Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Rachel and Zenyatta: Racing Against Themselves

Posted by Brian Appleton on March 10, 2010

So many things in horse racing seem unsure and fragile. The economy, auctions, purses, revenue, race dates, attendance, weather and race outcome are all inhabited by the fact that nothing in this sport is a sure thing. At least, that’s what everyone thought until 2009 came along, until Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Until nothing seemed to matter or make a difference except winning and winning big. If racing achievements were measured by feet and inches, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta would be about 2,000 ft. above the Empire State Building. Everyone knows what these two phenomenal females have accomplished in their careers and especially in 2009. What now begins is a new chapter, one that starts, and hopefully ends, in triumph and satisfaction.

Zenyatta winning the 2008 Apple Blossom

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are both slated to run their 2010 debut races this Saturday and though they enter the gate thousands of miles apart, they will ultimately be facing each other. Everything these two great athletes do from now on will forever be linked with the other. From the moment they step into the walking ring on Saturday, to the very second they arrive at Oaklawn Park to contest the April 9th Apple Blossom Handicap all eyes will be trained on Rachel and Zenyatta. The Apple Blossom Handicap has been accepted, though not formally, by both parties as the race in which the two super-stars will finally meet in what promises to be one of the most epic battles in history.

Rachel Alexandra, 2009 Horse of the Year and Champion Three Year Old Filly, makes her 2010 debut at Fair Grounds in the

Rachel Alexandra in her most recent work

$200,000 New Orleans ladies Stakes, a race pretty much tailor-made for her by the track in the hopes of luring her to stay at Fair Grounds for her debut. Having last raced six months ago when becoming the first filly in history to win the historic Woodward Stakes (gr.1), Rachel Alexandra has been cramming in the works in order to be fit for her first race of the season. Since the announcement that she would start in the Apple Blossom, Rachel has been systematically cranking up her exercise routine in order to reach her peak fitness level in time for the race. Trainer Steve Asmussen admitted that the filly is not yet 100% fit but that he is happy with where she is right now in her training. Let’s see, not 100% yet, but the way she made mincemeat of the fillies last year, this should be nothing more than a walk in the park if she is just 70%. Most people will not be concerned with her fitness level. She will no doubt be the overwhelming favorite, and not just at the betting windows. Rachel drew post position number 2, right between the two speed horses in the race, a scenario that suits trainer Steve Asmussen just fine.

Zenyatta enters the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr.1) looking better than ever before. The gargantuan

Zenyatta

mare has been posting some of the best works of her life since December and is as razor-sharp for her 2010 debut as she’s ever been. She has been assigned a 127 pound impost for the Santa Margarita which is substantially higher than the other fillies/mares in the field, but she won with 129 pounds in the Vanity last year, so weight should not be a problem. She will be spotting her possible rivals 8 to 19 pounds which is significant, but nothing seems to have fazed her so far and I doubt this will make a difference.

Both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will be facing somewhat small fields it appears. Rachel is slated to take on just 4 others in

Rachel Alexandra

the New Orleans Ladies Stakes, while the final entries for the Santa Margarita have not yet been finalized. However the fields appear on race day one thing is sure; Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will make headlines, win or lose. I think the general sentiment is that both will win and continue down the war path that eventually ends at Oaklawn Park.

Three major Kentucky Derby preps, the Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby, are also going to be run on Saturday. I will post on them in a separate entry later.

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14 Responses to “Rachel and Zenyatta: Racing Against Themselves”

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, adding me to your roll and for the correction. I noticed it after the fact, but was too lazy to fix it. Looking forward to your thoughts on the weekend’s big prep races. Interclif intrigues me out west and I really like Dublin in what looks like a stacked Rebel. Good stuff!

    • No problem, I was pleased and surprised to find another great blog on horse racing!
      I’m a big Dublin fan, but not sure yet what I think of him in the Rebel, should be an exciting weekend.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Well, you know where my heart is on this one, my friend. I’ll be pulling for a dead heat, nothing else.

    While I love Rachel, Zenyatta is one of the best race horses I’ve ever seen and would seem to be quite imposing…especially if Jess is worried that Rachel may be “only 85%.”

    I can’t really explain it…I just feel really worried that something isn’t right. I’m a professional worrier though, so that’s nothing to be alarmed about. 🙂

    • A dead heat would be the ultimate climax to the amazing careers of Rachel and Zenyatta, it’s a VERY long shot, but if it can happen anywhere, it can most certainly happen in horse racing.
      I think it’s natural to feel worried before the races of the “big horse”, I always felt that way with Curlin, and at the same time felt completely confident that he would win. I think 85% is enought to beat this New Oreans Ladies field. As for Zenyatta, she scares me more and more as a Rachel fan!

  3. Great article, Brian. I can’t wait to see the results of both races by Saturday night. 🙂

  4. Look for impressive wins by both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra on Saturday…setting up the Happening at Hot Springs!!! Anything else will be a bit of a disappointment. Great blog Brian!

    • Thanks Brian!
      I fully expect them to both win impressively, Zenyatta’s works have been phenomenal and Rachel just seems like the kind of horse who is so competitive that she “works” herself into shape every time she steps onto the track to exercise.

  5. All I Can Say is Wow.
    These two greats made it through the winter without a retirement notice from either camp. 😀

    The first race back from a long layup (especially going two turns)
    is a tough obstacle. I voted Zenyatta will win and Rachel loses.
    BTW I’m a Rachel fan so no bias there. 😉

    But even if Rachel wins, the two turns on dirt is much more difficult than two turns on the Pro-Ride where the horses only have to run hard during the latter part of the race. Dirt races of course are run full-tilt from the very beginning.

    So I’d have to assume Rachel needs an easy win or say goodbye to The Apple Blossom. That’s the way I see it at this point.

    • TKS-I love getting your comments because you tend to be completely impartial to your favorite runners when calling a race, you just call it like you see it…unlike me! (:

      It is great that both horses are still running after the long break for each, you always wonder what’s going to happen when a horse like Rachel is off the work tab for so long.

      I’m of the opinion that both will win thier races easily and continue onward to thier grand show-down. Zenyatta does seem a little more “sure” right now, but I think Rachel is too good to get beat in the New Orleans Ladies.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. […] Comments Brian Appleton on Rachel and Zenyatta: Racing Ag…Brian Appleton on Rachel and Zenyatta: Racing Ag…The_Knight_Sky on Rachel and Zenyatta: […]

  7. LDP said

    I cannot wait for them to run. I really hope all works out, but I really have a bad feeling my dream (you can read about on my blog or in the comment section of ZATT.) I will not willingly throw myself to the lions on another blog. I agree with Brian Z, that anything less than a win would be a dissapointment.

    RA should handle this field easily. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t 100% last year before the oaks or during the Mother Goose, and look what she did. 85% should be more than enough for a comfortable win here.

  8. If I had a nickel for each time I came here! Great article.

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