JC / Railbird

‘Rachel’ Returns to Monmouth

The day after Rachel Alexandra settled into her Saratoga stall for the summer, Monmouth Park tweeted that the reigning Horse of the Year would make her next start at the track on July 24, causing some confusion since there was no suitable stakes race scheduled for that Saturday. After looking at the schedule on the Monmouth website, and then checking for nominations on Equibase, I assumed she was starting in the ungraded Lady’s Secret Stakes on August 1, which would have been especially fitting, coming one year after the filly’s victory in the G1 Haskell.

I was half-right. The race was the nine-furlong Lady’s Secret, moved to the week before, as reported by Jeff Lowe. Majority owner Jess Jackson confirmed the planned start through a press release:

“We had a great experience at Monmouth Park … and we appreciate the overwhelming show of support the fans there have given us. It’s the perfect place to start what we hope will be another championship run.”

It’s strikingly strange that Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen would choose an ungraded race for distaffers, even one with a purse bumped to $400,000 from $150,000 (as long as Rachel Alexandra starts) for a filly chasing a second HOTY [or even champion older female honors], but Monmouth general manager Bob Kulina told the Thoroughbred Times it was all about timing:

“They’re very interested in keeping Rachel [Alexandra] on a five-week schedule,” Kulina said. “They worked back from the Breeders’ Cup because that’s their objective, and July 24 worked well for Steve’s pattern. The distance of 1 1/8 miles was what they wanted. We had contact with them long before this and told them we’d do whatever to make a race work with their schedule.”

The track also tried to entice Zenyatta to New Jersey, according to the Times, without success. Said racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs:

“They were nice about it, and they did call, but at this point in time it didn’t fit into what we want to do at this point in time.”

The SoCal star could start next at Del Mar.

So close! At this point, it’s starting to look like the only time Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta could meet is in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That’s a daring plan, if it’s what Jackson is thinking. But you have to wonder if he really is — running Rachel Alexandra in an ungraded stakes after her win in the G2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs last month isn’t much of a vote of confidence.

7:10 PM Update: NYRA reacts:

“We are puzzled and disappointed that Rachel Alexandra, who performed so well at Saratoga last year, is passing up the Grade 1 Ruffian to run in a non-graded race at Monmouth over the same distance,” NYRA president Charles Hayward said in a prepared statement. “We remain hopeful that the Saratoga fans will have the opportunity to see Rachel later in the meet.”

Maybe she’ll appear at Belmont.


It’s all about the timing.

“They worked back from the Breeders’ Cup because that’s their objective, and July 24 worked well for Steve’s pattern.”

Trainers have their methods that work for them. If Asmussen/Blasi need an extra 7 days before an objective race at Saratoga, that’s what they should do.

And I’m not going to stand in their way. :P

Posted by The_Knight_Sky racing on July 1, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

You’ll be up close! Looking forward to seeing your photos from that weekend.

What could be a problem for RA is that she doesn’t have a G1 win yet this year; Zenyatta has three. Heading into the fall, she could have zero to Zenyatta’s four.

Posted by Jessica on July 1, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

True. As a Rachel fan, I’m objective enough to for Zenyatta for top distaffer at this point – July 1st. But a lot can happen and probably will in the second half. The older males will have a lot to say about where Rachel will race the rest of the year.

As for the Zenyatta camp, it looks like they will want a path of least resistance to Churchill Downs. It’s simple for them.

Not so for the Rachel Camp, they’re behind this year and have to pull a rabbit out of the hat the way Zenyatta did in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic.

Then hope for the best.

Posted by The_Knight_Sky racing on July 1, 2010 @ 8:53 pm