Home of the Louisiana Derby

From 'A' to 'Z' With Zardana Owner Arnold Zetcher

The “buzz” concerning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra’s rivals in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies mostly surrounds the Brazilian-bred mare Zardana.

That’s because she is conditioned by John Shirreffs, who also trains Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra’s projected rival in Oaklawn Park’s Apple Blossom April 9.

However, taking things one step at a time, Zardana’s owner Arnold Zetcher was reached at Shirreff’s barn Monday morning, just before the owner-trainer duo headed back to the track to watch Zardana breeze five-eighths in 1:02.20 over Hollywood’s Cushion track before she heads to The Big Easy.

Why would Zetcher ship his mare all the way from Southern California to New Orleans to run against the Horse of the Year in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Ladies on the main track?

“Well, we came up with about 20 reasons to try her and only one not to,” said Zetcher, who will arrive Saturday morning at Fair Grounds from his Los Angeles home.

“First of all, the mile and a sixteenth is (Zardana’s) best distance, and second of all, we wanted to try her on dirt,” said the retired CEO of Talbots, the multi-channel retailer of women’s apparel. “Also, I’m really looking forward to a trip to New Orleans.”

Zardana’s past performances confirm the owner’s assessment of his mare’s ideal distance. She won Hollywood Park’s Grade II Bayakoa Handicap Dec. 5 at 8 1/2-furlongs over the Cushion track, and most recently finished fourth at that same distance in Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Maria Handicap over the Pro-Ride surface there, but all her races in the United States have been on grass or synthetic surfaces.

“However, she won her first starts of her career in Brazil (at Hipodromo da Gavea) over the dirt there,” Zetcher said, “and she won all three of those by 10 to 15 lengths apiece. (Hall of Fame trainer) Ron McAnally was the man who brought her here because of those races. She’s listed as a 6-year-old now, but because she’s South American-bred she’s really only five and a half. She was foaled on Sept. 12.”

“I bought my first horse about 10 years ago,” said Zetcher, “and I’ve been involved with some good ones. Richard’s Kid just won Santa Anita’s (Grade II) San Antonio Handicap Feb. 7 after finishing sixth (behind Zenyatta) in the (Grade I) Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall.

Gabby’s Golden Gal won Santa Anita’s (Grade II) Santa Monica Handicap Jan. 31, and she also won the (Grade I) Acorn (at Belmont Park) last spring in New York,” Zetcher said.

“Although I lived in Boston for 20 years (as CEO of Talbots), I grew up in St. Louis,” Zetcher concluded. “I got interested in horseracing at an early age, and I used to sneak across the river to go to the races at Cahokia Downs and Fairmount Park when I was a kid. Naturally, I travelled a lot in business as an adult, and in my many stops around the country I always tried to attend the races at the nearest track.”

Don’t Forget About Unforgotten in New Orleans Ladies
Trainer Dallas Stewart, born in nearby McComb, Mississippi, and a longtime resident of New Orleans, will saddle Robert Adams’ Unforgotten, runner-up in Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff Dec. 19, in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies.

“Obviously, it’s a very tough race,” said Stewart Monday morning. “We’ll just go in there and see what happens.”

Unforgotten last visited the winner’s circle in the $125,000 Treasure Chest Stakes at Delta Downs Dec. 4, and was also easily second best behind Augustin Stable’s odds-on Informed Decision in last summer’s Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park despite a bad start and having to take up during the running.

“I also trained (Unforgotten’s) sister Hot Storm for Mr. Adams,” said Stewart, who won the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint with that mare at Santa Anita in 2006 and then came back to finish third in that same race with her when it was contested at Gulfstream Park in 2007.