Gotta Match? - By Lenny Shulman

By Lenny Shulman

For the last nine months—or was it eons—the racing world has been fixated over a match-up that, like world peace, an edible fruitcake, or a Triple Crown winner, has remained tantalizingly out of reach.

Gladly, the time has come to forego our dreams and desires concerning the two fabulous females. After all, a watched pot never boils. And besides, we have on our plates this summer a feast of potential encounters the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent memory.

This past weekend provided us with fine appetizers. Up at Saratoga in the Diana Stakes (gr. IT), we saw the tussle among 2008 champion turf female Forever Together, multiple grade I winner Proviso, 2008 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies winner Maram, and graded winners Phola and Shared Account.

A day later Monmouth Park welcomed in August with the IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I), kicking in racing’s second season for 3-year-olds with a scrap featuring Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) victor Super Saver, Preakness (gr. I) conqueror (and Haskell best) Lookin At Lucky, respective runner-ups Ice Box and First Dude, and the up-and-coming Trappe Shot. That’s a field you’d be proud to see parade to your starting gate.

Saratoga strikes back Aug. 7 with the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), where the two best older colts in the country will join the fray. Quality Road has done nothing wrong since throwing a fit at the Breeders’ Cup last year. The millionaire is undefeated and barely tested in three races this year. Now along comes Blame, however, to scrap it out with Quality Road. Also a millionaire, and 1 1/4 lengths (second to Regal Ransom in the Super Derby, gr. II) away from riding a seven-race win streak into the Whitney, Blame is running with history on his saddle. His co-owner, Claiborne Farm, is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2010, and you wonder if the racing gods might be looking down favorably on the famous orange silks.

While we’re in the older horse division, let’s not forget Rail Trip has relocated to the East Coast barn of Rick Dutrow, and will be laying in the mineral waters for Quality Road and Blame in the Sept. 4 Woodward Stakes (gr. I), making it three millionaires, if all go.

Turning to the fillies, how about the looming clash of Devil May Care and Blind Luck in the Aug. 21 Alabama Stakes (gr. I)? Devil May Care, winner of the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at 2, ran against the boys in the Kentucky Derby, where she split the field. Since then, she has blown apart the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I) with ease. She’ll need to remain at the top of her game for the upcoming bout with Blind Luck, whose nose victories in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Delaware Oaks (gr. II) indicate a worthy warrior. She’s got four grade Is in her column already.

Looking ahead to the Sept. 4 Forego Stakes (gr. I), the often-brilliant multiple grade I winner Vineyard Haven is scheduled to line up against another talented 4-year-old, Musket Man, who was a good second behind Quality Road last out in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). Vineyard Haven has returned from the witness protection program in Dubai to take last year’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. I) and the listed James Marvin Stakes on Saratoga’s opening day July 23.

Two-year-old prospects Boys At Tosconova, Kantharos, and Maybesomaybenot figure to meet at Saratoga, while out West at old Del Mar, Bob Baffert’s parade of juveniles, featuring Smash, will be taking on all comers.

Which brings us to the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes (gr. I), where the Haskell graduates will likely face off with A Little Warm, and whoever else emerges from the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). Then we have the following day’s Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) for the cougars. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra has that one on her dance card, according to the latest missive from owner Jess Jackson’s vineyard Vatican, as does Life At Ten, who is merely a perfect four-for-four this season under Todd Pletcher’s tutelage.

Oh, and if Zenyatta passes on Del Mar this season, she might just head to the Personal Ensign as well. The great thing is, we needn’t pine for her and Rachel to meet this time around in order to enjoy a hellacious season of great match-ups.

43 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Robert

Oh if only Zenyatta would pass on Del Mar and head east.  Everyone is gunning for her and running a few races over the dirt will only help her.....as if she needs any help.....come Breeders Cup time.  Rachel is looking like she is back to her old self and will be tough in the Personal Ensign.

03 Aug 2010 2:44 PM
FSF

I think what seems fun about this summer is that lots of the "big names" are running against each other on the road leading to the BC, not just creating impossible build-up for just one BC race by ducking each other all over the country until then.

