03/13/2010 10:54AM

Time's Up


Not since Dan Quayle's vice-presidential debate with Lloyd Bentsen has a bar been set so low. Rachel Alexandra may need a race (headline in my paper). Rachel Alexandra will be only 80 percent (quote from Jess Jackson). Rachel Alexandra's return has been compromised by her long layoff, unseasonably wet weather, fluctuations in the Dow Jones. Heck, to hear it, Rachel Alexandra will be lucky to get around out there today in New Orleans without stopping at the half for nap.

3666758599_f09707f5bf This is all hooey, of course, a continuation of the parallel universe of chatter, spin and hyperbole that has surrounded Rachel Alexandra since her victory in the Kentucky Oaks last year and subsequent purchase by Jess Jackson. Weird, though, now that she was officially annointed as the best racehorse in the land for 2009, she suddenly becomes vulnerable, a frail thing beset by circumstances beyond her control.

"I'm very concerned with how fit she is," her trainer, Steve Asmussen, told Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Times Picayune. 

Well, I will drink Jess Jackson's wine, but not the Kool-Aid. The last time I let a trainer sandbag my expectations about the return to competition of a top horse was in the fall of 2000, when Neil Drysdale all but said Fusiachi Pegasus would be lucky not to need a cab ride from the quarter pole to get through his late season comeback in the Jerome at Belmont Park, and I believed every word. All he did was beat El Corredor and Albert the Great under a hand ride.

This is not to question Asmussen's trepidation. The mystery of the Thoroughbred rises with his or her ability. Asmussen and his crew know more about Rachel Alexandra than any lucky bunch in this game, and still they are constantly amazed. They also know that uncertainty is always a piece of the puzzle, and to ignore such feelings is foolish. But, jeez, it's Rachel Alexandra, and if she can't beat this field pulling a plow, how can we trust in such things as gravity, electricity and indoor plumbing?

In the meantime, out in California on one of those funny racetracks that no one seems to like, Zenyatta will be asked to walk her beat while giving away a dozen pounds or more. This would be a concern, if not for the fact that Zenyatta is giving off the same vibes that, say, an aircraft carrier emits when heading out to sea. The only worry about her appearance today in the Santa Margarita is that it all will be over so quickly.

It is almost spring. The clocks are turning forward. Some of the snow is beginning to melt, and racing's two most radiant flowers are about to emerge. It is time to summon the exhortation of the malevolent dwarf from "Twin Peaks" and proclaim: "Let's rock."

PomDeTerre More than 1 year ago
PomDeTerre More than 1 year ago
IF RA wasn't in shape and Assmussen is "very concerned with how fit she is", he shouldn't have run her,plain & simple. But then again, she's been off since, ummm, September??? Sounds to me as if there are other issues than just the competition. Sure she needed a break, but if not the Apple Blossom, when did they plan on bringing her back? Too many excuses for my tastes. And too little care for the welfare of the filly.
Jay H More than 1 year ago
Patrick -- This is a reference to my Sunday column in the Form, and you are absolutely correct. I did not make it clear that Henry Forrest trained the filly that broke Hartack's leg the week before the Derby, but did not train Tim Tam. Forrest eventually trained the main Calumet string.
Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Seabass, I guess U can't see the forrest thru the trees. ? RE: Zen & her routine of doing what she did last year & the previous year & the previous year, & NOW, the current year ? Let's see if this sounds familiar ? Racing in sunny Cali., beating up on the lower class of the same old tired Grade II & below Ca. mares{Zen is a Grade 1 winner}, Santa Anita Race Track, & Oh! lest I forget, PLASTIC...LOL..Sound familiar, yet ? Could this possibly be the reason UR horse was NOT voted HOY, in '08 & '09 ? U see my friend, RA beat MALES, 3 X's last year. All Grade 1 Route's on DIRT. All before the tender age of 4. Zen hasn't even tried any males on DIRT. She's almost 7 now. Get the picture ? What in the heck R U waiting 4 ? U don't need Rachel..U can do it. Just enter & race..It's rather simple...Do I sense some trepidation ? Don't want to stop that string of tarnished, asterisked, consecutive wins? Knowing Moss, I don't think so... So, before U want to classify her, like U did, w/ the immortal Secretariat & Cigar, may I be so bold as to recommend a possibility ? How about getting her entered in race on DIRT 4 the 1st time in her career. Maybe a race against some MALE Clydesdale's ?
Patrick More than 1 year ago
Jimmy Jones trained Tim Tam, not Henry Forrest.
greg sally More than 1 year ago
it is time someone called mr. jackson out. he is not a true sportsman for the sake of racing he is a frontrunner. buying established horses and then plotting a course to win an eclipse. i predicted they would not go to oaklawn long before her defeat saturday.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
CURT V, I never had any chance and I didn't blow it. You're right about Zenyatta doing what she always does. Just like last year and the year before that and the year before that.Yep she won. Winning year after year is what seperates the great ones from the good ones. Horses like Kelso, Forego,John Henry,Spectacular Bid and Secretariat earned their GREAT labels over multiple superior years.
tom mcdonough More than 1 year ago
It is amusing to read the comments of people who think that the certainty of their opinions changes anything about the quality or ability of these mares. They seem to bask in the bile of their feelings about the horses, the connections-whatever. Get a life. Realize that nothing you say is going to change anything. Why not be charitable? Both horses are magnificent, the trainers as competent as they come and the owners sportsmen. Jackson is a curmudgeon-but anyone who doubts that he has the interest of the horse uppermost in his decisions is a sad cynic. Enjoy the game-hope that they meet sometime this year when they are fit in a race that does not give either an advantage. Save the hindsight and the empty rhetoric.
peat moss More than 1 year ago
When are you people going to stop whinning about Zenyatta beating bad horses and Mike Smith and his bad rides. Zenyatta has 15 wins in a row and has beaten everyone that has come to race her, not duck her like RA.Every one complains when mike smith goes 10 wide,so he goes between horses and you complain some more.RA will never be the same horse as last year,they burnt her out running against the colts too much.
eeebayou More than 1 year ago
The irony of David "my career has been in ruins since I was dumped from riding Zenyatta" Flores riding the horse that beat RA is a story in itself.