February 11, 2010

Rachel withdrawn from Oaklawn's "Race for the Ages" versus Zenyatta

More double talk coming from team Rachel, consisting of owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen. Yesterday evening Asmussen made the following comment, "Out of respect for the level of competition and the importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the best interest of the horse to race on April 3... the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later." That's funny, becasue that's exactly what Zenyatta is planning to do by running in the Santa Margarita (Grade 1) in California and then ship to Oaklawn for a return in the Apple Blossom just three weeks later.

What made matters worse is Jackson's attempt to create a side story rather than just coming out and saying they would take on Zenyatta down the road. "We have been in discussions with Alex Waldrop, president of (the NTRA), with the hope of coordinate training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown." The problem is that this statement is either a flat out lie or he's trying to lobby the NTRA for tracks and distances that suit Rachel the best before bringing Moss to the negotiating table. Moss told the AP, "I have no idea what he's even talking about. Which three races? And where? And when?"

So let me get this straight... a three month notice at a neutral dirt track where both horses have previously raced and won and the legendary track owner Charels Cella ponying up $5 million with a guaranteed payout for each horse isn't enough for you, Mr. Jackson? Somehow now you think you can come to terms on a 3 race series with all kind of factors at play when you won't accept the red carpet from Oaklawn Park? Seems to me this "deal" in fact will never get done and you'll try to blame Jerry Moss, who obviously doesn't want anything to do with you.

The best quote of all came from Moss, "It's a shame they are not going to show up for that race." That's what this really boils down to and frankly, I appreciate the direct talk from Jerry on this one. But as I've said before in previous blogs, you can only duck the Big Z for so long now that you are the hunted. Moss will be looking at every possible entry you make. And if you stick with the New York tracks all summer in shorter distance races, that's a clear statement you want no part of Zenyatta. I would expect Arlington Park in Chicago to try to lure these two for a summer date, perhaps co-featuring Arlington Million day. This is a neutral dirt track with a solid reputation and history of making a splash -- created the "Citation Challenge" for Cigar's 16th consecutive victory in 1996.

Or, I could be wrong (has happened on one other occasion) and a three race series will come to fruition. But in this format I would think at least one race would have to occur in California over synthetics, which I can't see Jess agreeing to. Wouldn't it be fun to watch these two (and other supporting cast) race at Belmont over dirt, at Del Mar over synthetics with perhaps even a turf race thrown in to see what would actually happen rather than continuing to debate? But none of this dreaming can take place while Jess Jackson is running scared.

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