01/19/2010 10:58AM

Rachel Rocks


Not even the considerable star power of Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, could alter the reality of the 2009 Horse of the Year vote, and so the award went to Rachel Alexandra by a margin of 130-99.

In a surprise video apearance, Sting's image beamed down upon the gathered hundreds in the ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, like a benign, very hip Big Brother, as the Zenyatta bunch collected her award for champion older filly or mare. (Jerry Moss, of course, ran A&M records, Sting's label.) He wished them luck in the big dance later in the evening. He sang nothing from Zenyatta Mondatta. Not a note.

The result, to be honest, was not a surprise, and the final total provided reassurance to supporters of Rachel Alexandra that nearly 57 percent of the voters agreed that her brilliant season, a mixture of the traditional and the daring, defined the established essence of a Horse of the Year campaign. No new news was made.

Zenyatta's supporters, represented by just over 43 percent of the voters, probably will go to their graves believing that they voted for the best "horse," and never mind what happened over the course of the "year." Theirs was an uphill battle, though, and in some ways it was amazing that Zenyatta got as many as 99 votes, considering the fact that she woke up on the morning of the Breeders' Cup Classic with a total closer to zero. That's a lot of ground to make up on a runaway leader in the clubhouse like Rachel Alexandra in the course of an afternoon's work.

In fact, with just 16 votes required to flip the result, it is not a stretch to suggest that Zenyatta needed only one more piece of meat on the plate and the whole thing could have been hers. It might have been enough had she run and won--instead of scratching from--the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap on Kentucky Oaks Day, for instance, or beaten males on one other occasion, in a race like the Californian at Hollywood Park, or the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita. But she didn't. It's over. The page has turned to 2010.

And now the hard part begins...getting these two horses together. But how hard should it be? In 1923, the powers of racing managed to get Epsom Derby winner Papyrus on an eight-day voyage to New York for a showdown with Kentucky Derby winner Zev. In November of 1938, after a number of head fakes and physical setbacks, the West's Seabiscuit finally met the East's War Admiral. In the years following WWII, superstars Armed, Stymie and Assault tangled so many times people got them confused. In 1964, Kelso and Gun Bow traded blows like LaMotta and Sugar Ray. In 1967 and '68, Dr. Fager and Damascus met four unforgettable times. Then later there was Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, and we all know how we felt while that was going on. Emotions ran so high during their four races that to this day--like abandoned Japanese soldiers on tiny Pacific islands long after the surrender--there are Easy Goer fans who still think he was the better horse. Is this a great game or what?

Except for what Jess Jackson referred to as a "popularity contest"--his description of the Eclipse Awards-- Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta did not meet in 2009 because there was no real opportunity. Now there are nothing but opportunities, and both Jackson and Moss seem ready to seize them.

