The principal owner of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra said his filly won't run against undefeated champion Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom (gr. I), but he proposed a three-race series in which the two talented female runners would meet.
Jess Jackson said he has been in discussions with the president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and hopes he and the owners of Zenyatta can work out the details.
In a news release issued Feb. 10, Jackson said if training and racing schedules as well as purse money can be worked out, the three-race series would hopefully take place.
"The fans have spoken," Jackson said. "The media has spoken. Everyone wants to see Rachel race against Zenyatta, including me. In fact, I want it to happen several times this year.
"We have been in discussions with Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of National Thoroughbred Racing Association, with the hope of coordinate 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."
Jerry Moss, who co-owns Zenyatta with his wife Ann, was surprised by Jackson's announcement, and told The Associated Press: ``I have no idea what he's even talking about. Which three races? And where? And when?''
A week ago, Oaklawn Park said it would boost the purse of the Apple Blossom on April 3 to $5 million from $500,000 if both horses competed.
"It's a shame they are not going to show up for that race,'' Moss said in a telephone interview with AP. "In the meantime, there's some plan here, to run in three races, to which we're supposed to respond to, and we haven't even been consulted about it. So, I don't know what I'm supposed to say.''
Moss said Zenyatta remains on schedule to run in the Santa Margarita (gr. I) at Santa Anita on March 13, and then the Apple Blossom.
"Then we'll see what's next,'' Moss said, adding that the goal is to run in the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6. "The Breeders' Cup is something I honor. I believe that's where championships are decided.''
Jackson's announcement also caught the Mosses' racing manager, Dottie Ingordo, and her husband, John Shirreffs, who is Zenyatta's trainer, by surprise.
"We just heard about all of this," Ingordo wrote in an e-mail to The Blood-Horse. "John and I were schooling horses at Santa Anita in the late afternoon, and then I started getting calls on my cell phone about what was on the Internet. That is the first we heard of any of this. So sorry I can't add any more details. I don't know any of them myself ... nor does John ... nor do the Mosses. I called Jerry when people called me; that is when we first heard about this."
The Jackson camp said the Apple Blossom is out of the question.
"Out of respect for the level of competition and the importance of this race, I have told Mr. Jackson it was not in the best interest of the horse to race on April 3," said Rachel Alexandra's Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "Getting to this level of fitness after a six-month layoff takes time. If all goes according to schedule, and we do not 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."
Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness (gr. I) since 1924, beating a field that included Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird. She went undefeated throughout the 2009 campaign, defeating males three times in grade I stakes.
Zenyatta became the first female to win the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last November at Santa Anita. She has won all 14 of her career races.
“The NTRA will continue to do everything possible to facilitate a meeting or series of races between champions Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta," said Waldrop in a statement that was released following the announcement of Jackson's proposed racing series. "We look forward to further discussions with the connections of both horses.”