Getting all excited about that possible matchup between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in a souped-up Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 3? Don’t get too revved up, because it’s unlikely to happen.
The Daily Racing Form in Tuesday’s editions reported the New York Racing Association was seeking a sponsor to help raise the Beldame’s purse from $600,000 to $1 million and was hoping to lure Rachel and Zenyatta in a race that would include between two and five more fillies and mares.
This is the problem — the Zenyatta camp is focused on the Breeders’ Cup at this point in time. Why would they travel 3,000 miles to New York and then hop back on a plane and fly another 3,000 miles back home in time for the Breeders’ Cup in five weeks when they can prep in the Lady’s Secret on Oct. 10 in their own backyard?
Trainer John Shirreffs is one of the best in the business, but he’s also one of the most conservative in the business. Zenyatta’s owner, Jerry Moss, is a smart man and he listens to and trusts Shirreffs’ judgment. If Shirreffs thinks it’s not a good idea to travel all that distance and have to put up with the detention barn and all, well, they’re not going.
“Does it work into the Breeders’ Cup schedule? That is the thing we are focusing on,” Shirreffs told the Racing Form. “We’ll have to see the calendar and how it works out. It’s something to consider.”
But only 30 minutes after Zenyatta ran her lifetime record to 12-0 with a head victory in the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9, Shirreffs didn’t sound like a man who was ready to jump on a plane and head to the Big Apple anytime soon when asked if the big mare would maybe travel east before the Breeders’ Cup.
“For what? What would be the purpose at this particular time, especially with the Breeders’ Cup?” Shirreffs said. “That’s what the thoroughbred industry did, they created a venue for the best horses in the country and the world now to come and race against one another.”
It’s my feeling that if these two great distaffers meet, it will be after the Breeders’ Cup, not before. The Zenyatta folks are focused on the weekend of Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita and most likely the Ladies Classic.