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And So We Begin…

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are both in action on Saturday, which means racing fans will be torn between sheer excitement at seeing them on the track again, and nail-biting concern that the slightest bobble could keep one or both out of their planned showdown in the Apple Blossom next month. Ed DeRosa calms fans’ nerves through the power of statistics, while the Blood-Horse just goes for raw data (and pretty pictures) with their enthusiastic Tale of the Tape.  So, what can we expect to see from each mare?

Rachel Alexandra

Rachel Alexandra, now with extra muscle

Of the two, Rachel Alexandra should have the tougher task in the New Orleans Ladies, despite the small field – her long layoff means she’s likely to be overeager to go (not that it should matter much), and John Sheriffs trainee Zardana is something of an unknown quantity – the Brazilian-bred has proven she’s effective on synthetics in the US, while this will be her first start on dirt Stateside.  But Rachel Alexandra was also busy growing over the winter; let’s recall she’s only 4. She certainly needed time off after the Woodward to regain a little weight, and now she looks more powerful than ever.  She’s never going to be as massive as 17-hand Zenyatta, but Rachel Alexandra has filled out and grown into her frame – that despite the fact that she’s still not at peak fitness.  If she does have another one of her runaway wins, it may be just the workout she needs to get ready for Oaklawn.

Zenyatta

Yes, she even does that when schooling

Zenyatta kept in light training after the Breeders’ Cup, and so she just needs to keep her fitness topped up – she’s coming into the Santa Margarita with her usual perfection apparent. Her high weight assignment won’t come close to making the race even – she’s won carrying two pounds more – but it’s not really the point, is it?  Ben Cecil, trainer of Gripsholm Castle, admits that barring something very odd happening, everyone else is running for second (and I’m all for Pretty Unusual getting a G1 placing on her record). It should be fun to see her hanging back and then doing her usual power sweep at the end (if all goes well).

It is encouraging to note that the Powers That Be at both Santa Anita and the Fair Grounds worked together to ensure that fans could easily catch both races:

Saturday’s New Orleans Ladies is Race 10 on Fair Grounds’ 11-race program and will go off at 5:15 p.m. (CST), a time that was set in cooperation with Santa Anita Park, where champion older female ZENYATTA (Street Cry [Ire]) will make her 2010 debut in the Santa Margarita S. (G1) at 5:40 p.m. (CST).

“Everyone involved agreed it would be best to have both races within the same hour,” Fair Grounds Vice President and General Manager Eric Halstrom said. “There is such intense interest in these two great females and we want to make it easy for racing fans all over the country to see both of them run.”

In another indication of someone in the industry actually paying attention (I know, it is shocking), the NTRA will be webcasting both races, with the always-welcome Randy Moss keeping things moving.  A slight aside: our friends at Post Parade bemoan the lack of a weekly recap show, and his was always worth watching for the racing fan – can we at least get his podcast back?  Fans who pay too much for cable sports packages can watch on HRTV; I suspect I will be doing both while Twittering – it’s multi-tasking at its finest. Regardless of how well the webcast and broadcast turn out this weekend, I hope these positive steps forward mean that a major national broadcaster will cover the Apple Blossom – but it’s understandable that no announcement would be made until after Saturday.

In one aspect, this weekend will be easier for fans than the Apple Blossom (now with 45 nominations) itself will be – we can actively root for both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to win. It won’t be so simple next time – but it will be a great thing to see.  Fingers crossed.

1 comment to And So We Begin…

  • It’s hard to imagine a bigger (and possibly better) Rachel Alexandra this year. My feeling is that she can win the New Orleans Ladies by open lengths running at only 75% percent.
    Zenyatta looks incredible this year and her works are the best she’s ever had.
    Can’t wait to see these two super-stars bring down the house tomorrow!!

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