Zenyatta’s camp wanted to meet Rachel in Beldame

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.”

41 thoughts on “Zenyatta’s camp wanted to meet Rachel in Beldame

  1. It’s nice that they say that now, but I don’t believe that the connections of Zenyatta ever had any intention of shipping her East.

  2. It’s been well known that Zenyatta’s connections wanted to stay away from NY because of their detention barns. Who are they trying to kid?

    Yes, Zenyatta is the champ and she deserves all the accolades she’s earned. BUT, let’s not pretend like Jerry Moss deserves any kind of sportsmanship award by “nominating” to races. Rachel Alexandra’s camp mapped out an umprecedented, borderline ridiculous campaign for her in 2009 and guess what? She showed up every time!

    I’m a firm believer that the competitor (Rachel Alexandra) should seek out the champion (Zenyatta). This would not come to fruition NOT because of the champion, but because of the racing surface. Mark one for Zenyatta. However, saying you nominated to a race you knew you wouldn’t show up to with the hope of harnessing potentional eclipse award votes should be considered a slap in the face to all racing fans.

    Rachel Alexandra deserves to be HOTY regardless of the outcome of the Breeders’ Cup races. She was campaigned in a manner which we haven’t seen since the days when the sport of kings was just that. She imbodies the all-around perfect racehorse and her owners fearless sportsmanship is just what this sport needs.

  3. Ha ha…Zenyatta’s speed figures have been nothing if not average. It’s the one accepted, well known knock against her. Look in the mirror Steve Willard!

  4. And thank you to Apremont for pointing out their excuse about the detention barns. After so many excuses they probably thought we’d forgotten that one.

  5. NYRA waived the detention barn requirement for Zenyatta if she came to the Beldame. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Moss’s sent her there for the Beldame if Rachel had run.

  6. Excuses? I think both camps have had more than their share of excuses — detention barns, synthetic race tracks. Like Gary Player said yesterday at a Breeders’ Cup press conference, champions show up on championship days no matter what. Player golfed against Nicklaus and Palmer, no matter if the course favored either of the other two. Bottom line, he showed up. And guess what? Zenyatta is an even better horse on dirt, just like Rachel probably is as well.

  7. I’m pretty sure all the golf courses Player played Nicklaus and Palmer over were made of grass and not putt-putt carpet. Apples and oranges.

    The connections of Zenayatta didn’t even bother nominating to the Woodward in early August even when they knew that option was on the table for Rachel, which they could have very easily done. They did find the time, however, to blow a few hundred to nominate her to the Beldame, a race they knew well ahead of time Rachel was not going to be nominated to.

  8. I don’t know John Shirreffs nor anyone at the Rachel Aleaxandra camp. So here’s my UNBIASED opinion from a fan who’s studied every one of their races.

    No one can knock Zenyatta in anyway, shape, or form. She’s an amazing mare and great for racing.

    It’s in poor taste for the Zenyatta’s people to insinuate that Rachel Alexandra ducked her in any way. If these claimes were true, the media would have grabbed hold of it and the race would have happened. Jess Jackson has made it perfectly clear that he wanted to compete with Zenyatta on the dirt.

    It’s also now apparent that Zenyatta was campaigned in with the goal of matching/eclipsing Personal Ensign’s win streak (recent published comments by Shirreffs point to that direction).

    On the heels of Rachel’s dominance in the Preakness and Haskell Stakes, Zenyatta’s camp had the PERFECT opportunity to answer back with a start in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. She had the spotlight to show the world that Rachel Alexandra wasn’t the only girl who could beat the boys. Instead, they ran her in a weak G1 race against mediocre competition. Opportunity lost.

    Jerry Moss and John Shirreff’s have every right to campaign Zenyatta the way they see fit – but don’t claim you seeked the best competion. It’s obvious they choose safe spots in a weak division and stayed within familiar elements. Through no fault of Zenyatta, its her connections that failed her for any possibility for HOTY.

