02/11/2010 12:00AM

Rachel won't make Apple Blossom

Barbara D. Livingston
Rachel Alexandra has not raced since beating males in the Woodward at Saratoga last September.

The highly anticipated showdown between Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and the undefeated multiple champion Zenyatta will not take place in the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 3.

Owner Jess Jackson announced in a press release late Wednesday afternoon that Rachel Alexandra would not be ready to run against a horse the caliber of Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom. Rachel Alexandra has not raced since beating males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 5. She has only breezed twice since resuming training at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Oaklawn Park had proposed to raise the purse of the Apple Blossom to $5 million from $500,000 if both horses showed up. Now, the purse will revert back to $500,000.

"Out of respect for the level of competition and then importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the bet interest of the horse to race on April 3," Steve Asmussen, trainer of Rachel Alexandra, said in the press release. "Getting to this level of fitness after a six-month layoff takes time. If all goes according to schedule, and we don't have any further weather delays, the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later."

Jackson said he asked Oaklawn officials to delay the Apple Blossom by one week, but track officials informed Jackson on Wednesday that would not be possible, according to Jackson's press release.

Meanwhile, Jackson said he has had discussions with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association about a proposed three-race series between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but did not mention where and when those races would be.

"Everyone wants see to Rachel race against Zenyatta - including me," Jackson said. "In fact I want it to happen several times this year."

Jackson said he has had discussions with Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the NTRA, with the hopes of coordinating "training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown."

Zenyatta, who is 14 for 14 and who defeated males in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is on a schedule that could have her ready to run in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13.

Trainer John Shirreffs said the proposed racing series does not change the first two scheduled starts for Zenyatta this year - the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13 and the Apple Blossom.

"We want to run in the Apple Blossom," he said. "We announced early on we'd love to run in the Apple Blossom."

As to whether he would be interested in a proposed three-race series against Rachel, Shirreffs deferred to owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

"It's a difficult thing for me to answer," he said. "Mr. Moss would have to answer that."

Shirreffs said he was not aware of the proposed series until informed by a reporter.

"This comes as a big surprise to me," he said. "I don't know what to say."

Shirreffs echoed Jackson's comments when he acknowledged that racing fans are craving an eventual meeting for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

"Everyone wants to see Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta run against each other," he said. "There's no question about that."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen