Charles Cella said the owners of both champions agreed Feb. 11 to run their horses in the Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap (gr. I) on a new date of April 9, for a $5 million purse.
The stunning announcement came a day after Rachel Alexandra's principle owner, Jess Jackson, said his filly would not run in the race because the original date of April 3 was too early.
Cella decided to move the race back six days to give the 4-year-old filly more time to be in top form. Zenyatta's owner Jerry Moss has said his unbeaten mare will run next month in California and then in the Apple Blossom.
“The most important day in Arkansas sports history has now become the most important two days in Arkansas sports history,” Cella said. “This is truly a race for the ages.
“I understand the concerns of all competitors in needing a prep race and properly preparing for a race of this magnitude, especially in light of the weather we’ve been experiencing recently around the country. Both parties want this to happen when their champions are at their absolute peak. This date makes that possible.”
The first ladies of racing have not met on the racetrack. Rachel Alexandra, 8-0 last year, beat out Zenyatta for Horse of the Year honors.
``We are delighted that the race is on for April 9 and want to especially thank Charles Cella and Oaklawn for moving the date,'' Jackson said in a statement.
Said Moss to The Associated Press: ``We appreciate and applaud Mr. Cella's effort to make this happen, and we'll all be excited about traveling to Oaklawn to watch a great race. We've been focused all along on Oaklawn.''