Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rachel Alexandra Retires Before Breeders Cup

Now, anybody who knows me knows that I liked Rachel Alexandra last year during her campaign as a three year-old. It was a grueling campaign that won her Horse of the Year. It was well-deserved. I still wish she'd come out to California to participate in Breeders Cup and face Zenyatta in the Classic, but her owner, Jess Jackson, chose not to because (let's be honest) he didn't want a replay of Curlin not handling the synthetic track. Rachel had clinched Horse of the Year with or without a Classic win; when Zenyatta beat the best of the boys in the Classic, that just made the rivalry between Zenyatta and Rachel an even greater one.

So, racing fans had high hopes for this year. The Breeders Cup is being run over dirt at Churchill Downs in November, so it seemed at the outset that this time (should both horses remain sound) Rachel and Zenyatta would finally meet.

It ain't gonna happen.

Rachel Alexandra, it has been clear, is just not the same horse she was last year. She came off her long layoff and lost (to Zardana, Zenyatta's stablemate, whom Zenyatta went on to beat later on in the year), so it seems pretty clear had the two met in that race, Zenyatta would've bested her. That race was over dirt, by the way. (For some reason, Zenyatta's detractors always seem to forget that she has won twice over dirt and that her trainer, John Shirreffs, even says that Zenyatta actually prefers dirt.) But back to the recap. Rachel then faced a couple of soft fields and won. But last time out, she ran in a real Grade I with some genuine competition, and she tanked in the stretch. I said that day to forget about Rachel meeting Zenyatta in the Classic. The reason? Rachel can't get the distance.

She's been firing four furlong bullets in training lately, but FOUR furlongs is a clue. She's got speed, all right. But what she doesn't have is staying power.

Zenyatta is a deep closer, and frankly, she's just getting rolling about the time Rachel is running out of gas. The one thing that Jess Jackson does NOT want to see is Rachel tiring and Zenyatta rolling past her, ears pricked, loping along with that big stride, picking everybody off, and making it look like a cakewalk. There is no question that, right now, that is exactly what would happen, yes, even over dirt and on a track Rachel is more than familiar with, having won and trained over the surface.

I did think Rachel would show up in the Breeders Cup, though, just not in the Classic. But apparently Jess Jackson is thinking it's best to just retire her in case she gets beaten once again. Is he being a pussy? Maybe.

But that's okay with me. He intends to breed her to Curlin, and they should have some remarkable, and expensive, babies.

In the meantime, Zenyatta will have a prep race for the Classic this weekend. I'll be there at Hollywood cheering her on for her last race in California. Then she'll be off to face the boys once again in the Classic, which, if she wins, should earn her the Horse of the Year accolades many believe belonged to her last year. Zenyatta will retire, we hope, a perfect 20-for-20, with two Classic wins, which has never before been done by a female and by only one male (Tiznow).

And then maybe, just maybe, Zenyatta's naysayers WSTFU.

No comments: