The Brock Talk

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oaklawn Puts $5 Million Into Bigger Apple

Everybody knew what Oaklawn Park officials were going to say when earlier this week they announced a press conference regarding the "Race for the Ages." They were planning to announce a purse increase for the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap to be run April 3 at Oaklawn in an effort to create the much wanted race featuring Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated, Breeders' Cup Classic winner Zenyatta.

What we didn't know was that Oaklawn president Charles Cella would increase the purse ten-fold, talk to the owners, change the conditions of the race and apparently just about anything else to make the race a possibility.

Thursday at the mid-morning press conference at the historic track, Oaklawn Park announced that the grade I Apple Blossom will now feature a $5 million purse if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta start in the race. They also said the race distance will be extended a sixteenth of a mile to 1-1/8 miles and the race will now be an invitational to further entice the two stars.

Obviously, we don't know if the race will happen. But Mr. Cella, racing secretary Patrick Pope and the Oaklawn Park staff deserve an A+ for effort. In one fell swoop they may create the richest filly and mare race in history. To make the race even more realistic, it may fit both mares' schedules and will be run at a track where they both have won.

More importantly, Cella said at the press conference that he has spoken with the owners of both Rachel Alexandra (Jess Jackson) and Zenyatta (Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss)and said both "showed enthusiasm."

There should be no problem getting Zenyatta to Oaklawn Park again where she won the 2008 Apple Blossom for her first grade 1 victory. Zenyatta worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Hollywood Park Wednesday morning and according to Daily Racing Form, Zenyatta could make her first start of the year in the grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on Mar. 13. The Apple Blossom would be a logical next start and has been mentioned by Jerry Moss.

The bigger challenge will be getting Rachel Alexandra ready for the big race.

Just Monday, Rachel Alexandra had her first work of the year at Fair Grounds going four furlongs in 52 seconds. The first question will be how fast Rachel Alexandra responds to training after her four-month vacation. Six weeks to prepare for major race against a foe like Zenyatta may seem a bit out of the ordinary. But if we know one thing about Rachel Alexandra, she is far from ordinary.

Shortly after the press conference, Rachel Alexandra owner Jess Jackson said in a written statement that "Rachel will tell us when she is ready to start her 2010 campaign and we humans must agree she is in top form."

My family and I would love to see her run at Oaklawn Park. If she is in top form and it fits in our schedule, we will be there. Rachel, as you know, likes the track having won twice there last year.”

Rachel Alexandra started her magnificant 3-year-old year at Oaklawn Park last year where she won the Martha Washington Stakes and the grade 2 Fantasy Stakes.

We won't know until the afternoon of April 3 if the race between the two thoroughbreds will happen at Oaklawn Park or not. But, I'm going to have to salute Mr. Cella for the effort.


Howard P. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maribel said...

All I can say Brock is ....WOW !!!! Do you think it will work ?? LOL
We are getting closer to finding the answers ....yip !!

Steve Munday said...

I agree Brock, Mr Cella deserves lots of credit for trying to pull this off.

Of course, the big question is whether or not RA will be in peak form. I recall hearing that she missed some training due to inclement weather at the Fair Grounds.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed though cause I've already booked a room in Hot Springs for that weekend.

j fallone said...

Didn't think there would be match race talk since the tragic Foolish Plessure/ Ruffian race. Not a good idea to risk such valuable animals just for a spectacle. From an owner's standpoint not a good proposition. Too much to lose.
J Fallone

Brock Sheridan said...

I think both parties have been pretty clear they are not interested in a match race format. I suspect that is one of the reasons Oaklawn changed the conditions to an invitational.