January 21, 2010

Rachel reigns supreme, but for how long?

In the most anticipated Eclipse Award Horse of the Year vote in decades, Rachel Alexandra went to the front in the vote tally and never looked back, holding off Zenyatta's late season surge by a tally of 130-99. Rachel won in each of the three entities that comprise the Eclipse votes (turf writers of America, DRF, and NTRA racing secretaries/Equibase charters), which went contrary to many fan polls and NTRA rankings leading up to Monday's ceremonies.

Perhaps the biggest racing news of the week, however, was Zenyatta's owners declaring she will return to racing in 2010 after all. What a brilliant PR move as this totally flips their previous position of "ducking" Rachel and other talent outside of California. Now the hunter (Rachel) becomes the hunted and this puts tremendous pressure on Jess Jackson to take on Zenyatta in 2010. Take a look at Jerry Moss' comments below...

“They have a great horse,” Moss told TVG afterward. “Some day we'll meet, and we'll decide at that time who's best. I'm looking forward to the encounter. … We'll see what they're entering in, and we'll be alongside them in the gate. When she's ready, we'll look for a race that's right for her. Hopefully Rachel will show up. If she doesn't, we'll look at what Rachel is doing and see if it's about time we met.”

And as if that wasn't clear enough, he went on... "She's perfect," Moss said of Zenyatta. "Nobody beat her on the racetrack. They beat her by proxy." Moss said he "wouldn't trade places with anybody" and that he was "looking forward" to having Zenyatta meet Rachel Alexandra on the track.

Wow, talk about a racing salvo!! And guess what, it's working. Moss announced that Zenyatta would be pointed to the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park (her previous lone start outside of California) in early April, knowing that Asmussen uses Oaklawn as a spring base where Rachel ran twice in 2009. When Jess Jackson was later asked to respond to Moss' comments, here's the best he could muster; “We’re hoping that each horse, taking its course, may win their way to an ultimate match, and maybe we can work toward that.”

This quote doesn't quite elicit the same confidence he showed last year in dragging Rachel all over the east coast, while picking up stakes victory after victory against any foe who dared to enter against his "Iron Maiden." When pressed on a potential head to head race at Oaklawn park, he (not the actual trainer, Asmussen, mind you) suggested that Rachel had lost training days at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans due to rain and may not be able to make that start. That's interesting considering that race is still three months away and Rachel has routinely been jogging on the track, although she hasn't yet resumed any timed training workouts. Steve Asmussen had previously commented how he would like to get an easy prep race at the Fair Grounds prior to the Oaklawn race. So who knows when Rachel will get back to the track from her long winter's nap (she last raced September 5). But one thing appears certain, whenever and wherever Rachel does return Zenyatta and Jerry Moss will be there! Ahhh, what a year 2010 could turn out to be.

Welcome back, Oaklawn Park, I hope to see you soon my dear friend!