Big weekend for Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra

We know where the undefeated Zenyatta will be racing this weekend. She’ll be trying to break the record of 16 consecutive victories in unrestricted races that she shares with Citation, Mister Frisky and Cigar when she runs in Sunday’s $250,000 Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. She would become the first three-time winner of the stake if she gets the job done while carrying a career high-tying 129 pounds. She also carried 129 pounds in last year’s Vanity.

Meanwhile, Jess Jackson is hemming and hawing about where reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra will race on Saturday. She’s 0 for 2 this year after winning all eight of her starts in 2009 and hasn’t looked like the same horse that beat the boys in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward a year ago. The options for her next race include the Stephen Foster Handicap or Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park or the Obeah at Delaware Park. The last three are races for fillies and mares, but she would face males in the Stephen Foster.

If Jackson needs any advice it would be to avoid the Foster. Rachel Alexandra needs to win a race and regain her confidence before taking on males again. The guess here is that Jackson will announce soon that his standout 4-year-old filly will race in the Fleur de Lis, which would be her seventh start at Churchill. She’s won three times and finished second three times at the storied track.

On Sunday, Rachel Alexandra worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds at Churchill with Shaun Bridgmohan in the saddle. Which raises another question. Who will ride Rachel Alexandra this weekend — Bridgmohan or Calvin Borel? While trainer Steve Asmussen did not blame Borel for the Medaglia d’Oro filly’s upset loss to Unrivaled Belle in the La Troienne at Churchill on April 30, Jackson was not as forgiving with his post-race comments. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if a jockey change is imminent.

Meanwhile, the record-setting Zenyatta is poised for the Vanity after breezing six furlongs in 1:15.20 on Monday morning at Hollywood Park with regular jockey Mike Smith in the saddle. Trainer John Shirreffs told the Daily Racing Form that he was pleased with the workout after the daughter of Street Cry finished the drill by traveling the final three furlongs in 36 seconds.

Zenyatta is expected to face four or five rivals in the Vanity, including the talented St. Trinians, who will get nine pounds from the two-time Eclipse Award winner as top older female. St. Trinians has won four of five starts in the U.S., including the Grade 2 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 13 at Santa Anita.

14 thoughts on “Big weekend for Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra

  1. I have to comment on the article’s statement that “Trainer John Shirreffs told the Daily Racing Form that he didn’t want Smith to push the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry during the workout because of her age.”

    The actual quote from DRF says…”I keep it in mind that she’s 6,” Shirreffs said. “They went slow the first eighth. I think it’s all right. This is not a 3-year-old or a 4-year-old. They know what’s going on. They know the morning isn’t much.”

    The last two sentences put the statement in proper context, meaning Zenyatta knows the difference between a morning workout and a real race, and she isn’t going to run all out for a workout.

    If Zenyatta’s condition was such that Shirreffs “didn’t want to push the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry during the workout because of her age,” she certainly would not be racing anywhere, at all.

    I hope you consider editing your column to reflect the proper context of the DRF news article.

  2. I have to comment on the article’s statement that “Trainer John Shirreffs told the Daily Racing Form that he didn’t want Smith to push the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry during the workout because of her age.”

    The actual quote from DRF says…”I keep it in mind that she’s 6,” Shirreffs said. “They went slow the first eighth. I think it’s all right. This is not a 3-year-old or a 4-year-old. They know what’s going on. They know the morning isn’t much.”

    The last two sentences put the statement in proper context, meaning Zenyatta knows the difference between a morning workout and a real race, and she isn’t going to run all out for a workout.

    If Zenyatta’s condition was such that Shirreffs “didn’t want to push the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry during the workout because of her age,” she certainly would not be racing anywhere, at all.

    I hope you consider editing your column to reflect the proper context of the DRF news article.

  3. Art, I agree with Cathy. The way you wrote the Sheriffs comment is misleading. Sheriffs is one great trainer, he’s kept this great mare fresh for 3 years now. He’s not ready to crank her all the way up against her Vanity rivals. In the meantime, last year’s “Horse of the Year” is burned out under Assmussen and Jackson. They are now paying the price for last year’s so-called “Briliant Campaign.” Personally, I don’t find anything “Brilliant”. In the future, I hope you can post the whole comment so readers can decide for themselves what Sheriffs meant, not what you wanted him to mean.

