The Brock Talk

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let The Debate Begin: Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra

I have some bad news for Rachel Alexandra fans. The Preakness winning filly may not be the fastest Thoroughbred in the land. I have some more bad news. She may not even be the fastest female Thoroughbred.

Saturday Zenyatta and jockey Mike Smith walked from behind the Triple Crown curtain onto the Hollywood Park stage and gave us a Milady Stakes performance that is already getting rave reviews. It was the tenth career victory for the undefeated mare that was making her first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita last fall. She gave Horse of the Year Curlin a run for his money for that honor and is now stepping into the relm as one of the greatest racing Thoroughbred racing mares of all time.

And now I would like to introduce our newest member to the racing world's most glamorous society. Madaam Regret, Madaam Ruffian, Ms. Paseana, Ms. Lady's Secret, please welcome Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra has her application in the mail - signed and endorsed by Mine That Bird, Pioneerofthe Nile, Muskat Man and Friesan Fire.

What makes this rivalry even more intriguing are the similarities and differences between Zenyatta and Rachel.

Both are big, royal looking dark bay mares. (Technically Rachel Alexandra is a filly until she turns four). Both appear to toy with their rivals and gallop to the wire with ears pricked up as if posing for their subjects. And both of their jockeys' politely stepped off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to remain loyal to their ladies. Calvin Borel chose Rachel Alexandra over the Bird in the Preakness. Mike Smith is so loyal to Zenyatta that he chose to ride her stablemates, Madeo, at Hollywood Park on the day of the Belmont instead of Mine That Bird.

In disclosure, Smith said it was his loyalty to Zenyatta's owners Jerry and Jan Moss and trainer John Sheriffs that made him unwantingly leave Mine That Bird. That is a very powerful group with a long history of success including winning the Kentucky Derby with Smith and Giacomo in 2006. But if the Moss/Sheriffs barn was filled with cats and rats and eliphants plus Zenyatta, he probably would have made the same decision.

The contrasting running styles are reminiscent of the great Chris Evert, Martina Navralitova tennis rivalry that pitted poise against power. Rachel Alexandra with her natural front-running speed and Zenyatta with her relaxing come from behind and late swooping move similar to Mine That Bird.

Because Rachel Alexandra is a filly and Zenyatta is a mare, the two will likely remain in their respective age divisions until at least the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in early November. Unless of course, the connections of Rachel Alexandra decide to take the unlikely course of shipping her to California to race against older mares on an artificial surface.

Or a match race...


Samantha Siegel said...

She is fresh and she looks better than she was last year. Look out!

Cheryl said...

No. Zenyatta is a great filly, but she always races in CA, mostly on the same tracks and she ran in a grade 2 race Saturday. She's definitely not better than Rachel, but she's an awesome filly also. :>)"

Anonymous said...

I want nyra to put up the money and set up the matchup. Please I want to see the matchup on good old fashioned dirt and in new york so I can go see it in person.