Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

The Great Trinity: Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Goldikova

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 22, 2010

My internet server has decided to take the week off apparently so I was unable to research for this post. This is mostly going to be off the top of my head and from memory so please forgive any mistakes (and feel free to point out any) you might come across.

European racing at Royal Ascot seemed to garner as much attention from American racing fans over the last couple of weeks as our own American racing due in large part to the remarkable 5-year-old mare Goldikova and her continued conquest of the world’s most accomplished runners.

Just a few days before Europe’s queen of racing dominated a stellar field of males in the Queen Anne Stakes, two towering champions on American soil made sure and certain that they received their fair amount of the chatter with two powerhouse performances.

On June 12th in Kentucky reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra waltzed her way to the easiest of wins by

destroying a fairly weak field of fillies in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, winning by 10 ½ lengths despite being geared down and ridden to the wire without a touch of the whip. Notwithstanding severe criticism from many fans and sports writers alike that owner Jess Jackson was taking the easy way out with the 2009 Horse of the Year in the Fleur de Lis instead of facing the males in the Stephen Foster or even the girls at Belmont in the Ogden Phipps Handicap there is no denying that is was great to see a brilliant performance like that from Rachel Alexandra. After two consecutive losses all coming by less than a length this year it was like a powerful shot of adrenalin in the Rachel ranks as somewhat subdued and disappointed fans exploded from out of the woodwork to celebrate the return of their hero to winning form.

With Rachel Alexandra’s victorious return the inevitable torch was passed to the ever capable Zenyatta to continue the streak of brilliance that she now has stretched out over an incredible 3 year campaign. On June 13th in one of the

most unprecedented and inconceivable feats in thoroughbred horse racing history Zenyatta not only took the torch and ran with it, she turned it into a flamethrower of sorts the effects of which will be talked about for centuries to come. In her 3rd consecutive Vanity Handicap the grand mare ran her undefeated record to a perfect 17-for-17, setting a North American record for the most consecutive wins in races not restricted to state breds. Her standard is nothing less than perfection and in each and every single one of her 17 starts it has proven to be too much for her overpowered competition. Four years ago if you had asked anyone if they thought the records of the Great Citation and Cigar would fall by 2010, taken down by a mare, would anyone have believed you? The significance of what Zenyatta has accomplished cannot be over estimated.

With all three of these amazing mares all pointing towards the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this fall the 2 day championship meet takes on a whole new meaning. Zenyatta will almost certainly be going for a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic while Goldikova will shooting for a stunning 3rd consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. Rachel Alexandra is a little behind the game at this point but is finally pointing in the right direction. Which Breeders’ Cup race she will enter is anybody’s guess but the two most logical choices are the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic the Classic itself. If she takes on males successfully before the Breeders’ Cup it will probably be the Breeders’ Cup Classic over the Ladies Classic which would bring about a monumental clash between two of the most highly esteemed fillies in history with both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra entered.

It pretty much just comes down to speculation and guesses at this point in time in the racing season because we all know that anything and everything can happen in racing, but it’s always fun to dream.

Comeback Trails: A Promising Outlook

Winslow Homer, winner of this year’s Holy Bull Stakes and prominent on the Kentucky Derby trail before being sidelined with a stress fracture is set to make his return to the races in the June 26th Iowa Derby after making incredibly rapid progress in his healing and training regimen. Trainer Tony Dutrow said the colt has come out of his recovery in fantastic shape.

Royally bred Take Control, a son of champions A. P. Indy and Azeri, who many though would be a good Kentucky Derby prospect early in the year is back to work after being sidelined from bucked shins. The Bob Baffert trainee has been closely followed since well before his impressive maiden win first out due in large part because of his famous and talented parents.

I Want Revenge has trainer Rick Dutrow feeling very confident and excited about the 4-year-old colts chances to return back to his spectacular form from early 2009 after making remarkable progress in his rehabilitation. If all goes well from this point on works the plan is to enter him in the July 3rd Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Last year I Want Revenge won a thrilling edition of the Wood Memorial before being scratched from the Kentucky Derby as the favorite the morning of the race.

2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird is looking like his Derby-winning-self these days after posting numerous workouts that have trainer D. Wayne Lukas glowing with anticipation of the gelding’s return to the races. His return could come as soon as July 3rd or 4th with his main goal being the Whitney Handicap (gr.1) on August 7th at Saratoga.

Who remembers The Pamplemousse? Impressive winner of both the 2009 Sham Stakes and San Rafael Stakes, the stunning colt who was sidelined by a serious tendon injury before the Santa Anita Derby is back to light training for trainer Julio Canani. Although it appears a return to the races will still be quite a ways in the future, Canani expressed his confidence that The Pamplemousse will return to his winning ways once he does return.


3 Responses to “The Great Trinity: Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Goldikova”

  1. Mine That Bird is the most intriguing of the layoffers.

    Mr. Lukas recently lamented that Mine That Bird was not far along in his conditioning after being transferred to his barn.

    After today’s work though, he was “all smiles”. One of the options for Mine That Bird would be The Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park. Yes I know that it’s over the so called “speed favoring surface”, but actually it would give Mr. Lukas a better read on where Mine That Bird in his progress than say a race like The Firecracker on the grass.

    Mr. Lukas’s quotes and quips figure to be at least as interesting as Mine That Bird’s races. 😉

    • I agree, he is the one horse I most want to see succeed, the main reason being that he is a gelding and if he can regain some of his “Derby-winning brilliance” he could become a longer-term star for the sport.

      The Firecracker Handicap on grass is also an option according to Lukas but I’m betting they will go to either the Salvator Mile or find an allowance race.

  2. Madeleine I. Lapointe said

    This list of ‘Thoroughbreds’ sidelined by ‘injuries’ seems to me to be an indictment of the ‘Industry’ of horse racing in North America: in-bred stock raised for quick results, regardless of inherited flaws, stressed far beyond their limits at extremely young ages, bred far too soon and again, regardless of genetic weakness.
    How many actually make it to adulthood (4 or 5 years) without a stress injury or complete breakdown (as in: Eight Belles)? How many end up as food because of over-breeding? Why is the ‘breed’ not strengthened by outcrossings to their originators, Arabians, or other breeds that have dense bones, strong ligaments,etc.? In my 50 years of watching races (which I don’t actually do any more,absolutely not since Eight Bells…)it has been MY observations that an occasional mutation occurs and becomes a Superhorse, only to fail when the attempt is made to pass on the characteristics of greatness: Secretariat, Cigar…. probably Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra eventually. Like the extreme overbreeding of genetically flawed dogs,which is being fought now by NGO’s and governments, the Thoroughbred Industry needs to get itself under control, out of control of Big Money, and look to the well being of the creatures used by us for enjoyment and profit, to their terrible detriment.

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