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Jul 30, 2010

Two giants might actually meet

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A few weeks ago, at the post position draw for the Delaware Handicap, the discussion around the table was about the hoped- for meeting between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

Since neither champion was entered in the 1 1/4-mile Del 'Cap we offered opinions on a possible face-to-face encounter of the two ladies. I stated my doubt that the two would meet this year, or ever. At the time, they were being kept apart from one another.

I felt that Zenyatta, 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, would remain in California and not venture outside the Golden State until the Breeders' Cup this year at Churchill Downs. The six-year-old mare is scheduled to make her next start in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on August 7.

Rachel Alexandra, defending Horse of the Year, is just coming off a three- length victory in the Lady's Secret Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park. This was another 1 1/8-mile start for the four-year-old filly, who has not gone beyond 1 3/16-miles since winning last year's Preakness.

My belief had been that Rachel would be kept out of races beyond nine- furlongs, making the Breeders' Cup Classic a non-start.

I have changed my mind.

It now appears that trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Jess Jackson and Hal McCormick have been preparing Rachel for a 1 1/4-mile effort. In her first four starts of 2010 she has not been allowed to set the early pace. Jockey Calvin Borel has held the champion filly back in order to get her accustomed to coming from off the pace.

"I love where her mind is at right now," noted Asmussen. "She's more mature and she's carrying a little more weight.

"We're trying to avoid any peaks and valleys. I don't think you've seen the best of her yet. We have a lot of mare to work with. She's carrying a lot of flesh, and she's very sound and comfortable. It's getting to the time of year where more pressure will be put on her very step of the way."

Rachel is now being pointed toward the 1 1/4-mile Personal Ensign Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga on Sunday, August 29.

"We'll assess her condition when she goes back to the track, discuss everything with Mr. Jackson and go from there," said Asmussen from Saratoga. "I think there's a chance she can run here."

So, the whole thing about Rachel not just going ahead and annihilating her opposition in the early races was planned. We already know that Zenyatta can go 10-furlongs with no problem. Asmussen has been getting his filly ready for the longer distance, not just for the Personal Ensign, but also for a meeting against Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

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