08/21/2009 12:00AM

TVG-Betfair would sponsor Rachel vs. Zenyatta


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - TVG and its parent company Betfair, the largest online wagering businesses in the U.S. and around the world, have entered into an agreement with the New York Racing Association to bump the purse of the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park on Oct. 3 from $600,000 to $1 million provided both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta showed up to run, it was announced Friday.

"TVG-Betfair and NYRA are thrilled to offer the owners of these two great horses the chance to participate in a Beldame for the ages," said Gerard Cunningham, president of Betfair US. "Racing fans have been clamoring for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to square off all year and the Beldame presents the best opportunity for two Horse of the Year contenders to meet at one of racing's best venues."

Currently a weight-for-age race that requires nomination and starter fees, the New York Racing Association would consider switching this race to an invitational if it looked like both fillies would run.

"If this happens to go forward I'd like to change it to an invitational," P.J. Campo, NYRA's racing secretary, said. "No fees, and I can put out two lists, one two weeks before and one week before."

Rachel Alexandra has won eight consecutive races, including victories against the boys in the Preakness and Haskell Invitational. Jess Jackson, the owner of Rachel Alexandra, has yet to pick out the filly's next race - "it's most likely between the Travers and Woodward" - let alone give any indication what he plans to do with the filly in the fall. Jackson said he does not plan to run Rachel Alexandra in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, which utilizes a synthetic surface.

"I understand the growing excitement around a race that involves these two magnificent athletes competing but both camps need to do what is in the best interest of the horse," Jackson said in a statement released through his publicity office. "And for us, that means waiting until she competes and soundly recovers from her next race before any decisions are made about the Beldame Stakes or any other venue."

Zenyatta, unbeaten in 12 starts, is shooting for either the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Nov. 6 or the Classic against males on Nov. 7, and would need a race to run prior to then. Earlier this week, John Shirreffs, the trainer of Zenyatta, opened the door to possibly shipping east.