Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rachel Runs Out of Gas in 2010 Debut

Lately it seems I've been discussing painting at length on the pages of "No Hassle at the Castle," and sorely neglecting my role as fine art's leading thoroughbred racing correspondent. Sorry. Here's a story worth covering, though: Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated Zenyatta both made their 2010 debuts today, in preparation their scheduled meeting in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 9. The trouble is, Rachel lost!

The Ladies Secret at Fair Grounds looked like a classic tune-up race: an ungraded stakes consisting of a small field of hopelessly overmatched horses with odds ranging from 9-1 to 42-1, compared to Rachel's imposing 1-9. After stalking longshot Fighter Wing in the backstretch, Rachel took the lead only to be run down in the stretch by the hard charging Zardana, who came off the turn three-back and three-wide. Yikes!

Zenyatta made her first start as a six-year old in a full field of nine at Santa Anita in the G1 Santa Margarita Handicap. She raced dead last into the second turn, coming off three-wide and splitting the competition in the upper stretch to win handily and leave her undefeated record intact. Wow!

After seeing the tape of Rachel losing to Zardana, team Zenyatta must be feeling good. Clearly, super-girl struggles with horses who have vaguely European-sounding names that start with "Z."