When Oaklawn Park owner Charlie Cella announced he would ante up $5 million in an attempt to lure Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to the April 3 Apple Blossom (gr. I) we all knew it was a longshot at best. Everyone wondered aloud, “How can Rachel be ready by then?”
On Feb. 10, Jess Jackson, co-owner of Rachel Alexandra, answered our question: “She can’t be ready.”
Zenyatta has remained in training since her dazzling performance in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). She has seven published works since Dec. 7, the most recent being a six-furlong move Feb. 11. Rachel Alexandra has not raced since Sept. 5 and has had only two four-furlong breezes, one Jan. 31 and one Feb. 6.
God bless Cella, who was bold enough to put up the dough to bring together the race everyone wants to see.
Jackson, who owns Rachel Alexandra with Harold McCormick, issued a press release Feb. 10 proposing the two distaffers meet in a series of three races, those contests not yet selected.
When told of this, Jerry Moss, who owns Zenyatta with his wife, Ann, told the Associated Press, “I have no idea what he’s even talking about.”
The ideal thing, of course, would have been for the owners and their trainers to sit down and discuss different scenarios under which 6-year-old Zenyatta, winner of all 14 of her starts, and 4-year-old Rachel Alexandra, eight-for-eight last year and winner of 11 of 14 overall, could meet.
Which tracks, which dates, what distances, what conditions…what would make everyone happy?
Now, Cella has spoken to both sets of connections and has moved the Apple Blossom to April 9, giving Rachel more time.
The timetable is still tight and everything must go perfectly. If it doesn't work out, here is another idea, meeting at Churchill Downs: The Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on April 30; the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 1; the La Troienne (gr. II), moved from Oaks day to May 2.
Yes, the track is traditionally dark the day following the Derby. Seems it would be worth the effort to have the clean up crew and employees push one more day. Seems the television and newspaper reporters that are already in town would stay one more day for the match-up of the century. Can you imagine how much you can promote this event to happen the day after the world's greatest race?
Let's hope things work out at Oaklawn Park. If not, let's get Churchill working on something.
Racing fans everywhere wait. And hope.