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Rachel Alexandra exits debut in good condition, will miss Apple Blossom
Rachel Alexandra (inside) just got run down by Zardana (outside) in the New Orleans Ladies (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)
Horse of the Year RACHEL ALEXANDRA (Medaglia d'Oro) was in good order Sunday, the morning following her second-place finish to Zardana (Brz) (Crimson Tide) at Fair Grounds in the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies, but will miss the April 9 Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park, co-owner Jess Jackson announced.
"Yesterday's race, while a disappointment, helped us define Rachel Alexandra's racing condition," Jackson explained. "While she is healthy, just as I had anticipated, she is not in top form. Therefore, I decided today she will not be going to the (Apple Blossom) Invitational on April 9.
"(Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) and I discussed this fully and we now regret we tried to accelerate her training in order meet the Apple Blossom schedule. We have a whole season before us to help define her greatness. She will tell us when her next race will be."
Plans were already in place before the New Orleans Ladies for Rachel Alexandra to leave the Crescent City on Monday for Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she was expected to meet dual champion Zenyatta (Street Cry [Ire]). The Apple Blossom was to carry a $5 million purse if both runners stated, but with Jackson keeping his star filly in the barn the race will revert to its original status, with a purse of $500,000.
"We tried and we really wanted to go (to the Apple Blossom)," Jackson said. "It's unfortunate but the timing just wasn't right. For the health of the horse. It's obvious she's not in top shape. The race (Saturday) was to define how far along she was. I repeatedly told people she was only 80 or 85 percent of what I thought was up to her top condition last year. That race proved it."
Jackson was noncommittal on the four-year-old filly's major goals for the year.
"It's up to her," he stated. "She has to show us that she's back up to her '09 form. We had progressively accelerated her conditioning and it didn't work, so we're going to gear back, let her develop at her own pace. I can't give you a prediction as to when but it might take a couple of months."
"We're disappointed that we're not going to be able to face each other in the Apple Blossom," said Zenyatta's owner, Jerry Moss. "Hopefully we can meet down the line. We respect both Steve and Mr. Jackson as horsemen and they're going to do what's right for their horse. That's all anybody could ask for.
"We'll go on to the Apple Blossom as planned," he added.
Rachel Alexandra was making her four-year-old debut in the New Orleans Ladies off a six-month break, having last raced on September 5 when taking the Woodward S. (G1). Her training schedule suffered many setbacks during the winter due to weather.
"She came back well," Asmussen said. "She ate last night, very sound this morning, walked the shed row well. I'm very pleased with that."
Reflecting on Saturday's race, in which Rachel Alexandra stalked the early pacesetter and assumed the lead around the far turn before yielding to the eventual winner, Asmussen was still "disappointed" but remains steadfast in his belief that she simply was not fit enough to win and has much improvement ahead of her.
"We had talked about her being 75 or 80-percent fit," he said. "The filly got tired but she cooled out fine and came back well from it; it's just a case if we can move forward in a positive direction fitness-wise, as well as with everything else. Yesterday's race is over. We can analyze it all we want, but her physical condition and her state of mind are what we need to concern ourselves with and we'll address that moving forward."
Asked to expand on her state of mind this morning, Asmussen said, "I was pleased with it today. She was relaxed in her stall. She went to her tub when we fed her last night and cleaned up everything. Walked well this morning and seemed very comfortable in her stall this morning."
Zardana to spend a few more days enjoying New Orleans
Frankie Leal, stable foreman for California-based trainer John Shirreffs and the man who accompanied New Orleans Ladies S. heroine ZARDANA (Brz) (Crimson Tide) to Fair Grounds, was unsurprisingly all smiles Sunday morning outside his mare's home-away-from-home in trainer Wally Dollase's barn.
"That race yesterday was amazing," Leal said as he accepted congratulations on Zardana's accomplishment in defeating Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro). "You know, I had a big feeling she might win because she had been acting so happy ever since she got here.
"I always thought she'd run real well on dirt. Her races in South America were on dirt and she won them all by big margins, but she hadn't run on dirt in almost two years, so I couldn't be sure.
"I don't think she likes that surface (Pro-Ride) at Santa Anita very much," Leal continued. "She doesn't mind the track at Hollywood (Cushion Track) so much, but she just doesn't look very comfortable when she gets on the track at Santa Anita.
"But she sure looks happy this morning. She ate up today and she seems to be enjoying your weather (in New Orleans).
