Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zenyatta, 'Rachel' Duel Unlikely Before BC

By Lenny Shulman

Jerry Moss, who owns champion mare Zenyatta with his wife, Ann, said June 29 that it is unlikely he would ship his undefeated 5-year-old east for a date with 3-year-old filly sensation Rachel Alexandra before the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November.

For the second consecutive year, the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park outside Los Angeles, only miles from Zenyatta’s home base at Hollywood Park.

“We’d love to meet Rachel Alexandra, and I’m sorry she apparently isn’t coming to the Breeders’ Cup,” Moss said, alluding to comment by Rachel Alexandra’s co-owner, Jess Jackson, that he didn’t want to run her over “plastic” (synthetic) surfaces.

Rachel Alexandra has a synthetic track victory to her credit, winning an allowance contest over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface by three lengths in her fourth career start as a 2-year-old. That victory was sandwiched between a pair of second-place finishes on the dirt at Churchill Downs.

“As owners, we plan for the Breeders’ Cup,” continued Moss. “That is where championships are supposed to be resolved. My brain is fighting my heart on this, because I’d like to give Zenyatta every chance to remove any doubts about her place in history, and Rachel Alexandra would be a challenge. She’s an amazing talent. We’d like to meet her, but we don’t want to swerve out of our program, because we still have the Breeders’ Cup foremost in our sights.

“So while we remain open, right now we’re planning to go about our business, which is to go to Del Mar for the Clement Hirsch (gr. I, Aug. 9). We may run against the boys at some point, and we’re open to meeting Rachel Alexandra perhaps after the Breeders’ Cup.”

Moss said it was unlikely that Zenyatta would remain in training for a campaign as a 6-year-old next year.

With Zenyatta winning her 11th race without a defeat in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) June 27 at Hollywood and Rachel Alexandra taking the Mother Goose (gr. I) with consummate ease the same day at Belmont Park, the clamor to see the two distaffers meet is growing stronger by the day. Moss said if the Breeders’ Cup was held in another location this year, he would take Zenyatta on the road to acclimate her to those surroundings.

But he shot down the notion of going to Saratoga for the Go For Wand (gr. I, Aug. 2) or the Personal Ensign (gr. I, Aug. 30), or to Belmont Park for the Oct. 3 Beldame (gr. I).

“Every venue has its idiosyncrasies that are risky,” noted Moss. “We had a very bad experience with Giacomo going to the detention barn at Belmont, which threw him out of his game for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He went nuts (finishing seventh, beaten nearly 18 lengths). At Saratoga, you have the detention barn, plus tight turns that would compromise Zenyatta given her running style of coming wide from behind.

“Last year, people wanted us to run against the boys in the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m glad we didn’t because the quality of the fillies and mares in the Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) was tremendous. Maybe this year that will be different. I’m not saying which Breeders’ Cup race we’ll run in yet, because I don’t have to. But what we need to do, and how (trainer) John (Shirreffs) operates, is to have her at her peak for the Breeders’ Cup.”

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