03 Aug 2010 2:49 PM
Race On

You have highlighted why I love racing.  Lets see what fall brings and enjoy!

03 Aug 2010 2:54 PM
Tony

I agree totally with this article. I am chomping at the bit to see Rail Trip run....I still think he's the best older horse in the land...I could be wrong, but we'll find out soon enough.

03 Aug 2010 3:11 PM
MOKEY

I'm glad for once Saratoga has some GREAT races going on. Whitney will be interesting as well as the Travers with no "big" stand out and the loom of the "favorite" losing that has happin so many times before. ( Gato del Sol, Aroma's Ruler and Const. Cielo all upstaged by a horse named Runaway Groom!)

03 Aug 2010 3:19 PM
The Deacon

Should be fun to watch all of these races. Don't think Zenyatta is going east, the Mosses want to perserve her undefeated record more then they want to beat Rachel. That match up to many is just old news. I am not convinced Quality Road can get a mile and a quarter and beat Blame. In fact, all of the big handicap races coming up including the Breeder's Cup Classic are at a mile and a quarter so QR better get the distance or the connections will have to come up with plan B. Call me nuts but if Looking at Lucky stays healthy he is my pick in the Classic. He is such a powerful runner who has an explosive turn of foot, and he has staying power as well. Just love this horse.

Good article Lenny, love your ATO shows with Steve. Tell Stable Boy to quit making predictions, he hasn't been right since the Derby.

take care...........

03 Aug 2010 3:26 PM
Rachel

Thanks for reminding us of the truly wonderful talent out there besides Zen and RA...while this year's TC was a little on the slow side, it's fun to watch them mature...I really like Exhi and you never know when a "Tiznow" clone may appear! Maybe it's Golden Moka!!

That being said about 3-year-old colts, the filly division has really nice outstanding class, BL, HDC, and hopefully coming back for the fall, SBW...

Can anyone not call Evening Jewel one of the most "heart-filled" race horses ever?

Life at Ten, Forever Together, Devil May Care, Proviso...

The older horses...Quality Road who I've loved since his very first race...Musket Man...another with great heart and 2 strides behind QR's 1:33 mile...Rail Trip...any of those 3 are a challenge to the Princess Royal and the Queen...

How about watching Goldikova? She's Dahlia all over again...

Get Stormy, he's sure fun...Cost of Freedom...

03 Aug 2010 3:45 PM
davec

The Whitney on Saturday should be a good one.

03 Aug 2010 3:48 PM
Meydan Rocks

Lenny!

I couldn't agree with you any more!!!

I can't wait for a deelish serving of potentially great match ups.

03 Aug 2010 3:49 PM
Michael Marra

AS always,Lenny,you're right on the money with another tremendous commentary. If there is anyone better than you regarding racing in general, and to remind  the fans what is right in front of their eyes, I haven't read his or her's article. You are simply the best. Regards.

03 Aug 2010 4:07 PM
The Deacon

One thing to be wary of if all of these handicap horses like Quality Road, Blame, Rail Trip, etc burn each other out in the Whitney, Woodward, and JCGC, then Zenyatta will be fresh and waiting in the wings. That is assuming the connections send her back east, and trust me that is a big assumption. The sleeper here for me is Looking at Lucky. I like him in the Classic. He is pretty fresh, and has perhaps only 1 more big hurdle before the Classic. That being the Travers Stakes or the Pacific Classic. Baffert said that he prefers to run on dirt though.

It's a tall order to ask a 3 year old to beat excellent older horses but I believe Looking at Lucky is special.

03 Aug 2010 4:22 PM
Giddyup

So the witness protection program is in Dubai and not wherever the heck Goldikova is racing....thanks for clearing that up. LOL.

03 Aug 2010 5:17 PM
Rachel

Deacon, yes, yes...Blame! Another good one...

03 Aug 2010 5:26 PM
Mixnmatch

I believe LAL can take on the older horses and beat them in the bcc, and go on to win HOY honors.

03 Aug 2010 5:36 PM
Pedigree Shelly

       What a good weekend for racing ! LAL proved himself the best 3yr old in the country winning the Haskell ! Trappe Shot still deserves alot of respect ! This was his first race in graded competition ,plus it was a top field to say the least . He should improve off that effort !