blackseabass More than 1 year ago
If I'm not mistaken I believe that was one of those weak California synthetic horses that collared the mighty RA THE ONLY FILLY TO EVER,EVER. Is LIL' Z the front runner for horse of the year now. RA better DUCK and COVER 'cause the BIG BOPPER IS HEADED FOR OAKLAWN. LIL'Z was upthe track vs St. Trinians and Life is Sweet last time out
michael love More than 1 year ago
Dryfly just got his wings clipped. Undefeated, Conveyance has romped to a win at Oaklawn Park in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes, leaving little doubt as to who is the best 3 year old at Oaklawn Park. I still think DryFly will compete better in the Arkandsas Derby, and probably get a shot at the Kentucky Derby. SS
Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Michael, It might be a good-bye to Dryfly, but there were no shortages of Seattle Slew progenies on Saturday. SS has been deceased{'02} too long to have any sons running 4 the TC. However, Discreetly Mine is his great grandson, & Eskendereya{I had him}, is as close as U can get now. His grandson on the dam side, along w/his top Beyer of 106, 4 all 3 yr. olds..That puts Eskendereya in top of the class status..Did U notice that speed ? That's was Grandpappy scary...& undefeated on DIRT....Look out Derby hopeful's..
michael love More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the correction Curt. I had indeed overlooked the Deleware defeat of DryFly. But he is a strongly built colt despite the defeat, with great potential due to his pedigree, as you stated> http://www.pedigreequery.com/dryfly If I had to make a future wager on the Arkansas Derby, I'd play DryFly, as I think the majority would. And we know how Arkansas Derby winners and other entrants have faired in the triple crown races. Should DryFly indeed win the Arkansas Derby, one has to think he will be very competitive in the triple crown series. I may prove just a homer on the props for Cella's horse though. Time will tell. Dr. SwineSmeller
Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Mr. Michael, A very interesting take on Mr. Cella. U learn something everyday. Somebody had to do something, to get these 2 to meet. However, the jury is still out. Having said that, being an eternal fan of the immortal Seattle Slew, & Dryfly being a prodigy of the same, I have followed his short career. Unfortunately, Dryfly is not undefeated. He lost @Delaware, on 10/5/09, 7th by 8 3/4 lengths. Sorry about that. But, I still give him a legitmate shot, considering he comes from the only undefeated TC winner in history.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Dr. swinesmeller, Oaklawn is my favorite simulcast track. It is Admirable that Mr. Cella would not sell out to foreigners intent on destroying racing in this country.The schmo that bought my home track wanted to tear out its signature downhill turf coarse (the only right hand turn in America) and install an amusment park! fortunatly the good people of Arcadia nixed that idiotic concept. Heres hoping we can get a clean dream match.
michael love More than 1 year ago
Charles Cella, owner of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has just announced that Oaklawn Park will host super fillies Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra this coming April the 9th, along with as many as 8 other top female horses, in what is being billed as the greatest and most anticipated horse race since the Affirmed vs. Alydar triple crown series. It will only take second place in the history books to the War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit match race. But it will be far the top amongst the royal ladies. The Apple Blossom Invitational, now set to be run on April 9th, is anticipated to be the most ever watched horse race in the world, projected to literally smash Kentucky Derby, Breeder's Cup Day, and Dubai World Cup ratings. The Apple Blossom is an annual Grade 1 event for fillies and mares at Oaklawn Park, is normally a $500,000.oo pursed race, but Cella has again dug deep into his very deep pockets (Cella paid Smarty Jones' owner a 5 million bonus for winning the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby 5 years ago), along with some associative dollars being added, to raise the Apple Blossom's purse to a resounding FIVE MILLION DOLLARS if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both would agree to race. Just as the race looked to be unfeasible, Cella worked diligently to iron out a few kinks, and both ownerships have now agreed to race in the Apple Blossom! As most know, Rachel Alexandra is the 4 year old filly princess with 8 highly publicized wins in a row, all the while dismantling the young and older top shelf boys. Zenyatta is the queen at 6 years old, with a Breeder's Cup Classic win against the best boys, and she is unbeaten at 14 for 14 lifetime in the winner's circle. The 5 million dollar purse is the highest ever purse offered for a horse race inside United States borders, and it matches the Dubai World Cup purse. I will be there, as Hot Springs is about an hour and a half drive for me. Oaklawn expects to break 110 years worth of attendance records for the event. It is that big of a race, not only to Oaklawn and Cella, but also to the entire horse racing industry. Hotels are expected to fill all the way 60 miles to the north of Hot Springs, in Little Rock. Simlcast facilities across the nation are expected to be packed. This is simply the very grandest as the stage gets. Everyone loves the ladies most. Cella is ironing out a TV coverage deal as we speak with NBC for an international broadcast! Question is, who do you think will come home first of the two super-fillies? As you can best bet one of them will win the race. Congrats to Charles Cella for doing what it took to bring the most anticipated, and hoped for horse racing match-up in ages to his beloved Oaklawn Park!! I love the "Sport of Kings"!! I think I have to put my money on Zenyatta, though my heart is probably more with Rachel Alexandra. I actually hate to see one of them have to lose. Dr. SwineSmeller
michael love More than 1 year ago
