Hail To The Queen
HAIL TO THE QUEEN
Despite the passage of time, the racing community can not help but recall the reason Rachel Alexandra was voted Horse of the Year over Zenyatta last year (it wasn't even close) was because the voters were impressed that Rachel became the first filly or mare to win the Woodward Stakes.
I thought at the time, and often expressed my view on these pages, that the unbeaten Zenyatta was robbed of racing's greatest honor - - just as she was in '08 when the vote went to Curlin.
Do we see a hat trick coming?
What if...Zenyatta wins her next two starts, Quality Road wins his next two starts, and when they hook up in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, Zenyatta gets stopped cold at the quarter-pole, and loses to Quality Road by a head - and gets robbed of Horse of the Year for a third straight year?
Back to the Woodward...
You will recall that the two older males beaten by Rachel that glorious early-Saturday afternoon at Saratoga were Macho Again and Bullsbay.
It is worth noting that since that day, Macho Again and Bullsbay are a combined 0-for-9, capped by last Saturday when Macho finished 10th of 11, beaten 13 lengths, in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, and Bullsbay finished fourth of five, beaten 16 lengths, in the Skip Away Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Hey, I'm taking nothing away from Rachel. But as we've seen from the events of the past few months, the Eclipse voters blew it. Big-time.
Meantime, Rachel, after two tough losses, looked like the old Rachel on Saturday at Churchill when she blew away a very-much undistinguished group in the Fleur de Lis by 10 lengths.
We suggested in this space last Friday that Rachel would have a stroll in the park whereas Zenyatta was asking for trouble by conceding nine pounds to the very distinguished St. Trinians In the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.
It was evident that if Zenyatta was going to overtake Cigar, Citation and Mister Frisky, and extend her unbeaten streak to 17, she was going to have to work for it. You need have looked no further than the tote board to see why: Zenyatta was 1-2; St. Trinians 2-1!
At the weights, the smart money was on the British mare, and indeed the SM looked home free as St. Trinians opened 2 ½ lengths on Zenyatta at the furlong grounds...and, more
Importantly, was showing no inclination to slow down.
Yet, somehow Zenyatta wore her down, and won by a half-length, setting off a wild, 20-minute celebration.
Props here to track announcer Vic Stauffer for asking the crowd to recognize with an ovation the tremendous performance by the runner-up.
Sham would have been proud.
Even the media - to some extent - recognized that history was being made.
To wit, the New York Times staffed the race.
Although it was painfully obvious reading the piece that this was the reporter's first time at the racetrack. Maybe next time he will know to include such details as the distance of the race, the winner's margin of victory, the time of the race, and the prices.
So what's next for Zenyatta and Rachel?
Team Zenyatta is talking two more California races as Breeders' Cup preps, while Team Rachel as usual is keeping its plans a state secret. Maybe a trip back to Saratoga for the Ruffian or Personal Ensign. Maybe not.
The bottom line: Zenyatta and Rachel will never - repeat never - hook up. No way, Jess Jackson would run Rachel at a mile and a quarter against Zenyatta (and Quality Road) in the BC Classic.
And you don't need this writer to tell you that's a damn shame.
At least, I have the consolation of knowing I got to see Zenyatta's only two non-California races to date live and in color - the '08 Apple Blossom, and the '10 Apple Blossom,
both at Oaklawn Park.
Those are memories I'll always treasure.
I'm also a sports guy, and a Broadway guy, so I'll always remember Sunday evening when, while surfing the internet looking for the Vanity, I had to split my time among Celtics-Lakers game five, a possible double no-hitter in Chicago, and Scar-Joe at the Tonys.
It was quite an evening.
And how 'bout Mike Smith?
The Belmont Stakes and Zenyatta on back-to-back weekends!
Not bad for a guy who was considered washed-up a few years back.
And, correct me if I'm wrong...but, as far as I'm concerned, Mike's greatest accomplishment this month was telling a national television audience, while on horseback, that he was dedicating his Belmont win to Rich Migliore.
Talk about a class act.
Speaking of jockeys, I had one helluva time tracking Ramon Dominguez's whereabouts last Saturday.
RD was not at Belmont Park, where he is engaged in a three-way battle for the riding title. He was not at Churchill for all those graded stakes, and he was not at Monmouth Park for
all that big money.
Who would have thought Philadelphia Park?
But that's exactly where he was, and for one mount - the unbeaten Belle of the Hall, the 3-1 program second choice, in the $200,000 Jostle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
It wasn't easy, but Belle got up on the wire to win the race at $3 for the West Point boys. In her wake were a pair of fillies trained by John Servis, who, in his pre-Smarty days, won several Grade Ones with Jostle, including the Coaching Club and Alabama.
Dominguez, who has won a dozen straight riding titles in New York, mostly blowouts, really will have to work hard at the current Belmont meet to keep the streak going.
RD starts the week with 33 winners, one more than Castellano, and two more than Cornelio...and actually trails both in winning percentage.
Dominguez rides six on Wednesday, including odds-on favorites No Rhyme Or Reason and Harmonizer, in the seventh and eighth races, respectively.
Finally, an example of why inside information can be helpful.
Last week, I ran into old friend Joe Imbesi, who currently has a small string of horses divided between Monmouth and Philly Park.
"I've got one in Saturday whom I like a lot," Imbesi told me.
I was sufficiently impressed to release Dark Thunder (Monmouth/race six) as the best bet on the red-hot John Piesen Summer Racing Service or call 1-888- 612-2283.
Dark Thunder won by a pole at $12.
Fact is I'm batting over .500 with my limited Monmouth picks to date this summer. You need to keep that in mind this weekend.
P.S. Let's give credit for imagination to equidaily.com, a prominent racing web site. For 12 hours -- in the wake of Zenyatta's remarkable Vanity victory -- the web site, instead of running its usual racing fare, simply posted three colored bars across the screen.
The bars were pink and green, Zenyatta's colors.
Thanks for tuning in. Don't forget to check out my picks online or call 1-888-612-2283, and see you back here Friday for a look at the weekend action.
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