This racing season has been nothing short of bizarre. No real three year old star emerged during the drama of Triple Crown season, leaving many wondering just how strong this crop really is. The sprint division is also a muddle picture as the second half of the year progresses, with several with the talent to take the lead, but have yet to step up and actually do something.
The other side of the coin presents the public with the promise of some of the best to be seen in quite some time. The male turf division has a promising contender in Get Serious, while the fillies and mares have Tuscan Evening, Proviso, and Forever Together. Quality Road, Blame and Rail Trip have already given fans something to get excited about this year, displaying limitless talent.
The Older Filly and Mare division is as strong as ever, presenting us with exciting new talents like Unrivaled Belle, Life at Ten, and Funny Moon. These three, however exciting they may be, look they they will be playing second fiddle to Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. This is where the bizarre comes into play.
Two time Older Female Champion, Zenyatta seems to be following the same conservative path that she has taken the last two years, leading up to the Classic. Though her owners promised a much more challenging campaign when they brought her back, not many were surprised to see their owners go back on their word. While Zenyatta is not welcoming bigger and better challenges is a disappointment, the bazaar award goes to the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.
There is no denying that everyone expected her to decimate the field in her first start back. When she was upset by Zardana, surprising as it was, people pointed towards the fact she had been out of training for 5 months and was rushed to get back into shape. This led us to the conclusion that she would come back in her next start as the Rachel of Old. Once again, Rachel Alexandra let down the expectations of her fan, finishing second by a head to Unrivalled Belle.
After two disappointments it was easy to understand why Jess Jackson sought out a weaker field in the Fleur de Lis. The race serve it's purpose perhaps boosting the confidence of not only Rachel and her fans, but her owner as well. After her dominating win, we all expected the superstar to return to Saratoga in the Ruffian, or at the very least come to Delaware Park for the Delaware Handicap. Those predictions couldn't have been further from the truth, when Jess Jackson announced that Rachel Alexandra would contest at Monmouth Park in the Lady's Secret Stakes.
As it stands, Rachel has three starts with two seconds and one win. She has but one graded stakes win and if she were to win the Lady's Secret she would still have only one graded stakes win. Likely targets after the Lady's Secret could be the Personal Ensign and Beldame. This kind of schedule tells me one thing, Jess Jackson is not worried about anything other than the Breeders Cup this year.
Last year the only other horse with a shot at Horse of the Year was Zenyatta, who only had one big moment. This year is quite different. This year Quality Road, Blame, Rail Trip, and Zenyatta all have shots at Horse of the Year, which means if all continue their winning ways there will be only one race that decides the ultimate, end of the year award. The Breeders Cup Classic.
If Rachel were to win he next three races, especially the Personal Ensign and Beldame convincingly, she would put herself in position to take it all in the Classic. Of course she will have to get past the top older males, Zenyatta and maybe even some of the late blooming three year olds, but that is exactly why Jackson is choosing to slowly build Rachel Alexandra up, instead of running a re-run of 2009. The Classic is the key this year, and Jackson knows it.