There is a full weekend of stakes action on the calendar, including a trio of important 3-year-old prep races--the Sam Davis and Robert Lewis on Saturday, and the Southwest on Monday--but all of those races have been pushed to the background by the announcement that Rachel and Zenyatta will supposedly now meet in the Apple Blossom, which was moved back to April 9 to fit the schedules of both sides (Well, really just to fit Jess Jackson's schedule, but I digress).
I have to admit, I did not think the two horses would meet this early in the year, especially in this race, and I certainly did not see it coming after Team Rachel announced on Wednesday that they were not going. I am more than a little bit baffled as to why an extra six days would make that much of a difference for Jackson to do an about-face in less than 24 hours, but so be it. It looks like the race is a go and that is the important thing.
I certainly hope that horse racing is preparing a strong marketing campaign for this giant race. It can't afford not to. With the Apple Blossom now scheduled for Friday, April 9, I'm guessing it will have a post of about 6:30 p.m. or so Central time, which would allow networks to air the race in prime time on the East Coast. A full, hold-nothing-back advertising campaign should begin soon, and after making sure both horses come out of their prep races okay (hopefully), I would expect to see this showdown plastered all over TV, print, and the Web.
If the powers that be are reading this, please don't let this opportunity slip by. Though we would love to see these two horses meet again this summer at Saratoga and later at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup, we all know nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen. This may be the only chance we get to see the two great fillies meet, let's not blow it. This is a golden opportunity to attract news fans to the sport and put horse racing back on the front page for a few days. Plus, with the Derby just three weeks later, we can parlay the momentum even more.
Here is a novel idea as suggested by Blood-Horse.com Digital Media Editor Evan Hammonds: Wouldn't it be a great idea to take the $5 million purse offered by Charles Cella, or at least a large chunk of it, and put it into the marketing campaign for the race? We all know how tight things are right now and putting that money back into the sport would seem to be a deed great "sportsmen" would consider (There's that word again). I'm not one to spend other people's money, but Jess and Jerry would certainly seem to have the financial wherewithal to handle such a proposition.
Whatever happens and however the marketing is handled, this showdown is a shot in the arm for racing, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Let's just hope those in positions of authority are able to maximize its potential.
To conclude, I would be remiss if I did not give out a few picks for the weekend:
In the Sam Davis I like Middle of Nite to improve off his good allowance effort at Gulfstream and Rule certainly is the one to beat, but I'm going with Schoolyard Dreams in an upset. He looked good in his allowance win last month over the same strip and has been working even better since adding blinkers for Derek Ryan. Now he gets top rider Cornelio Velasquez, who should be able to rate him just off the pace. I know Todd Pletcher wants to see Rule rate as well, but Im not sure that's going to happen from the rail. I would play Schoolyard Dreams to win and in trifectas over Rule, Middle of the Nite, and Uptowncharlybrown, who could come closing fast off a hot pace.
No change in the Robert Lewis, I still like Tiz Chrome to beat American Lion. I will use Caracortado in my exotics as well. The Southwest doesn't draw until Saturday, but I am already leaning toward Dublin to beat the California invaders.
Good luck this weekend. Who do you like?