  4. “Rachel Alexandra needs to win a race and regain her confidence before taking on males again.”
    Wrong, Mr. Wilson. Rachel’s “loss” last time was by an infinitesimal amount, a nose, that no horse, and most people, would be able to tell/feel/perceive as a loss. In her last race, she showed great competitive spirit against Unrivaled Belle, who ran the race of her life (as did Zardana in the New Orleans).
    Rachel is fine, given her overly long vacation and her trainer and owner’s fixing what wasn’t broken.

    The Fleur-de-Lis is a terrible race for Rachel; a win would be meaningless, and the over-reaction to a loss may take her off of the racetrack, to her and the sport’s detriment.
    I agree that the Foster is not the choice either, but for a different reason: she should be facing males but at shorter distances. Look at the way that Quality Road was eased into this year: a 6.5 furlong sprint and then the Met Mile. He is being stretched out gradually. We know that Rachel is going to be given lots of rest after each of her rare appearances this year- she should be able to go all out from start to finish in a nice 7F or 1 mile contest.

  5. “Sheriffs is one great trainer, he’s kept this great mare fresh for 3 years now.”

    He ran her 5 times in 2009, 4 times against stiffs. How hard is it to keep her fresh?

  6. I didn’t know that 16 straight wins that includes 10 grade 1′s and a Breeders Cup Ladies Classic win and a Breeders Cup Classic win against the best on the planet was considered stiffs. Oh right, I forgot, Rachel beat “Macho Again” in the Woodward. How many times is “Quality Road” going to race this year, Mike?

  7. Cathy, Mark — you’re right. After going back and reading what I wrote, I did a poor job of communicating. By all means I know Shirreffs and Moss would not race Zenyatta if she was not up to it. I meant to convey just what Shirreffs inferred, that as a 6-year-old mare, Zenyatta is experienced enough to know the difference between mornings and afternoons.

  8. I stand corrected, Art; QR started this year at 8 furlongs, went to 9F in the Donn, and then back to 8F. Still, I think that Rachel should have started this year at shorter distances.
    Now, she is in a meaningless 9F race that she should easily win, yet not further her status at all (unless she sets a track record in winning).

  9. Oh Zenyatta !! I just checked back on HRTV and nllafiy got to see the video, it was wonderful! I am so blessed that it streamed through for me !! My prayers were answered,I am thrilled ! The video was fantastic. Penny Chenery, did a wonderful presentation to Jerry and Anne, everyone looked wonderful! What a wonderful time and bravo cheers from the crowd when YOU Zenyatta, received The VOX POPULI AWARD. The first ever SECRETARIAT AWARD !!YOU ARE THE PEOPLES CHOICE! The award was beautiful,it featured an image of the head and bust of Beautiful Secretariat. Congratulations to the whole Z team ! A special thanks to Dottie, for helping us all see this happen tonight !!It just keeps getting better and better ! YOU LOOKED FANTASTIC RUNNING AND PLAYING WITH YOUR FRIENDS .so much fun!! You still love the camera and I am glad for that you never forget us. xoxooxo

  10. Judy, your words echoed ohgturh my day today .while I never met Kari in person, I do feel like I knew her. She had that effect on people. She lived every second to the fullest because I think she held life so dear and precious, she never wasted it on pettiness or ingratitude. Not that she was a marshmallow .she could get mighty fierce and was passionate about Z! She and I actually met ohgturh her musical videos. I posted something at John’s YouTube channel once, which she commented on, and our friendship blossomed from there. I had commented on her videos before, but up until she tapped me on the shoulder so to speak, I did not know her real name. We had a connection also because we both are from Tennessee. I kept thinking and hoping that her illness would go into remission or a miracle would happen. I do recall a few months back, though, she commented ever so briefly that she had a decision to make whether to let nature take its course or try something else, and the doctors were waiting on her answer. She never brought it up again, but in the back of my mind, I knew that she knew her earthly days had dwindled to a few. She seemed to pop back into our lives again for short periods with her cheerful words, and once, a few short months back, she sent me a message on FB that she had a special present for me. It was a sweet and very thoughtful thing that meant something personal only to me, but here was this sick girl, remembering something she knew would brighten up my world. What a lovely gift she has been to all of us, and yes, while we may not have physically met her, we knew Kari in the most important way there is to know another human being .through our hearts and our emotions. She was truly a blessing and a gift I will cherish forever. My prayers and deep sympathy go out to her family. God bless you all, Zsters, and thank you Zenny, Dottie, John, Frank and all of Barn 55, and Ann and Jerry for all your kindnesses and thoughtfulness. Hugs to all. Ann Maree

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