03 Aug 2010 6:35 PM
Ranagulzion

LENNY,

Nice column. Looking forward to the Vanderbilt, Whitney, Forego, Hopeful, Travers and Woodward stakes.  You overlooked the Floridian, Big Drama, one that is spicing up the sprint division this season.  He's gonna take the Vanderbilt and be very tough in the Forego.

Regarding the Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra clash, it appears that the connections of both horses have caught the animosity virus of the fanatical bloggers and prefer a stand-off.  Can you offer any other reasonable perspective on why they wouldn't meet in the Personal Ensign?  This race is ideal for both to face off and be able to come back fresh and ready for revenge/rematch at the Breeder's Cup ...don't you think?

Looking At Lucky appears to have "come to hand" in the Haskell and looks very promising for the remainder of the season, being a late foal.  Notwithstanding, Super Saver appears to have needed the race in the Haskell and should be back on his game in the Travers.

Quality Road will be putting on and exhibition in the Whitney, racing against the clock ...all others are running for second or preping for November (nice face-saver for the vanquished and over-matched).  Can't blame them.

03 Aug 2010 6:41 PM
Ida Lee

OMG, all the horses mentioned at one time or another have been my #1 favorites. (can't help it, I'm fickle) The rest of this year's racing is going to be GREAT and so much FUN. With the best going against the best, it's going to be hard picking a favorite for a particular race. I'll probably just be happy with whoever wins. And I agree - the thrill is gone as far as Rachel v Zenyatta is concerned. I adore these ladies but there are so many great Fillies/Mares out there that a match between these two is not as exciting as it once was. It is like so yesterday....

03 Aug 2010 7:26 PM
Secretariat

The Deacon,

Forget about "Lookin at Lucky" in the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic. He's an outstanding 3 yr old and will crush every 3 yr old out there this year.

"Lookin at Lucky" is no Zenyatta, Rail Trip or Quality Road.

"Lookin at Lucky" does not have a chance in hell against the older horses in this year's edition of the Breeders Cup Classic, but remember this:

Baffert wants to run him as a 4 yr old. Save your money for the 2011 Breeders Cup Classic and go "All-in" on him. He's going to be one helluva 4yr old!

03 Aug 2010 7:28 PM
maryann727

It will be interesting to see if Rachel can get the 1 1/4 mile distance of the Personal Ensign.  If so, maybe she will contest the BC Classic.  Two big IFS.

03 Aug 2010 8:26 PM
Convene

Couldn't have said it better! There's a lot of talent out there and more than enough to thrill us all. Me? I'm just enjoying watching some really good horses putting on some terrific shows. In fact, one of the most WOW performances I've seen this year came in a dinky little Ft. Erie cup race for local horses. Daverick devastated a field of sprinters with quarters in .21 and change, .22 and change and a final eigth in 12.02! Lots of great racing at every level. Yeah, I love Rachel and I'd like to see her meet Zenyatta but my year won't be ruined if it doesn't happen. Personally I think too much was made of this matchup all along. I'd rather just enjoy both of 'em, wherever they run. Thanks for the reminder of how great this sport is. Always!

03 Aug 2010 8:51 PM
Billy Boy

Just a friendly reminder Lenny - Kentucky Derby Winner

Mine that Bird is back on Dirt in the Whitney!

"Mind Your Birds" Lenny

03 Aug 2010 8:58 PM
METMILER

ALL THESE ACCOLADES GIVEN TO THE ABOVE MENTIONED HORSES SHOULD ONLY APPLY TO ONE HORSE...THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN OVERLOOKED IN THE HORSE OF THE YEAR CATEGORY 2 YEARS RUNNING.  UNBEATEN, PERFECT, UNBELIEVEABLE...TO ADD A FEW  THEY ALL APPLY. ONLY ZENYATTA HAS NEVER LET ANYONE DOWN.  THE HAS TO BE A PRICE FOR PERFECTION.

PERSONAL ENSIGN AND ZENYATTA DOES'NT GET BETTER THAN THAT.

