossom and force the issue and commit to running in the Fairgrounds Ladies if she was not going to be fit or back where she was..." That's my question too.

Jackson did ask for the delay for the Apple Blossom saying she needed more time. Prior to the Fairground Ladies Asmussen was saying she was 80% and that she was fit but not at her former condition. After RA lost, Asmussen said he was pleased with how she came out of the race and was making noise like training would continue for the Apple Blossom. He said Rachel was fit but still not at her former condition. Two or 3 hous later Jackson pulls her out of the AB.

All of this was totally puzzeling to me but I don't know anything about TB training.

When I read the exercise physiology article and discovered the length of time needed to return to fitness, the pieces began to fit together for me. At least it was an explanation, or theory, for part of what went on that made some sense.

As you say, according to this article, she may not have been ready to race at her former condition until June or July. Maybe June or even May, given individual variations, would have been a more realistic goal for a return to racing in her top form; rather than March for the Fairgrounds & Aril 9th for the Apple Blossom.

Why did Jackson and Asmussen do what they did? I WISH I KNEW!

16 Apr 2010 8:16 AM
Slew

Wow!..RA loses one race, and her "fans" are tossing her to the wolves.  We should never lose sight of the fact that she is a Champion.  Zenyatta is a Champion.  I agree with Somethingroyal...we should be able to respect and appreciate them both.  It's been such a privilege to see them both run in one exceptional year.  Now it's 2010, and Zenyatta is keeping her style, and RA is in training.  It's only April folks!  We have time.  Whatever happens going forward, we can never dismiss the greatness we witnessed in 2009.  2 champion fillies in one year...wow..it's been awesome!

16 Apr 2010 11:16 AM
PhonyJJ

In horse racing it is "What have you done for me lately",  right now, RA isnt doing anything but still in training. Which is good ,she needs to be at 100%.  It's not fair  to her or any other horse that is they ain't at their best in racing. That being said  , this is Zenyatta's time and Rachel if or when she comes back and wins a race then she can share the spotlight, right now, she can't ,, she was awarded for last year, this is another year,   we cant' stay in reverse.

16 Apr 2010 11:26 AM
Zookeeper

307 comments, so far. Isn't it amazing how much passion theses two can still generate? And this when we are getting so close to the KD!!! Which usually dominates ALL conversations. How about we stop complaining about each other and start celebrating the fact that they still captivate us like no others. Seems like a great idea, no?

16 Apr 2010 1:10 PM
SMTDL

It doesn't make sense to 2nd guess voting Rachel Alexandra HOY because of what has happened so far in 2010.The vote was for the horse that accomplished the most on the racetrack during that calendar year;not for the greatest horse,biggest horse,best looking horse,most raced,least raced,undefeated, or what they have done or might do in 2010...Rachel won more G1 races in total ,more races against males and ran in more races over a broader geographical area than did Zenyatta.Thus she was most deserving of the award.If Zenyatta has the best campaign in 2010 I'm sure she will win it!!

16 Apr 2010 1:21 PM
Slew

So PhonyJJ...we're not allowed to look back and respect Ruffian, Lady's Secret, Azeri????  There's a big difference between "fan" and "fanatic".  And according to Steve Haskin, THIS blog is about both ladies, and their magnificent achievements to date.

16 Apr 2010 1:23 PM
MTBFan(still)

I'm not tossing her to the wolves...:) I think she's one of the strongest 3 y/o's we've had in year's. "Rachel of Alexandra". But, Zenyatta needs her own, untarnished pedestal now. She breeze by those mares as if they were jogging together on their morning walk. One minute, Z's in the back, biding her time, and then suddenly, she's cruising up past the front runners. You can't forget something like that.

16 Apr 2010 2:10 PM
Tim

Folks,

I've checked out what John has been trying to say.

And he is absolutely right.

Escept, that he didn't mention that Zenyatta was also the defending Elcipse Award winner for older mare.

Further, during Rachel Alexandra's moment in the light Zenyatta was not only forgotten but also ignored.

Right now with the tables turned it seems that the fans of RA want it both ways.

They will completely ignore Zenyatta with RA at the height of her racing, then want a 'call to rememberance' everytime that Zenyatta is praised.

You can't have it both ways.

