Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rachel-Zen Apple Blossom showdown blooms anew

I'm scrambling on another couple of fronts this afternoon and might have to comment more later, but The Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman reports that the $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap match at Oaklawn Park between Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and champion older female Zenyatta is back on.

Oaklawn apparently has agreed to move the race back six days, easing the time window between when Rachel might be able to run a mid-March prep and the date she'd have to face Zen in the Apple Blossom. Rachel's trainer, Steve Asmussen, had lamented the likely three-week turnaround between races, saying he would prefer four weeks.

Leave it to Charles Cella and Oaklawn to make a bid this expensive and serious for the race of the 21st Century. Oaklawn of course offered the $5 million bonus that was cashed-in by Smarty Jones in 2004, for sweeping the Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby on his way to also winning the Kentucky Derby.

"I've never had so much trouble giving $5 million away," Cella told Privman for the DRF.

But, Cella says he has a firm commitment from both camps to pit Rachel vs. Zen on Friday, April 9. That's the afternoon prior to the Arkansas Derby, and frankly could be a racing weekend to rival the Oaks-Derby double at Churchill a few weeks later.


  1. Hey, Glenn, my URL for The Carryover changed to, if you wouldn't mind changing it on your 'featured blogs' section.

    Let's hope Jackson stays on course and runs in this thing. He makes the Mosses look better and better all the time.

  2. And done, Mr. O'Meara, sir. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Everything about this news is wonderful. Except I don't get the Friday afternoon part. I don't get it at all. Sure, I'll put in for a vacation day to ensure I can watch it, but what were they thinking?!? Joe Racing Fan gets shut out from watching this matchup.

    If Oaklawn had lights (I've never been, and I assume they don't), it would make sense, because you could televise it on NBC or something. But Friday afternoon?

    *shakes head*

    David H.

  4. Good point. I'm sure they're going for an Oaks-Derby sort of thing like Churchill has. The big female race on Friday with the Arkansas Derby to follow.

    SHOULD sell them a lot more tickets and increase handle on Friday.

    I can liken it to the newspaper business. We sell all sorts of Sunday papers. Why add a new feature on Sunday? Add it on a day that you have trouble selling papers.

    But, it sure would be good to have that race at a time when more people can view it. After all, nobody's scheduling a half-day of work so we can all listen or watch, like the Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race.

  5. The newspaper analogy is good. But this race is huge and it rubs me the wrong way to have this scheduled for a random Friday. I guess I'll just count my blessings that I can take a vacation day and be at my favorite OTB to watch.

    BTW, I predict Zenyatta will be rating right behind RA. Though she may start slow out of the gate, Mike Smith is going to have to ask her for her all; he's going to have to find her bottom if they want any shot of winning this thing. It's 9F right? RA can run like the wind for 9F. Zenyatta won't be able to close from deep like she's usually done. They're going to have to keep her up in a stalking position. I fully expect RA and Big Z to draw off from the rest of the field, a'la Affirmed and Alydar in the Belmont Stakes. And the stretch run will be legendary :D

    David H.

  6. David,

    I hope the race goes off, and I hope you're right that the stretch run will be legendary.

    I'd have to go back and re-watch Zenyatta's races, or at least read the PPs, but I wonder when the last time was that she wasn't just practically dawdling out of the gate.

    I think how close Zen is kept will depend on how much other speed is in the race. If anyone else -- especially two "anyones" -- can make Rachel work for the lead or even (depending on post position) hang Rachel out a little wide on the first turn, then maybe Zenyatta can run her own race. But if Rachel is right (which on any given day, any horse might not be) and gets an easy lead, she's going to be double-tough to run down from deep.

  7. Oaklawn is probably going to get the largest crowd they've ever seen at the track for this race. I'm in CT and I'm going to do everything humanly possible to attend, what a chance of a lifetime!
    I like David's Zenyatta scenario. I doubt they will drastically change her running style that much, but it's fun to think about. If Rachel can rate just off the front runners like she did in the Oaks, Mother Goose and Haskell I think she will win this going away.

  8. I'm planning on being there. I intend to pull off the Apple Blossom/Arkansas Derby double and then go on to visit family in neighboring states. ... Couldn't work out better, barring something awful happening. Like my getting a job.


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