Those who’ve been accusing the Zenyatta camp of staying home, protecting their mare’s perfect record and ducking probable Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, perhaps better think again.
Apparently, Rachel Alexandra’s connections felt more compelled to face older males than race against Zenyatta this past summer. Jess Jackson and Co. had every opportunity to meet Zenyatta on dirt and in a 1 1/8-mile one-turn race, which would have been advantageous to the fabulous 3-year-old filly, but opted to go in the Woodward.
Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, says they nominated the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry to the $600,000 Grade 1 Beldame States at Belmont Park, which was run on Oct. 3, in hopes that Rachel Alexandra would bypass the Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 5 and instead wait and run against Zenyatta.
“That was the whole reason for nominating her to the Beldame,” Shirreffs said. “It was probably the one realistic opportunity that we both had. Because up until then, obviously she was running in 3-year-old races and we were out here.”
Zenyatta’s veteran exercise rider, Steve Willard, who’s worked with Alysheba, Afternoon Deelite, Dare And Go, Gate Dancer and Gentlemen during his career, says it’s better for Rachel Alexandra that the two distaffers didn’t meet.
“I know everybody brags on Rachel, but I believe we could run her down,” he said.
“But the reason I know we could run Rachel down … yeah, she runs fast for a mile, but look at the finish. They are average times. Very average. And (Zenyatta) has never failed to catch her target.”