03/12/2010 12:00AM

Apple Blossom attracts 45 nominees

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta lead the list of 45 fillies and mares that have been nominated to the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9. If the two champions run in the mile and a eighth race, the purse will be worth $5 million.

:: APPLE BLOSSOM: (PDF)

The field will be limited to 10 horses if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta start in the Apple Blossom. The balance of the gate will be made up of fillies and mares who are extended a formal invitation on March 24. From there, pre-entries to the Apple Blossom will be taken March 26, with final entries for the race to be drawn April 6.

The list of nominees also includes Bambera, a Venezuelan-bred winner of 16 races whose connections have expressed a strong desire for her to make what could be her first North American start in the Apple Blossom.

Others on the list include Careless Jewel, who is training forwardly since her pacesetting effort in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Nov. 6; Luna Vega, the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher winner and a stablemate of Rachel Alexandra; Pure Clan, the winner of the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park; Stardom Bound, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008; Striking Dancer, the winner of the Grade 2 La Canada in February; Sweet Repent, a winner of her last five starts including the Sunshine Millions Distaff; and Zardana, winner of the Grade 2 Bayakoa and a stablemate of Zenyatta.

The purse distribution of the Apple Blossom, if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta start, will be 50 percent, or $2.5 million, to the winner. The race will pay back to last, with the sixth through 10th place finishers earning 2 percent, or $100,000. In the event the race fails to draw both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the Apple Blossom purse will revert to its traditional $500,000. The Apple Blossom is part of the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn.