There will undoubtedly be many horsemen with talented fillies and mares who will try to steer clear of reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and two-time Eclipse Award winner Zenyatta this year.
There are many lucrative filly and mare races thoughout the country that will not include either of the Big Two, making it possible to enjoy a nice payday without even stepping foot in the same state as Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.
But one Louisiana-based trainer, Glenn Delahoussaye, said Monday he’s not afraid to take on Rachel Alexandra in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans with Clear Sailing, 3 for 3 this year.
The Ladies Stakes is scheduled to be Rachel Alexandra’s 2010 debut following an 8-0 2009 campaign. There are at least five other trainers who plan to run in the race, including Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, who is hoping to enter Zardana.
Clear Sailing, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly, is coming off a victory in the $60,000 Pelleteri Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 13.
“I don’t think there’s any trainer in the world who’s insane enough to say he’s looking forward to running his horse against Rachel Alexandra,” Delahoussaye said. “But for me this race is not about whether it’s ‘Rachel’ or ‘not Rachel’ in there against our horse. The New Orleans Ladies fits the progression about where I wanted to be at this point in time when I set up the whole progression plan for our filly a long time ago when I was keeping that Kentucky Derby week goal in mind.”
Clear Sailing’s owners, Keith and Ginger Myers, have a dream of winning a stakes race at Churchill Downs the week of the Kentucky Derby. According to Delahoussaye, running in the New Orleans Ladies would keep Clear Sailing on a schedule that would point her to the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes on Kentucky Oaks day.
“The way I see it, right now we’ve got two options,” Delahoussaye said. “She’s already nominated to the (Grade III) Azeri at Oaklawn (March 6) and also the New Orleans Ladies, but the New Orleans Ladies fits our schedule a little better. Right now we’re trying to keep our filly’s races at least a month apart … The New Orleans Ladies would keep us on a schedule for (the La Troienne Stakes). That’s our long-term goal.”
Other distaffers listed as probable for the New Orleans Ladies, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race, include Double Expresso, winner of a six-furlong stake at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 20; Unforgotten, runner-up in the Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff on Dec. 19; Fighter Wing, second to Clear Sailing in the Pelleteri; and the Steve Asmussen-trained Pleasantly Blessed, second in a $50,000 stakes race at Sam Houston Park on Jan. 30.