"I think she's very proud of herself, but I'm wondering if she's thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into? I just beat the Horse of the Year, maybe now they'll want me to go back and run against the big horse (Zenyatta [Street Cry [Ire]) in our barn.'
"There's not another flight back to California until the 18th, so at least she'll have a few days to relax and enjoy herself here, because she sure likes it here."
Cincy Dollase was just getting back to the barn from the track just after Leal returned to his duties looking after Zardana, and was eager to relive the Dollase family's moments with owner Arnold Zetcher in the paddock before the New Orleans Ladies and in the winner's circle afterwards.
"Yesterday was so much fun," she said. "Mr. Zetcher is such a nice, gracious man. He went up to Jess Jackson (Rachel Alexandra's principal owner) in the paddock and complimented him on his filly before the race and told him how much he admired her and the way they have conducted her campaign. I thought that was a wonderful gesture.
"I really didn't think Zardana could beat her," Dollase confided. "I thought the best Zardana could do was get second. I told Mr. Zetcher and Frankie that we might be the only people in the stands cheering for Zardana, but we'd give it our best.
"But you know who really had fun yesterday was our daughter Aimee," she concluded. "She got to put the saddle on Zardana and that was a big moment for her. Afterwards, she said, ‘Now, I'll always be able to say I saddled a horse that beat the Horse of the Year.'"
UNFORGOTTEN (Northern Afleet), who finished third in the New Orleans Ladies behind Zardana and Rachel Alexandra, left her trainer Dallas Stewart feeling "very good" Sunday morning at his barn.
"I was very proud of her and the way she ran," Stewart said.
Marcelino Jacuinde, Stewart's assistant trainer, reported that Unforgotten "ate up everything as usual" on Sunday morning.
"She's doing fine," Jacuinde said. "She always comes out of her races well. She's always been a very sound mare."
FIGHTER WING (Empire Maker), who set the pace in the New Orleans Ladies before fading to fourth, also came out of the race in good order, according to trainer Greg Geier during training hours Sunday morning.
"She's happy as a lark this morning," Geier said. "That race yesterday didn't take that much out of her. She's doing just fine today."
CLEAR SAILING (Empire Maker), who never entered the fray in the New Orleans Ladies, was diagnosed with a low-grade lung infection, trainer Glenn Delahoussaye reported late Sunday morning.
"Right now, we've got her on a broad-based antibiotic," said Delahoussaye, who hauled his filly back to the Evangeline Training Center Saturday night and was driving back to New Orleans Sunday morning. "Now, we'll try to come back with a more specific antibiotic when we figure out the best way to treat it. We're going to have to go over her with a fine-tooth comb.
"I thought she was going to run really well yesterday and when she didn't I knew something must be wrong," Delahoussaye said. "Shane Sellers (Clear Sailing's jockey) said she never even picked up the bridle. She just didn't show up, so he didn't abuse her and I'm really grateful to him for that.
"I knew Rachel wasn't quite at her peak in her training yesterday, and I figured if there was ever a time to beat her, yesterday was it. I was right about that, but I was thinking it was going to be my filly that beat her. That's the way this game is -- chicken one day, feathers the next. Yesterday, I was hoping I was going to get chicken but it didn't work out. We'll back off on her for at least 30 days and then start back with her very slowly.
"Nevertheless, we were very proud to be there at the dance yesterday," Delahoussaye added. "We really enjoyed being a part of the whole experience, and you've got to be able to take the good with the bad in this business."
On the Louisiana worktab
Lecomte S. (G3) king RON THE GREEK (Full Mandate), off-the-board in the Risen Star S. (G2) last out, breezed three-quarters in 1:13 2/5 over Fair Grounds fast dirt on Sunday. The Tom Amoss trainee is readying for the March 27 Louisiana Derby (G2).
Grade 3-placed multiple stakes victor STAR GUITAR (Quiet American), an easy winner of the Premier Night Championship in his 2010 debut, logged five furlongs in 1:03 4/5. The five-year-old stakes veteran is expected to contest the New Orleans H. (G2) on March 27 for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Multiple Grade 2-placed stakes scorer GIANT OAK (Giant's Causeway), third in the Mineshaft H. (G2) most recently, posted six panels in 1:13 2/5, also in advance of the New Orleans.
Multiple Grade 3 winner DEMARCATION (Gulch), unplaced in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial H. last out in his seasonal finale, breezed four furlongs in :49 3/5.
Grade 3 hero HULL (Holy Bull), unraced since running fourth in the June 6 Woody Stephens S. (G2), covered five-eighths in :59 4/5.
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