Online wagering companies TVG and Betfair have pledged an additional $400,000 to the New York Racing Association to invite Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to participate in the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 3.
With the $400,000 title sponsorship by TVG-Betfair, NYRA will raise the purse of the Beldame to $1 million if the starting gate includes both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, two of the most successful female runners in racing history, the companis said in an Aug. 21 release.
"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," Betfair US president Gerard Cunningham said in a statement. "Racing fans have been clamoring for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to square off all year, and the Beldame presents the best opportunity for the two Horse of the Year contenders to meet at one of racing’s best venues."
Jess Jackson, co-owner of Rachel Alexandra, didn't bite Aug. 21. He said it's still wait-and-see with the filly.
“Our strategy has not changed in scheduling Rachel Alexandra’s campaign this year," Jackson said in a statement. "We will always take it one race at a time. Right now, we are focused on her next start. I hope to have a decision on that early (the week of Aug. 24). After that race, we will need to see how she recovers, and then determine her next start.
"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. And for us, that means waiting until (Rachel Alexandra) completes and soundly recovers from her next race before any decisions are made about the Beldame Stakes or any other venue.”
Other tracks and industry players have attempted to bring the two females together as well. Jackson has said Rachel Alexandra won't compete in a Breeders' Cup race this year, while Zenyatta is expected to do so. The event will be held at Santa Anita Park.
Rachel Alexandra, owned by Jackson and Harold McCormick, has won her last eight races, including the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Record executive and co-founder of A&M Records Jerry Moss owns Zenyatta, who remains undefeated in 12 career starts and won last year’s Eclipse Award as champion older filly or mare.
The Beldame is at 1 1/8 miles, a distance at which Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta have each captured three grade I events. At Belmont, the distance is run around one turn, however, not two.
"We are very excited to partner with TVG-Betfair and provide the venue and opportunity for fans to see the race of a lifetime," NYRA president and chief executive officer Charles Hayward said. "Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are two of the most talented females that Thoroughbred racing has ever witnessed, and Belmont Park would be the perfect setting for this dream match-up.
"We would expect the race to draw a stellar field to be part of racing history."