"NOW PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT"

THANKS FOR ALL THE COMMENTS....ITS A GREAT GAME WE ALL HAVE A PASSION FOR AND WE ALL SUPPORT THE HORSES, WE JUST HAVE DIFFERENT FAVORRITES.

03 Aug 2010 9:00 PM
Nancy

Hi Lenny,

Great article.  Thank you for pulling it all together!  I have printed it out, so I can make sure I see each race video (as I live in God forsaken North Carolina).It is a great year for racing with all of these stand-out Stars we are lucky to have.  Win or lose, may the racing Gods smile upon them and bring them home safe and sound as they thrill us again with their glory.

03 Aug 2010 9:37 PM
Jim C.

I am disappointed in the Blood Horse.  The headline of the Blood Horse story on the David Carroll incident read: "Carroll Fined for 'Unacceptable' Temper."

Stop it with the euphemisms.  Please.  The headline should state: "Trainer David Carroll Fined for Striking Filly on the Head."  

04 Aug 2010 2:03 AM
Marcelo

All the above mentioned races will be great but The Classic is a done deal as Zenyatta is a cut above the rest in 2010!

04 Aug 2010 2:53 AM
Oh Really

Lookin at Lucky has been one of my favorites.  I would really like to see a two year old champion repeat as the three year old champion!

The BC Classic....lots of racing before then and three year olds are improving.  We will see how Rachel progresses.  I am looking forward to the Blind Luck/Devil May Care match up.

04 Aug 2010 5:14 AM
Mary Reynolds

I, too, live in race-deprived NC & was delighted to watch the Haskell on ABC. There's just nothing like seeing a race live (real-time), besides being there!

I've been a LAL lover since watching him as a 2 year old & was thrilled w/his Haskell. Finally, he reminded the world why he was Champion 2 year old!

04 Aug 2010 7:51 AM
Mary Reynolds

I'm a MTB fan, too & am waiting for another great performance from him, (circa 2009 K. Derby).

04 Aug 2010 7:54 AM
Sylvester

Anyone touting Luckin at Lucky needs to quit reading these glowing articles by clueless equine journalists.  His time in the Haskell was slower than Rachel’s time in the Lady’s Secret.  The Haskell was run under cloudy skies in 75F while the Lady’s Secret was run under a blistering sun in 103F. Same track, same distance, just a week apart.  The jockeys also said the track on Haskell day was in much better shape.  Also note that Rachel carried more weight than LAL and she came out of that race under brutal conditions in excellent condition while LAL didn’t.  I’d also like to point out that Queen Martha the runner up in Rachel’s race had a faster time than the Haskell runner up Trappe Shot.  So forget about Rachel’s “disappointing” performance and LAL’s “spectacular” first place finish.  The same can also be said about Blame.  Rachel ran a faster time on the same track and same distance on the same day in the Fleur De Lis than he did in the Stephen Foster while she carried more weight.  So forget about him too.  I also don’t give Zenyatta a chance either since she was stretched to her maximum to beat St Trinians who is a good mare but she’s no Quality Road or even Rachel.  Plus her owners are petrified to send her out East to run on dirt after saying they were going to showcase her talent to the country.  I don’t buy that garbage she doesn’t travel well.  It’s an excuse and not true.  However, both Rachel and QR are untested at 10 furlongs so it will be interesting to see if they can get that distance.  

04 Aug 2010 9:45 AM
Mike Relva

THE DEACON:

Here's a newsflash for you! Zenyatta WAS THERE for A. Blossom when Jackson and Co. attempted to rush RA. Or did you forget that little detail? Right.

04 Aug 2010 10:05 AM
Lenny

Ranagulzion,

The only reason I can think of is Zenyatta's connections like the timing of the Hirsh and don't want to wait another 3 weeks to run her. Considering she doesn't like Del Mar, that's the only conceivable reason I've got as to why no Personal Ensign for her.

04 Aug 2010 10:17 AM
Ray Jay

I'm dreaming of the best filly & mare race of ALL TIME! BC Ladies Classic with Rachel,Zen,Devil May Care,Blind Luck,St. Trinians,Zardana,Evening Jewel,etc..they should raise the purse to 5mil for this race!

