02/04/2010 9:20PM

Apple Blossom Time?


News reports about the proposed $5 million showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom April 2 make no reference to an insurance policy covering the additional $4.5 million Oaklawn will put up if both of them run. If you were an actuary (which you already are every time you accept a price as a horseplayer,) what would you charge for such a policy -- that is, what price would you make it that the showdown actually happens?


On the positive side, the venue is perfect. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both have run and won impressively at Oaklawn, and the Apple Blossom is a race of appropriate stature and history. The giant purse strokes any egos that need stroking. On the downside, trainer Steve Asmussen said today that "From a timing standpoint, it's less than optimum"  for Rachel Alexandra. She's been off for five months and had her first published workout just last Sunday. It's extremely unlikely she'd make the Apple Blossom her season debut off a seven-month layoff, and it's way too soon to tell if she'll be ready for a prep race three or four weeks hence.

Oaklawn tinkered a bit with the Apple Blossom, extending the distance from 8.5 to 9 furlongs and changing it from a handicap to a scaleweight race. At least that spared someone from having to weight the two of them, which could have been tricky in both an absolute and relative sense.

Let's say Zenyatta returns in the Santa Margarita Handicap March 13 and wins under the 130 pounds she might be assigned for that race. (She won the Vanity under 129 and then won the Breeders' Cup Classic, so how can you drop her?) So now you'd give her 131 for the Apple Blossom and where would you peg the filly who just beat her for Horse of the Year?

I think you'd have to make them equal weights, which is what they'll carry under the new conditions of the Apple Blossom -- but they'd both be at 123 instead of 131.

And as long as we're at it: If we get that far, who's the morning-line favorite?