Jess Jackson, co-owner of reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, confirmed Friday what was expected: the 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly will make her fifth start of the year in the $300,000 Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29.
Even though it will be her fifth start, it will be her first try in a Grade 1 race in 2010 after winning the ungraded Lady’s Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park in her last start and the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. She finished second in her first two starts of the year.
“”Rachel feels very much at home among the great Saratoga fans,” Jackson said in a statement. “It’s an historic race, named after a great champion. The timing is right for Rachel. She’s been coming back into her stride and this will help her prepare for the rest
of her campaign and the Breeders’ Cup later this year.”
The Personal Ensign will be Rachel Alexandra’s first try at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles and she’s expected to face a top distaffer in the Todd Pletcher-trained Life at Ten. Her victory in the Preakness, a 1 3/16-mile event, has been the longest of her career.
“The whole team is excited to have Rachel back at Saratoga preparing for this Grade 1 race,” trainer Steve Asmussen said in a statement. “We all love the track and the fans at Saratoga, perhaps none more than Rachel herself.”
On the same day Jackson made his announcement, the unbeaten Zenyatta, who’s won a North American-record 17 consecutive races, worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park in 1:13.60 over the synthetic Cushion Track.
Trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss have made no announcement about the 6-year-old Street Cry mare’s next start, but it’s expected to come next Saturday in the $300,000 Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, a race Zenyatta would be attempting to win for an unprecedented third consective year.
There had been speculation that Shirreffs’ disdain for Del Mar’s Polytrack surface might lead the Zenyatta camp to send her back to the Personal Ensign and a showdown against Rachel Alexandra, but Shirreffs has nixed that idea.
Shirreffs told The Daily Racing Form that the $350,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 2 is a possibility for Zenyatta. He said he wants to run her twice more before the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5-6. Zenyatta has won three races this year after her unprecedented victory in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
If these two great distaffers are to ever meet, it appears it will come in the Breeders’ Cup, although I don’t believe Rachel Alexandra will race in the Classic unless she shows she’s back to where she was in 2009. She’s yet to display that brilliance in any of her four starts in 2010. If she can beat Life at Ten, who won the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps earlier this year and has won six consecutive races, she’ll be back.