Rachel Won't Make Apple Blossom

RACHEL WON'T MAKE APPLE BLOSSOM
PLUS THE DERBY DOZEN!

The highly anticipated showdown between Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and the undefeated multiple champion Zenyatta will not take place in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 3.

Owner Jess Jackson announced in a press release late Wednesday afternoon that Rachel Alexandra would not be ready to run against a horse the caliber of Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom. Rachel Alexandra has not raced since beating males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 5. She has only breezed twice since resuming training at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Oaklawn Park had proposed to raise the purse of the Apple Blossom to $5 million from $500,000 if both horses showed up. Now, the purse will revert back to $500,000.

"Out of respect for the level of competition and then importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the bet interest of the horse to race on April 3," Steve Asmussen, trainer of Rachel Alexandra, said in the press release. "Getting to this level of fitness after a six-month layoff takes time. If all goes according to schedule, and we don't have any further weather delays, the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later."

Jackson said he asked Oaklawn officials to delay the Apple Blossom by one week, but track officials informed Jackson on Wednesday that would not be possible, according to Jackson's press release.

Meanwhile, Jackson said he has had discussions with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association about a proposed three-race series between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but did not mention where and when those races would be.

"Everyone wants see to Rachel race against Zenyatta - including me," Jackson said. "In fact I want it to happen several times this year."

Jackson said he has had discussions with Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the NTRA, with the hopes of coordinating "training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown."

Zenyatta, who is 14 for 14 and who defeated males in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is on a schedule that could have her ready to run in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13.

Trainer John Shirreffs said the proposed racing series does not change the first two scheduled starts for Zenyatta this year - the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13 and the Apple Blossom.

"We want to run in the Apple Blossom," he said. "We announced early on we'd love to run in the Apple Blossom."

As to whether he would be interested in a proposed three-race series against Rachel, Shirreffs deferred to owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

"It's a difficult thing for me to answer," he said. "Mr. Moss would have to answer that."

Shirreffs said he was not aware of the proposed series until informed by a reporter.

"This comes as a big surprise to me," he said. "I don't know what to say."

Shirreffs echoed Jackson's comments when he acknowledged that racing fans are craving an eventual meeting for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

"Everyone wants to see Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta run against each other," he said. "There's no question about that."

by David Grening
from drf.com

ED FOUNTAINE'S DERBY DOZEN

HORSE JOCKEY/TRAINER
ODDS COMMENT
1. Lookin At Lucky Gomez/Baffertt 10-1 Won three Grade 1s last year, but has never raced on dirt; only one 2-year old champ won Derby since '70
2. Super Saver Undecided/Pletcher 15-1 By Maria's Mon out of A.P. Indy mare has great Derby pedigree and owns stakes win last year at Churchill Downs
3. Buddy's Saints Lezcano/Levine 12-1 Son of BC Classic winner Saint Liam is unbeaten in three starts, including Nashua and Remsen at Big A
4. Vale of York Ajtebi/Surooor 30-1 BC Cup Juvenile winer previous was stakes winner on turf in Europe; training in Dubai
5. Noble's Promises Undecided/McPeek 20-1 Won BC Futurity last year, was 3rd in BC Juvenile; had first work of year Sat at Gulfstream, 3f in :37
6. Jackson Bend Rose/Zito 20-1 Swept Fla Stallion Stakes last year at Calder, close 2nd as favorite in Jan 23 Holy Bull, his first start for Zito
7. Eskendereya Velazquez/Pletch 25-1 Unbeaten in both starts on dirt: big win in Pilgrim last year, and 3-year old debut at Gulfstream
8. Rule Velazquwez/Pletcher 30-1 Closed out 2-year old campaign with three straight wins, including a pair of stakes at Delta Downs
9. Ron the Greek Graham/Amoss 20-1 Has won 3 of 4 starts; rallied from last of 10 to win Jan 23 Lecomte, making up 15 lengths in stretch
10. Drosselmeyer Desormeaux/MOtt 40-1 Distorted Humor colt started his career on turf but has won two straight since switching to dirt.
11. American Lion Leparoux/Harty 30-1 Son of two-time BC Classic winner Tiznow won 2 of 3 last year, including Hollywood Prevue; has yet to go two turns
12. William's Kitten Leparoux/Maker 30-1 Has solid kick and edge in experience, with eight races under his belt; rallied for third in Holy Bull last out.

from nypost.com

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