16 Apr 2010 2:12 PM
Dona

It's becoming quite clear that the Zenyatta band wagon is no carromata!

Just heard this on HRTV -

After the Apple Blossom the clockers corner would play "She's A Lady" by Tom Jones. Don't you love it?

Welcome aboard. Pen your compliments to her caparison and enjoy the ride.

16 Apr 2010 2:33 PM
LauraS

I started off writing a three-paragraph analysis of the subject at hand, including the whole anti-California bias that's existed for the last 100 years - long before the whole dirt/synth debate. And FYI, I'm from Iowa.  I finally decided that less is indeed more, probably to everyone's relief.  Here's just the last paragraph, now split in two:

Zenyatta has started this year by winning her NINTH and TENTH Grade I's.  She has set the new North American standard for an undefeated career in major competition.  She can only race the horses put in the gate with her, and it's not her fault that so few are now willing to run for black-type and second money. Let's see who amongst the boys is willing to take her on. She's got nothing to fear IMO.

While we here in the USA are still debating the merits of the two fabulous females, the world racing press has already made up their minds.  RacingPost.com, a British racing publication, published an article on Zenyatta's Apple Blossom:

www.racingpost.com/.../latest  

(sorry, I don't know how to post a link) In it, author Sam Walker says: "Zenyatta's current sequence of 16 straight victories ranks her up with North American stars like Citation and Cigar, but an undefeated run that long takes her into the all-time legend category along with the likes of Ribot from the 20th century and Ormonde from the 19th.  Admittedly, there is a little-known New Mexican mare named Peppers Pride who clocked up 19 from 19 in her native state.  But in the upper echelons of the sport, Zenyatta is now dancing with the racing gods and she presently sits just two wins behind the untouchable, unbeatable, unrivalled Eclipse from the 18th century."  If a racing publication from another continent can see what's so historic about Zenyatta from thousands of miles away, why can't so many American racing fans?  Let's celebrate "the all-time legend" that we've got in our midst.  The world is watching.

16 Apr 2010 8:24 PM
Zookeeper

LauraS

Well , for somebody who doesn't know how to post a direct link, you did great! Thank you for showing us what the rest of the world think of OUR Zenyatta. I loved every word!

16 Apr 2010 10:57 PM
Matthew W

Steve thanks for respecting Big Z--I love her, too! I think they're tight to go for the Foster--1 1/8 v males would be "safer" than 1 1/8 v fillies w/ Rachel--I'm just thinking about the pace/and possible middle-moves that do occur more in tougher male races...I'm starting to get vibes of, maybe she's better on dirt, maybe we haven't seen her best/maybe this will be the "I see now" tour we all wanted to see--Zenyatta on dirt...we may just be looking into history's eye, Steve, but history is in good hands, long as you are around to record it/and enjoy it!

16 Apr 2010 11:44 PM
kyoaks09

Somethingroyal,

I truly appreciated your post on the 15th at 1:25 PM.  Your points were well taken and very true.  Having read some of the comments, I, too, wonder about those that were deleted.  How much more hateful could they have gotten?

John,

I can't argue against your statement that Rachel needs to "re-establish herself on the track before even thinking of engaging Zenyatta".  Why would anyone disagree with that statement?  That should be a given but what I don't understand is how or where you got your information about HOTY that "others in the media have recently fessed up and admitted their huge mistake".  In an earlier post, I suggested that if you had the names of people that had actually "admitted their huge mistake" that you list them.  As of now, I have seen no such list from you so I am assuming that you were referencing the five people you mentioned in your post. To that I would have to say that I agree with comments posted by tvnewsbadge - "Were these folks lying THEN (when they voted Rachel HoY), or are they lying NOW (when according John they are claiming that Zenyatta is the greatest thing since sliced bread)?

More than likely, they're not lying at all. They're simply acknowledging what we all suspect  and that is that last year Rachel was the better horse and so far this year, Zenyatta is the golden girl."

moodygirl,

If Zenyatta goes to CD for the Stephen Foster and you do go, what you really need to decide is whether or not you want to see her in the paddock and watch the race on the jumbotron or you want to see her on the track because I don't see you being able to do both.  If you'd be happy with the jumbotron, then take sidekickflats suggestion, get there early, take a seat in front of the paddock, and enjoy.  You could probably secure yourself a place on the paddock rail a couple of races before Zenyatta's race.  Many people leave the paddock area when the horses do and I'd suggest you getting a place then and holding it.  If you really want to see her on the track, you'll need to secure your spot on the rail trackside.  Unfortunately, I'm not familar with where you'll be allowed to go with general admission tickets.  Sorry.