    Jess Jackson’s decision to skip the Breeders’ Cup is dissapointing. However, it takes nothing away from what he’s done to showcase this sport in a positive light.

  9. Let’s not misrepresent what the Zenyatta folks are saying. John Shirreffs told me they nominated to the Beldame and that it was their best chance to meet up to that point. He made no reference insinuating the Rachel camp was ducking Zenyatta. As for the Pacific Classic, Zenyatta HATES Del Mar’s Polytrack. Her exercise rider told me that one morning she balked, that she didn’t want to even go walk over that stuff. Why run her against other Grade 1 runners of the opposite sex on a surface she obviously hates? Both camps take good care of their fillies, and to run Zenyatta in the Pacific Classic would have been foolish. If they’d wanted to take on boys before the Classic, a start in the Goodwood at Santa Anita on Oct. 10 would have been a much better spot.

  10. If Zenyatta hated the Del Mar Polytrack so much, why did they run her there anyway? It’s not as if there weren’t any logical alternatives elsewhere if the connections would have opened their eyes and had been adventurous.

  11. Don’t understand all the criticism the way Zenyatta has been handled. Could they have stepped outside the box more? Sure. But if she wins Saturday, she becomes the first female to win the Classic against a far better field of males than Rachel ever faced. Plus, she’s 14-0 and regarded as one of the greatest ever. They’ve been cautious, sure, but it will be hard to argue their method if they win the Classic.

  12. John Shirreffs and Jerry Moss have never called out anybody. If your definition of “calling out” is telling a reporter that they entered Zenyatta in the Beldame and it was their best chance to meet Rachel Alexandra up to that point, well, that’s your prerogative.

  13. I got my timeline mixed up and realized that the Beldame was AFTER Rachel Alexandra’s win in the Woodward.

    Had Rachel Alexandra run in the Beldame, it would have been off her third victory over males and her eighth start of the season.

    It was clear that the Woodward would be the final start of Rachel Alexandra’s season. If team Shirreff’s was keen on traveling NY, why didn’t they send Zenyatta to the Woodward?

    Mr. Wilson, please answer me this: Do you honestly think that its “sportsmanlike” to call out a competitor that you had a chance to face earlier in the year only after she’s was battered by a long season and fresh off a tiring, heart wrenched victory over older males?

  14. Art, it is clear that some people have their minds made up, and facts will not deter them. To make the leap from reading that Shirreffs stated he nominated to the Beldame with the hope of meeting Rachel, to accusing one of the most stand-up guys in racing of “calling out” the other side, or of chicanery by never intending to actually go there, reveals the belligerent mindset.

    There is an unnecessary antagonistic tone among the commenters here. I am disappointed that Zenyatta didn’t run East against Rachel, too. But to accuse people you don’t know of lying, or to be snotty in a response to an exercise rider explaining why he thinks his horse would win a race against another, is indicative of a childish trash talk mentality that is in itself unsportsmanlike.

  15. Cathy … yes, Zenyatta is 17 hands. Shirreffs told a story last year about how Baffert wanted to prove Midnight Lute was bigger and marched into Shirreffs barn one morning with a tape measure, claiming he was the “myth buster.” He left a few minutes later, mumbling something about, ‘Yep, Zenyatta is bigger.’ Shirreffs says he’s never seen a bigger horse, and not just because she’s 17 hands tall. Lots of horses have been 17 hands tall, but it’s her hind that is so massive and so powerful that sets her apart from other big horses.

  16. Thanks for info on her height. I am assuming due to her weight,superb condition,etc, that she has the cannonbone to be safe exerting herself ,to mtach these boys. I am scared to watch after the breakdowns,and hoping that breeders have done some rethinking about keeping the bone on these horses. Seems the average thoroughbred who needs a home after retirement,could start to get used for sport horses again.if the grand prix,riders,etc, used to compete on thoroughbreds all the time,saw that the horses are sounder,maybe more of these magnificent racers could move on to new careers after track. Nothing would stop me from watching her today, but I won’t feel safe till she crosses that finish line in 1 peice! And all the rest that run their hearts out too!

