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It’s On (Again)!

'Pull ze strings!'

Charles Cella, puppetmaster

After a little sniping in the press (and a lot of sniping from fans online), the Rachel AlexandraZenyatta throwdown in the Apple Blossom is back on – but a week later than originally advertised.  April 9th is now the big day, and while I would also prefer to see it on a Saturday so that it obtains the widest possible audience, the fact that it could happen at all is enough for me – it’s an excuse to break out our Rachel Alexandra Ale, which turned out considerably stronger, darker and hoppier than anticipated.   I believe

the timing makes sense – with Rachel Alexandra making her 4-year-old debut in the New Orleans Ladies on March 13th, and Zenyatta starting her racing year off on the same day in the Santa Margarita, nothing could be more even – although seeing who else is extended an invitation should make things quite interesting.

The first question, then, is what sort of media coverage and promotion we will see – will this race be on ESPN (in HD, please)?  Could it end up on a national network – or will it be consigned to a horse racing channel?  As for the promotional angle, we are all well aware that the sport has an appalling track record when it comes to getting the word out – so what’s the plan?  The big positive is that Oaklawn Park owner Charles Cella is the driving force in this effort – and he clearly has considerably more business sense than, say, the NTRA – so fair play to him for stepping up and taking charge.  If he can get this race to happen, he should be able to pull some other strings to get appropriate coverage – or at least he can get the right people talking to each other to get the ball rolling.

The new date should be an easier sell in terms of of media coverage – it’s something of a black hole and it’s a handy cross-promotion opportunity for the Arkansas Derby, run the next day.  That should make it simple to slot into whatever Road to the Kentucky Derby series is already planned.

Of course, if either mare has a legitimate illness or injury that knocks them out of the race, no one is ever going to believe the connections – so let’s hope both stay fit and healthy.  We know Rachel Alexandra loves the slop (and just worked out over it again today), but no one wants to see Zenyatta scratched if things look too wet. The weather gods (who really owe us something, after this week) will need to get the memo as well.

So, fingers crossed, this will actually happen – but as I’ve said before, ideally it will be the first race in a series of races throughout the year that would allow fans all over the country to see both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta face each other, live and in person.  Generating interest for one race isn’t so hard – look at the Kentucky Derby – keeping the momentum going is the real challenge.

1 comment to It’s On (Again)!

  • The timing is great, I agree. After the race is run they will still be on the same schedule to a close degree, so a rescheduled match-up would be easier to assure if either party wishes.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a record attendance for Oaklawn if this comes to fruition. This showdown has been so hyped up for the last 7-8 months fans are going wild at the thought of it actually happening. I’m certainly going to try as hard as I can to get down there in person.
    I hadn’t considered whether or not the condition of the track would affect Zenyatta scratching, that would cause a huge uproar, but I suspect the Mosses are sportsman enough that they would run her no matter the track condition.
    Incidentally, who do you think would win the contest?

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