04 Aug 2010 10:20 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thanks, Lenny. You're a blast.  I love reading your articles and listening to you and Steve.  

04 Aug 2010 10:29 AM
The Deacon

Mr. Relva:   I am not sure I understand your point. My intuition tells me that the connections of Zenyatta won't run her in the Classic this year. I just feel that they value the winning streak more then they want to risk her losing in this years Classic. The Mosses are so uncommital with her. No one seems to know where she is going next. These blogs are about having an opinion and sharing the conversation with others. Obviously I could be wrong, so could everyone.

Secretariat:

I don't necessarily agree with you regarding Looking at Lucky. I do agree that Baffert does want to run him as a 4 year old but a lot can happen to a horse in 16 months. If he is a monster now, I say let him have his chance. Rachel was a monster last year and has tailed off as a 4 year old, or so it appears. No guarantees in this sport. If LAL is the best horse now, then let him run.

I am not convinced Quality Road can get the 10 furlongs or beat Blame, but of course that will be answered soon enough.

04 Aug 2010 1:07 PM
Mike Relva

LENNY:

Thanks to you and Steve for giving great respect for Zenyatta. Unlike some bloggers' you give her just due.

04 Aug 2010 5:21 PM
Zookeeper

Lenny,

Great blog! I love your enthousiasm. You are right, we've had great racing so far this year and even better coming up. We are one lucky bunch of fans!

04 Aug 2010 9:28 PM
Edmer

Thanks Lenny and Steve for signing my program at BC 2009 at Santa Anita by the entrance at the benches surounded by the oak trees.

And They're Off is the best show out there. HRTV and TVG can't come close, not even by a nose.

Also you guys are so fan friendly.

Thanks, your buddy,

Edmer

04 Aug 2010 11:29 PM
maryann727

In response to The Deacon's comment: "My intuition tells me that the connections of Zenyatta won't run her in the Classic this year. I just feel that they value the winning streak more then they want to risk her losing in this years Classic."---None of us has a crystal ball, nor can we read the minds of Zenyatta's connections, but I really think that their goal this year has been to have Zenyatta defend her 2009 BC Classic win and to end her stellar career with a repeat victory at the 2010 BC Classic. I hope the weather gods are kind and that she runs and that she is victorious.

05 Aug 2010 11:50 PM
kathleen o

Lenny, I agree with you re the timing of the CH.  Zen and her connections don't like that track surface, but the PE would prove to be logistically impossible.  First, Zen doesn't travel well, so if they ship to NY, they're not going to bring her back to Cal with only two months before the BC.  Shirriffs is a Calif based trainer and can't split his time between 2 coasts for just one horse.  Unlike with Assmussen and RA, there is no dedicated assistant trainer for Zen.  Second, if they come to NY at all before the BC, the Beldame makes far more sense, better timing, less impact on Shirriff's entire operation.

07 Aug 2010 11:06 AM
derbyfan

congrats zenyatta you big beautiful mare.

08 Aug 2010 7:55 AM
The Deacon

I do hope that I am wrong about Zenyatta going to the Classic. Maybe at this point winning back to back Classics is such a milestone that they will race her. It's true I do not have a crystal ball but I was just thinking out loud. I did predict Blame over Quality Road in the Whitney so I feel pretty good about that one. Heck, it stands to reason that most of us are wrong as much or more then we are right when it comes to making predictions about this sport.

My deepest sympathy go out to all the connections of the brilliant mare Tuscan Evening. Her death is such a tragedy.

Congrats to Zenyatta for another beautiful performance. You are truly the Queen and one classy lady.............

09 Aug 2010 1:01 AM
Edmer

I strongly agree with "Zenyatta is truly the Queen", The Queen of California and Oaklawn and the 5 other entries she beats, that sure is classy. In her span of 18 wins in a row, Zenyatta beat a whopping average of, 5 also rans.

12 Aug 2010 8:24 PM
Susan

Dear Lenny,

Great writing! Between the fruitcake the watched- pot analogies, and the way the piece knit together, it was a fast, fun read!

13 Aug 2010 4:04 PM

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