  17. Both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta should be applauded for their individual acoomplishments. Both had absolutely stunning campaigns this year, each reaching new heights for their gender. It’s too bad that “Horse of the Year” can’t be a shared title, because both deserve the honor. However, after witnessing the unbelievable performance displayed by Zenyatta in the tough Breeders’ Classic, I’d have to say that she has an edge over Rachel Alexandra, especially since her connections decided to skip the Breeders’ Cup. Rachel’s victory in the Haskell against older males cannot compare to the “also rans” in the Breeders’ Classic. Even Jerry Bailey on national television agreed that Zenyatta has earned the honor of “Horse of the Year.” Both equines have been the very best advertisement for the sport of horse racing this past year. But, Zenyatta has a public following, second to none, that should also have some impact on the decision for the prestigious honor. I certainly hope that those who vote take the time to reflect on what she has accomplished this year, not to mention over her entire career.

  18. Match race of the century
    Will it ever happen? You couldn’t blame Zenyatta’s connections for retiring her, after the way she stomped the best males the year could had to offer in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. After all, she’s the most successful filly thats come along in several years, and at age 5, she’s got nothing left to prove. The smart thing, is to retire her to stud, and not look back.

    Then, there’s Rachel Alexandra. She’s such a special filly, destroying all but one of the female fields she’s faced, and besting the Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness. Her connections also sought out a second field of males, just to prove the middle jewel of the Triple Crown wasn’t a fluke, though opting for the weaker field. The poor move by her connections, the one that has cost her the most in the eyes of the fans and insiders, is the fact that her owner, Jess Jackson, safetyed up when it came to running her on the Pro Ride surface at Santa Anita, the site of this year’s Breeder’s Cup for the second year in a row. After all, Rachel is not Curlin, and disallowing her the opportunity to prove herself against the best the world has to offer, is felt by many to be a huge mistake.


    So here we are, cossing our fingers that it comes to pass. Hoping against all hope, that Jerry and Ann Moss allow their passion for racing to override their sensible side. That’s the only way we, the devoted fans of racing and zealous supporters of either superstar female, will ever get the unbelievable gift we so desperately desire. And, Zenyatta’s camp will have to be more than passionate. They’ll have to be big enough to seek out Rachel Alexandra on the surface she’s been successful on, in the part of the country she’s used to.

    What do you say, fans? If you want a match race, you’ll have to ask for it, loudly!

  19. Rick — Jerry Moss has already strongly hinted that Zenyatta will most likely be retired, and who can blame them. 14-0 and the only female to beat the boys in the BC Classic, against one of the best Classic fields in years? There’s no way you can top that. She deserves to go out with that type of victory. She is an incredible race horse and I feel very, very, VERY fortunate to have witnessed Saturday’s amazing victory in person. It’s something I will always remember — the emotion by the crowd of 58,000-plus, the outpouring of love toward Zenyatta. It was all just unbelievable.

  20. Who is this Art Wilson? You contradict yourself, fool. And I quote, “Zenyatta HATES Del Mar’s Polytrack. Her exercise rider told me that one morning she balked, that she didn’t want to even go walk over that stuff. Why run her against other Grade 1 runners of the opposite sex on a surface she obviously hates?” Then in a different rant you went on about Player and how champions show up on champion’s day, blah blah blah. Is the Pacific Classic not a championship caliber race out there in Cali? Since Cigar put his streak on the line to capture it, I would pretty much rule that as such. I didn’t see Z in the Dubai World Cup. Is that not a championship caliber race? I mean it’s called the WORLD CUP. Not the BREEDERS CUP. Or would she wait until next year when it’s run on plastic too? I love Zenyatta. She’s a horse for the ages, but I’m tired of people saying Rachel ducked her. People said that crap about Curlin last year too when he ran on turf for the first time in a grade 1, and ran on poly for the first time in a grade 1. Are you kidding me? Yet Z scratched from the grade 2 Louisville Distaff because of sloppy conditions. I’m sick of hearing the nonsense already.

  21. Go back and read the posts, Silly. Nowhere do I say Rachel ducked Zenyatta. I state what is fact — Jackson chose an easier spot (Woodward) than the Beldame would have been with Zenyatta in it. No horses in the Woodward were remotely close to the caliber of Zenyatta. As for Player, again, if you go back and check, I write that both camps have been guilty of excuses for not meeting each other. But Zenyatta showed up on Breeders’ Cup World Championship day. Where was Rachel?

  22. Some of you need to read posts clearly before putting words in my mouth. Nowhere did I say the Woodward was an easy spot … I stated clearly it was an easier spot than the Beldame would have been with Zenyatta in it. Big difference.

  23. APREMONT said:

    “It was clear that the Woodward would be the final start of Rachel Alexandra’s season. If team Shirreff’s was keen on traveling NY, why didn’t they send Zenyatta to the Woodward?”

    The problem with novice like you is that you don’t have a clue how things really work. Rachel was NOMINATED NOT ENTERED in 5 races before picking the Woodward. Do you understand that? NOMINATED instead of ENTERED. SO NOBODY REALLY KNOWS WHERE THEY WERE GOING TO RUN Rachel. They were playing musical chairs. To top it off, they then picked the Woodward about 10 days before it was going to run. Do you really think that Zenyatta can just packed their bags ship across thousands of miles and then prepare for the race? Do you know the logistics involved in shipping a horse?

    Better question is everybody knew Zenyatta was going to race in Cali prepping for the Breeders series, Rachel could have entered any races there. OH wait a minute it’s the ‘plastic’. The owner didn’t like it. Golly GEE. Does Rachel like it? It didn’t seem to bother her in Keeneland. Oh wait, synthetics are not all the same. WOW are dirt all the same?

    There you go, Rachel could have entered any races that Zenyatta was entered and no secret there. Zenyatta could have only run in the Woodward. Who is ducking who?

  24. Steve Haskin is an award-winning Turf writer renowned for his Kentucky Derby commentary. During his nearly three decades at Daily Racing Form, Haskin made a name with his “Derby Watch” columns. What he said about the Beldame!!

    Zenyatta was scheduled to ship to Belmont Park to run in the Beldame Stakes had Rachel Alexandra showed up. All the arrangements had been made. But when it was decided after the Woodward to retire Rachel for the year that plan was scrapped and she ran in the Ladys Secret instead.

    “The connections of Zenayatta didn’t even bother nominating to the Woodward in early August even when they knew that option was on the table for Rachel, which they could have very easily done. They did find the time, however, to blow a few hundred to nominate her to the Beldame, a race they knew well ahead of time Rachel was not going to be nominated to”

    You mean Zenyatta camp has to nominate Zenyatta not only in the Woodward but also in Alabama, the Travers, the Personal Ensign, and the Pennsylvania Derby. That’s because those were the races Rachel was nominated before picking the Woodward 10 days before the race. Like a horse packed their bags, ship across the nation and prepare for a race. Rachel camp was playing musical chairs while everybody knows where Zenyatta would be at. IN CALIFORNIA. Rachel has 4 chances to enter any of Zenyatta’s races while Zenyatta had only one chance! Who is really avoiding who?

  25. Charles — Your commentary is right on. And as we both know, Zenyatta was not eligible to nominate to the Alabama, Travers and Pennsylvania Derby because those races are restricted to 3-year-olds.