For those unfamliar with Oaklawn Park owner, Charles Cella, here is tid of background on an amazing character. Charles Cella's grandfather founded Oaklawn in about 1904, literally. Though Charles resides most of his days in St. Louis and always has, he is our "cuzzin' Charles" here in Arkansas. I'll explain why... About 14 years ago, when the racing tracks aroud the country were being bought up by corporates, forming race track conglomerates, the blazing corporates more or less tried to strong arm Cella into selling his family's legacy, Oaklawn Park. The corporates basically threatened that without their money and conglomerated power, they would squash Oaklawn like a bug on the national scene if Cella didn't sell. This was all at a time when the horse racing industry was struggling as a whole, and simulcast and gaming funds were not in the works as they are now. Charles flat told the corporates to take a hike... or take a giant flipping leap, was closer as I remember. At that time, Cella was losing money keeping the track open. So he went to visit his many friends in the Arkansas State Legislature, (that would be all the big fellers in suits who are well aware of the educational budget contributions that the Cella family racetrack has almost forever provided to the state coffers), and the Arkansas legislature took the necessary steps to work with Cella on a solid long term game plan to revive our beloved 100 year old horse racing track. Now, not only has Oaklawn been revived, as Cella continues to implement more successful programs, with the state of Arkansas' backing, Oaklawn is flourishing, with more state education dollars flowing into state education coffers than ever before. And, Cella continues to create more local jobs, at a time when unemployment is high. And most of all, he is a charitable man. If anyone ever paid back for his fortunance, Cella has. And talk about blowing a windy one, were the corporates ever wrong in their scorn?... As they were closing many of their busted out "corporately owned" racetracks within just a few years, Cella was free enterprising and growing new roots stronger than ever. The corporates even mockingly laughed at Cella's "ignorant" refusal to sell out. But who's been laughing for the last ten years? That would be cuzzin' Charles and his much larger corp team, the "Arkanasas Corps". Fact is, Cella is bringing to full life the biggest race imaginable between these majestic ladies, to thoroughbred horse racing fans. Hard facts are, in the last 7 years, Charles Cella has built somewhat of a skyrocket pad-dynasty out of Oaklawn Park for the USA's elite 3 year old thoroughbreds. Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Smarty Jones, Lawyer Ron, Afleet Alex, Summer Bird, all triple crown race winners, all started their 3 year old campaign at Oaklawn, and that notoriety list goes on longer... No single racetrack, from New York, down to Florida, up to Kentucky, and out to California, has came close to prepping the number of 3 year old champions that Cella has of this past decade. Supergirl Zenyatta has even stood in the Oaklawn winners circle. And now, for the first time ever, in his trying for a long time, Cella is the owner of the undefeated 3 year old colt, Dryfly, who may well prove to be the cream of this years' 3 year old Oaklawn crop. Most probably, Dryfly would be considered the Arkansas Derby favorite as of now. Cella, and trainer Lynn Whiting, (Lil' ET'S trainer), are making a very serious run at the Kentucky roses with Dryfly. Cella had a living dream for his grandfather's Oaklawn racing legacy to continue, and he made it happen. And Cella will tell you, second to Oaklawn's surgence, he has always dreamed of wearing the roses on the first Saturday in May. Would Dryfly, draped in red roses, be the capper to the last decades success on top of a lifetime of dedication to the sport Cella loves so much?...You bet it would. And it couldn't happen to a better feller. Now, it's on to Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra, Live from Oaklawn Park! Dr. SwineSmeller
george More than 1 year ago
ARacingExpert...do you know Mr. Jackson personally?..also- lame surface excuse? Why run a horse on a synthetic when the surface has not been proven? Check your facts. It's easy to be a bias west coast fan, as it is for me to be a bias east coast fan. Run the horses on the surface that has put the GREAT horses into the books. Run the race on dirt. Run it on the surface that Secretariat and all the other Kentucky Derby greats ran it on. Run it on the surface that maybe the greatest horse of all time, Forego, ran it on. Do not judge owners for buying a HOTY award because they didn't. Their horse won, and Zenyatta won. Rachel won the races on different traditional dirt tracks. Zenyatta got lucky the Classic was on synthetic. Do not say Rachel ducked Zenyatta because Zenyatta has plenty of chances to run against Rachel on the dirt. You could go as far to say that both ducked each other. They both ran the races they were scheduled for, and no, Zenyatta losing is not an "atrocity". Be happy the horse got the award she deserved. An atrocity would have been if either horse broke down. Both ran the races their owners and trainers set out to run in. Who knows if Zenyatta would have run in the Classic if it was on dirt. Have we all forgotten the Kentucky Oaks? A race won by Rachel that could compare to the chilling runaway victory Secretariat had in the Belmont when he was moving "like a tremendous machine". Do NOT take anything away from this great champion filly Rachel Alexandra because you would be doing the sport a diservice. Why don't we all appreciate what both these great females have accomplished in their careers. More importantly, the racing industry has been declining in the past years, so why don't we appreciate that these two super horse fillies have brought back some attention to the Sport of Kings. Show some class and swallow your pride. Move on. She lost. It was not Daily Racing Forums fault. Both horses were deserving and let us remember an incredible year of racing, not a year that was "tarnished", because it wasn't. This past year has given racing what it needs. By the way, I loved both horses. Both were great for the sport. Both are incredible fillies. Let's look at the positives and see that this sport has changed. The game has changed and the evolution of the sport has allowed fillies to accomplish goals and be entered in races they've never been able to race in. This sport is getting pretty exciting and I can't wait to see how fillies will impact the sport in the future. Daily Racing Forum- keep doing what you are doing- providing uneducated racing fans on each coast with what the opposite coast's best horses have to offer. The fact that this topic is so debatable is proof that this sport will never die. Congratulations to both horses. Let history show that 2009 was a fine year in racing amid an economic downfall where two female horses gave a sport the closest HOTY vote in recent history. Let's look forward to 2010 and the safety and soundness of every horse this United States has to offer.
ARacingExpert More than 1 year ago
So Jess Jackson bought another Horse of the Year award. No surprise there. He didn't have the better horse as Zenyatta is by far a better horse - one need look no further than her perfect racing record. But anyone who ever doubted that Jackson will flare whatever he needed to buy it for Rachel Alex. is both a fool and naive. The whole HOTY was a complete joke as Jackson had ensured she would win from day 1. He is, by far, NOT a class act while the Mosses most assurdely are the epitome of grace and class. Also, don't expect a meeting between the two horses - Jackson will duck that as well with his lame "surface" excuses (or whatever else will suffice for an excuse). Jackson's buying of the HOTY award is just another example of the shambles the racing world is in. It's too bad such a maginificent sport has been tarnished and rubbled by this latest atrocity.