Slew,

Your previous post was one that I put into the same category as posts by Somethingroyal and tvnewsbadge. They show respect for both horses, which is what I have always believed we should do.  Unfortunately, that's not always what we see.  I respect you and your comments as they sound like you are a true horseracing fan as opposed to being just a fan of a single horse.  It is obvious that you have been around for a while and have followed racing for some time, as you have always had great information to share.  Thank you not only for your information, but for your ability to be objective and kind in your posts.

I've previously read posts that you've written indicating that you are no longer able to do the things that you used to do and would like to do.  For that I am sorry, but I'd like to wish you the best of luck in whatever you do.

17 Apr 2010 12:19 AM
kyoaks09

Slew,

I forgot to mention that even though Rachel lost, I am not "tossing her to the wolves" and have no intention of doing so and guess what - I love Zenyatta too!!!  How could you not love her???

17 Apr 2010 12:25 AM
moodygirl

Laura S, great post and the British article was wonderful!

17 Apr 2010 7:11 AM
Sammi P

Zen has and always will be the Queen in my eyes. I love watching her race, and I'm looking forward to her next race. RA is an amazing filly no doubt, and I wish her the best, but I think she is up against it right now, she is more a wait-and-see at the moment.

Also pointing out Zen is being pointed to the Setphen Foster or Hollywood Gold Cup next

17 Apr 2010 9:59 AM
tvnewsbadge

Great link supplied by LauraS, but it should also be noted that on the world stage, the same people rank Quality Road #1 in the world and 4 pounds better than Zenyatta, in terms of actual performance on the race track.

Quality Road, a horse that gets very little respect from fans in the US, is actuality ranked #1 in the world by this publication ( Zenyatta shares the #2 slot).

This article  raises an interesting question. How much does "showmanship" and "personality" factor into our perception of "greatness" in racehorses?

Their performance on the track aside, both Rachel and Zenyatta have benefited from the fact that they are beautiful animals in terms of fan appreciation.

17 Apr 2010 12:22 PM
Somethingroyal

kyoaks09,

Thanks for your kind reply to my post. Life has taught me to appreciate when handed a gift. I've also been around long enough to know greatness when I see it. Both Rachel and Zenyatta are the real deal. The crowds these two attract brings back wonderful memories of the good old days.  

17 Apr 2010 2:04 PM
Bob Z

Maybe Rachel will run in the La Troienne after all...

Rachel Alexandra turned in a sizzling six-furlong workout on Monday at Churchill Downs as the reigning Horse of the Year nears a return to competition.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro covered the distance over a fast track in 1:11.40 shortly after 6 a.m. She worked under Dominic Terry and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24.1. The work was the fastest of seven at the distance.

“She worked crazy good,” Asmussen said in a release. “She’s had three works here since she’s been here and they have been extremely ‘Rachelesque.’ I’m happy to see her putting in work like she did last year.”

19 Apr 2010 11:14 AM
LauraS

TVNewsbadge, the Racing Post rankings are basically the same as Beyer speed rankings - based almost totally on times. They are occasionally adjusted for quality of competition, but they are still time rankings.  Quality Road's Donn was very fast, Zenyatta's two races not so fast. The article does say however "it should be remembered that, with her hold-up style of racing, and with Smith eager never to push for a maximum output, her superstar status is likely to prove a much better guide to her greatness than any handicap figure ever could" and "Smith's insistence on preserving his mount may not win her any big handicap marks, but it could be the key to why she is still winning, and winning well."  In other words, she's far better than their rankings would otherwise say.

19 Apr 2010 9:27 PM
tvnewsbadge

Well, it'll be interesting then when she meets Quality Road or any other horse that can push her limits.

I'd like it to be Quality Road because

#1... he gets no respect in his home country. A victory or close second would do wonders for him.

#2... He's ranked #3 in the world by the IFHA, just 2 pounds less that Zenyatta (who they have pegged at #2)

19 Apr 2010 11:18 PM

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