Just this morning, my husband woke me up to tell me that Zenyatta's owner, Jerry Moss, wanted his unbeaten race mare to face the dominating Rachel Alexandra sometime this year. I squinted at him and said, "Are you just trying to get me out of bed faster?"
But as the details rolled in, and the news held up to truth, I suddenly felt like William H. Macy's radio personality in the Seabiscuit film.
There are three articles that break down the drama of the rippling effects of Moss saying he wanted to pit Zenyatta against Rachel. Here's the first:
I found this paragraph of particular interest:
Moss added that he shares Jackson's negative view of synthetic racetracks.
"It's just that I'm a Californian, I moved out here from New York a long, long
time ago," he said. "I like the people. This is where I live. This is where I
By making this gesture of putting forth an effort to face the other best horse racing in the country, Moss is looking to give Zenyatta a bigger chance at winning the Eclipse for Horse of the Year, which now seems to be his ultimate goal. But me thinks he's still going to have to do better than that should he want to make a better impression on voters. Remember: Zenyatta has only raced twice this year, while Rachel has raced six times already.
Almost immediately after that article was published, Thoroughbred Times came out with the following article, "Rachel settles in at Saratoga," where this bit of news is stirred up:
Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, did his best to diffuse the debate [of
Zenyatta facing Rachel after Moss's statement] on HRTV Sunday morning,
explaining that the five-year-old Street Cry (Ire) mare will probably race next
in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (G2) at Del Mar on August 9 since Rachel
Alexandra is expected to contest a three-year-old race at Saratoga.
So it is Shirreffs who is coming off as the killjoy here. I understand he wants to "do right" by Zenyatta, but is sheltering her really "doing right" by her?
This final article from NTRA.com just published within the last few hours, Clement Hirsch next for Zenyatta, and now it seems the pressure for the Horse of the Year race is being put on Shirreffs:
One blueprint has emerged that would keep the 5-year-old mare in California, and
feature repeat appearances in two stakes she won last year - the Clement Hirsch
Stakes at Del Mar and the Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita - before a
potential start in the BC Classic. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has
never faced males."Those would be the races unless Mr. Moss felt like we needed
to go to New York," Shirreffs said. "We haven't really discussed the last couple
of races."The Clement Hirsch is appealing to Shirreffs since the race is run as
a stakes this year, and not as a handicap, as in past years.
So he's relenting to the possibility Zenyatta may have to face the boys to prove herself. FINALLY. Yet the note about the Clement Hirsch not being a handicap anymore made me crack up. Of course he'll go for anything that looks easier. Agh.
But the owners of the horse, in the long run, get the final say:
After the Vanity, Moss said he wants Zenyatta to have a different campaign in
the second half of 2009 than she did in 2008."We can't do what we did last
year," he said. "We have to find a bit of a variety. She ships very well and we
wouldn't mind shipping."
Thank you, Mr. Moss. I hope this means that Zenyatta will finally get the competition she needs, and the chance to prove her legacy that she so deserves.
So now the puzzle looks much different than it did last week. What if not only would Zenyatta trek across the country to face the regal Rachel, but she also took on the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic? I think that would satisfy me as a fan of the sport, and someone who scrutinizes the Eclipse nominees. Does that mean I think she would deserve the Horse of the Year title if she should win both of those races? Not neccessarily. One race against Rachel isn't a gage on anything except for how the conditions of that race turned out, but it will give us a better picture on how these fillies stack up against each other.
All I know is, suddenly the clouds are parting, pigs are flying, and I'm counting the days to this possible match-up. I can already hear the jet engines of Zenyatta's plane flying to New York on a journey to destiny. But will Rachel meet her? Stay tuned...