  26. Art, Exactly. I have nothing against Rachel. I think she is a very fine filly and one of the best, if not the best 3 year old ever. BUT The truth is Rachel’s camp could have forced Zenyatta to head east. All Rachel’s camp had to do is announce a ONE RACE on dirt
    that the Zenyatta camp could have prepared for with no excuse. If they announce the Woodward or Personal Ensign 4-5 weeks in advance and invited Zenyatta there was no way Zenyatta could have not shown up and have any chance of HOY even if Zen won the classic. NONE! Zenyatta would have been out of it. But what did the Rachel’ camp do? Enter Rachel in multiple races and played musical chairs. GIVE ME A BREAK!! and then they pick one when there is really no chance for Zenyatta to come over and prepare. Notice that there was no effort by Rachel’s camp encouraging Zenyatta to ship for the Woodward just days before the race. That would have been a hoot.

    Sorry Art for rambling but IMO Rachel’s camp held all the trump card if they really wanted to force a race between the two. There was no way for Zenyatta’s camp to force Rachel west. The convenient, brilliantly executed ‘PLASTIC’ excuse closed the door on that one early on.

    And that’s my opinion!!

  27. I disagree Charles. If Zenyatta’s camp was serious about running in the Beldame in an effort to meet up against Rachel, they should have shipped Zenyatta and run regardless of whether Rachel showed or not. That would have spoken volumes about both camps. But that wasn’t done. It’s clear a cat and mouse game was done by BOTH camps, both camps need to own their part in Zenyatta and Rachel not meeting.

    As for entering a horse in multiple races and playing musical chairs – before throwing stones at Rachel’s camp you might want to remember that Zenyatta’s camp played musical chairs all year. They announced a better than 50/50 chance that she’d run in the Pacific Classic. That never transpired. In the Breeders Cup, it wasn’t known whether Zenyatta would be running in the Ladies Classic or the Classic until the last minute. As I said, the cat and mouse game was played by both sides.

  28. Nancy, check your facts … never did the Zenyatta camp say it was better than 50-50 they would go in the Pacific Classic. Zenyatta really disliked the Polytrack surface at Del Mar and there is no way they would have run her against boys on a track she dislikes. And what’s the point in sending her to New York for the Beldame if Rachel was not going to run? What sense does that make? The whole point was to run against Rachel, otherwise you do the smart thing and stay home and prepare for the BC Classic, like they did. Their strategy worked to perfection.

  29. Now that the Santa Anita racing authorities have come out and officially stated they are contemplating reinstalling a traditional dirt surface, does anyone really believe zenyatta wasnt almost exclusively a SYNTHETIC superstar? Is that why the decision to retire zenyatta was so easy to make? Her trainer and many others have tried to convince people she’s BETTER on dirt, if so, why did she only have one dirt race, as impressive as it was, if John Shirreffs is telling the truth wouldnt that have been a great injustice not only for the horse, but everyone that loves racing. Could the Moss’s have known it was coming, and decided that instead of making their california darling race on her “PREFERRED” surface she would have one last hoohrah
    on the track that built that perfect record, and might soon be a footnote in history( the track surface not her record).

  30. BUB — Santa Anita is not “contemplating” re-installing dirt, it’s going to happen, believe me. There will be peace in the Middle East before Frank Stronach installs another synthetic surface. As for your theory, well, better try again. She raced in CA almost exclusively the past two years because that’s where the Breeders’ Cup was going to be held and the Mosses live in CA. Why travel to other parts of the country when you can prepare for the biggest weekend in racing right where it’s going to be held? I believe this year you’re going to see just how good Zenyatta is on dirt. Her victory in the Apple Blossom was not just impressive, but her best race before her BC Classic score. She’s a very, very special race horse who I believe could race on glass if that’s what it took. We’ll all soon find out, and with her and Rachel running in 2010, racing is in for a special year.

  31. if rachel is so good why didnt they run her in the classic, they say she didnt want to run in the surface of californa but she has ran on synthetic traks before,
    rachel would be up fron first but she would never be able to keep up the pace of zenyattas closing,zenyatta beat the best and older males in the classic never really got asked to run

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