Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What did Monday's Jerry do with Saturday's Jerry?

Will the real Jerry Moss please stand up? Or at least stop singing different tunes?

Moss, founder of A&M Records and owner of the most-accomplished older mare in America, Zenyatta, on Saturday morning appeared on a satellite radio racing program, "Down The Stretch." During an interview, Moss said that since it appears stellar 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra won't be coming to the Breeders' Cup to face his mare, then his mare would just go on the road to find that filly.

"There's a good chance," Moss said Saturday, that Zenyatta would seek out Rachel, most likely at an eastern racetrack on a conventional dirt surface.

By Monday, Moss was backpedaling so quickly that the only way to make out his original statement now might be to run the tape in reverse and listen for it between the repeated phrases of "turn me on, dead man ..."

"We'd love to meet Rachel Alexandra, and I'm sorry she apparently isn't coming to the Breeders' Cup," Moss said in an interview with The Blood-Horse. "... As owners, we plan for the Breeders' Cup. That is where championships are supposed to be resolved. My brain is fighting my heart on this, because I'd like to give Zenyatta every chance to remove any doubts about her place in history, and Rachel Alexandra would be a challenge. ... We'd like to meet her, but we don't want to swerve out of our program, because we still have the Breeders' Cup foremost in our sights."

Sounds like somebody got a lecture from his trainer, John Shirreffs, after Saturday's satellite radio interview.

Shirreffs had said weeks ago that Zenyatta was going nowhere this summer, not in the sense that she wouldn't be running and winning races, only that she'd be running and winning them all on synthetic surfaces in Southern California.

Since Rachel's principal owner, Jess Jackson, has said he doesn't want his filly running "on plastic" (even though she has a synthetic surface victory to her credit), it appears the leading 3-year-old filly in the country will not be Breeders' Cup-bound. For the second straight year, the Cup will be run at Santa Anita, which has a Pro-Ride synthetic surface. Jackson, whose superstar and champion Curlin flopped in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita last year, says he isn't going back.

Moss on Monday appeared to end any notion that Zenyatta might face Rachel at Saratoga in the Go For Wand on Aug. 2, the Personal Ensign on Aug. 30 or at Belmont in the Oct. 3 Beldame. No mention was made at The Blood-Horse of the $1 million, Grade 2 Delaware Handicap coming up July 19, but since that race would be a deviation from Shirreffs' ultra-conservative plan, one has to figure it's out, too.

Moss suggested that perhaps his unbeaten mare -- who won her 11th in as many tries by taking the Vanity Handicap Saturday -- and the outstanding Rachel Alexandra might be able to meet post-Breeders' Cup. But he bellyached about the detention barn at Belmont ("We had a very bad experience with Giacomo going to the dention barn at Belmont ... he went nuts.") and talked like he was scared of running Zenyatta at Saratoga because the "tight turns would compromise Zenyatta given her running style of coming wide from behind."

"Every venue has its idiosyncracies that are risky," Moss said.

So there it is. What looked like a possibility Saturday -- that Moss would be sporting enough to send Zenyatta out to meet Rachel even if Jackson isn't sporting enough to have Rachel attend the Breeders' Cup -- seems an impossibility today. Unless the two meet somewhere after the Breeders' Cup, in the six or weeks or so remaining before Zenyatta is almost certain to be retired to the breeding shed. And, pardon my asking, but exactly what suitable race remains on the calendar after racing's festival of festivals, the Breeders' Cup, which is intended to all but close out the season.

Sadly, much of Moss' reversal appears to hinge on the notion that putting Zenyatta in any position other than a race hand-picked to play to her every strength is "risky" -- not to the mare's health, mind you, but simply to her chances of staying unbeaten.

Moss and Jackson have invested so much in this sport, where risk is inherent with every powerful stride. It's disappointing to see them both become so protectionist now regarding their greatest investments, Zenyatta and Rachel, both of whom were conceived, foaled and nurtured to race.

Just apparently not to race against each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.