I'm so sorry I got to this later than I anticipated, but as we all know things seem to always pop up and create a mess of any future plans we may have. As of now, I'm sure nobody knows that better than the connections of Rachel Alexandra.
The Horse of the Year and champion Three Year Old Filly was slated to return in the New Orleans Ladies. It was supposed to be an ease prep, a tightener, that many thought the great filly could win blind folded, instead she was blind sided by the John Sherriffs trainee Zardana.
After tracking, what were considered, brisk fractions that day, Rachel Alexandra loomed outside of Fighter Wing, easily taking over the lead on the far turn, and looking like she would go on to win as she pleased. Zardana, however, had other plans, and came flying up on the outside, snatching the lead away in the blink of an eye. Rachel fought back valiantly down the stretch, but the six month layoff left her short, and it showed, when Zardana crossed the line 3/4 of a length in front.
Half an hour later another Z and Sherriffs trainee was loading in the gate preparing to win her fifteenth consecutive race. Zenyatta, would have to overcome a troubled trip, but the amazonian mare kept her perfect record in tact.
So, what do I make of these events? Well after taking some time to absorb Rachel's loss, I came to the conclussion she ran as well as to be expected. Sherriffs had Zardana primed and ready for a big effort, and it is well know that synthetic runners will normally move up several lengths in their first start on dirt. However, because it was Rachel Alexandra, many people overlooked these facts about Zardana.
Rachel Alexandra ended up earning a 100 BSF for her race, which was probably clocked in about 1.43.7. That is precisely how Rachel started her year last year. She ran Beyers in the mid to high 90's with final clockings always 1.43 and change for 8.5 furlongs. Yesterday was Rachel Alexandra last year, before the Oaks. This probably means that Rachel probably needs a couple more races to reach her super filly form of last year.
I keep hearing some people say that she was disinterested, she is not the same filly, though I have trouble understanding how a filly who showed fight all the way down the long Fair Grounds stretch could be described as disinterested. Rachel is fine, she was just caught below her peak, by a solid mare primed for a big effort.
Switching gears to Zenyatta, I really am at a loss of words. I have run out of adjectives to describe this mare, since the only one good enough for her is perfect. I would however caution her connections not to be overly cautious or get over confident. Smith rode a very cocky race, and it nearly cost Zenyatta her unbeaten status.
Had Pretty Unusual not drifted out, opening a hole just wide enough for Zenyatta to squeeze through, Zenyatta would've been force to go wide, and at that point in the race not even Forego could've closed to win. Zenyatta is a perfect mare, but that perfection can be ruined by human error. It happened to Native Dancer, Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, and even Man o War.
Here's a perspective on how much had to go wrong for Man o War to lose. At the time of the break he was facing backwards, so he immediately had to play catch up. Then, when taken to the inside, after making up ground on the entire field he was boxed in. By the time he finally got loose, he came on like freight train, but as we all know, it was too late.
Man o War was arguable the best thoroughbred racehorse to ever set foot on a track, and he lost. It took a whole ton of unforeseen events for it to happen, but as that day showed it can happen. Zenyatta is a great horse, a perfect horse, but as seen with Man o War, that perfection can be wiped away in an instant.
I wish the best to our awesome ladies, and though we won't see them meet in the Apple Blossom, I am still very eager to see them meet later in the year.