Horse Racing: Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra possibly meeting?

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Horse Racing: Zenyatta-Rachel Alexandra possibly meeting?
There was massive disappointment in July when it was announced that Rachel Alexandra would not be showing up at Saratoga. Instead, she would take part in the Lady’s Secret Stakes. At Monmouth, Rachel Alexandra dominated the field and was the obvious favourite. The race, which Rachel won quite comprehensively, offered little excitement or thrill as it was a completely one-sided affair.
But maybe one can still have the showdown that everyone is aching for. The Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra at the Personal Ensign Stakes in late August is expected to pull in large crowds. Neither parties have made official announcements as yet but Personal Ensign seems to be the likely destination for both the star horses.
Rachel Alexandra has not run longer than 1 3/16 miles in her career. Her latest start was at the Lady’s Secret Stakes which was run over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. In contrast, Zenyatta is perfectly at ease over the 10 furlong distance. Zenyatta would have had the obvious advantage on a longer track but Rachel Alexandra’s trainers have been trying to level the playing field. In her starts this year, Rachel Alexandra didn’t race ahead at full pace but was held back to conserve her energy. Even at Monmouth, we saw Rachel take a 3 length lead which analysts believe was a deliberate manoeuvre to get her prepared for longer races against formidable oppositions such as Zenyatta.
Zenyatta may have an advantage of running longer distances but Rachel Alexandra has more experience on dirt than Zenyatta. Personal Ensign is a 1 ¼ miles dirt track and would give no clear advantage to either filly if they do face off over there.
Zenyatta’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, has hinted that Personal Ensign could be the next destination for both the horses. Steve said that they would assess her condition as she goes back on track and discuss details with Owner Jess Jackson before making a final decision. He said, “I think there's a chance she can run here.” Steve added that he wants to try Rachel on the 1 ¼ miles track before the Breeders Cup. Rachel has been on a five week schedule. It is however obvious that the gap between the Breeders Cup in November and her start at Monmouth makes Personal Ensign the most likely place for her to race.
President of the New York Racing Association (NYRA), Charles Hayward said that he had been speaking with Zenyatta’s connection regarding her starts at Saratoga and Belmont. He also made it clear that Personal Ensign would stay at its 1 ¼ miles length but the purse could vary. At present, the purse for winning the Personal Ensign Stakes stands at $400,000. However, there is good reason to believe that the purse could be raised. The purse at Monmouth was raised from $150,000 to $400,000 to get Rachel Alexandra to race on the track. The NYRA has also made similar changes in the past. Last year’s Woodward Stakes purse was raised from $500,000 to $750,000 for Rachel Alexandra. If both Rachel and Zenyatta start at Personal Ensign, there is no telling by how much the purse could be raised. Hayward advised against making speculations about the purse value saying that it was still too early to predict.
Zenyatta’s next start is expected to be at Del Mar before the 29th August Personal Ensign Stakes. Zenyatta is in complete form as she has won the Clement L Hirsch Stakes for the last two years now and this year’s event is scheduled for August 7. Zenyatta’s trainers and owners expressed reservations about the track surface at Del Mar. Despite the efforts, no final decision has been made as yet.
Rachel’s trainers might want to have her at Personal Ensign but it’s not clear if they would let her race against Zenyatta. Many believe that even if the reigning horse of the year, Rachel Alexandra, was scheduled for Personal Ensign, she might be pulled out of the race if the undefeated Zenyatta shows up. If the showdown does not happen at Saratoga, it would become even more unlikely that the two stars would ever go face-to-face in any competition – an eventuality that no one is willing to accept.



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