The Brock Talk

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Return of Rachel and Zenyatta, And The Derby Favorite To Boot

This Saturday may be the most anticipated day of racing outside of the Triple Crown or Breeders' Cup in years with the 2010 debuts of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in New Orleans, the undefeated Champion Zenyatta in California and Kentucky Derby favorite Lookin at Lucky in Arkansas. Of the three, Lookin at Lucky certainly has the most to prove, but the ladies also need to be aware of any spilled icing that may cause a slip during their respective cake walks this weekend.

The potential petite pitfalls for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are time and weight respectively.

Throughout her comeback from a six-month vacation, trainer Steve Asmussen has expressed concerns about the tight training schedule of Rachel Alexandra leading up to the weekend's New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds. Rachel Alexandra will be running in the Ladies to prepare for the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational versus Zenyatta April 9 at Oaklawn Park. Remember, the Apple Blossom has been moved back one week in order to accommodate Rachel Alexandra's schedule.

Majority owner Jess Jackson declined the Apple Blossom invitation in early February when Oaklawn Park president Charles Cella first offered to increase the purse ten-fold in order to attract the famous pair. At that time, Rachel Alexandra had just returned to serious training and had only two, easy four furlong works under her.

Since then however, Rachel has looked better with each morning appearance and should have few other problems as the 1-to-5 morning line favorite in the $200,000, 1-1/16 Ladies.

Zenyatta's challenge is a bit more burdensome, (shall we say), as she goes into the grade 1, $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational with a 127 pound weight assignment, giving away between 12 and 19 pounds to her foes. It's not as if Zenyatta hasn't done this against grade 1 competition before however.

Last June, Zenyatta carried 129 pounds in winning the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, 15 pounds more than runner-up Briecat; and 13 pounds more than third-place finisher Dawn after Dawn.

So Zenyatta (right) is 1-to-9 in the morning line with Striking Dancer, Gripsholm Castle and Floating Heart, the first three finishers respectively in the grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita, presenting the stiffest competition.

Lookin at Lucky (left) has more serious hurdles in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. 2) at Oaklawn Park. It will be his first start since winning the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December and he faces a notable adversary in Southwest Stakes (gr. 3) runner-up Dublin.

Trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, Dublin won the prestigious Hopeful Stakes (gr. 1) as a 2-year-old before a since-corrected breathing problem hindered him late in his juvenile year. He was a fast closing second to the undefeated Conveyance in the short stretch run of the one mile Southwest. The longer stretch and recent experience should be significantly beneficial to Dublin.

Despite not starting this year, the Bob Baffert-trained Lookin at Lucky is at the top of most lists as the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum in May.

Champion She Be Wild Heads Florida Oaks.
Further South in Florida, Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 2009 She Be Wild is hoping her second start on natural dirt is more productive than her first as she heads into the Florida Oaks (gr. 3) Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. The Wayne Catalano-trained filly debuted on dirt Jan. 31 with a dissappointed fifth in the grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

She Be Wild will be facing the local starlett, the Florida-bred filly Diva Delite, winner of the Gasparilla and Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay in her last two starts.

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