In giving Rachel Alexandra the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, we officially pinned the first loss on Zenyatta. And it was not a pretty sight.
The two reaction shots right after the HOY announcement were priceless. TVG first showed a jubilant Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra, embracing his wife. Then the camera switched to Jerry Moss, owner of Zenyatta, who looked as forlorn a figure as I have seen. This didn’t have to be.
For Moss, he’ll have to settle it the old-fashioned way: “Don’t get mad, get even.”
Zenyatta will race in 2010, and let’s hope her path and Rachel Alexandra’s path will intersect.
The two most mentioned stakes are the Apple Blossom on April 3 at Oaklawn Park or the La Troienne on April 30 at Churchill Downs. The fact that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta barely are into their training for this year might make those races too close.
Also, both horses will need racing before they meet so they’ll be in peak form. We don’t want any excuses. And the surface of choice must be dirt, not synthetics.
The Churchill race is intriguing because it’s where the Breeders’ Cup will be this fall. However, two more likely scenarios are the Ogden Phipps in June at Belmont Park or the Go For Wand in late July at Saratoga. By then, each horse’s motor should be finely tuned.
I’m praying that we aren’t counting our chickens before they hatch. Horses are so fragile that keeping them healthy is like playing craps 24/7. You never know when you’re going to roll a seven.
Regardless, if the two should meet, I hope everyone in racing gets behind this 100 percent. Among Oaklawn, Churchill or NYRA, all would be worthy hosts.
I’d ask all tracks racing that day to clear an hour of time to focus on the event. Give it the buildup that it richly deserves. This meeting has the potential to be a watershed moment for the sport.
• QUALIFIERS — Three qualifiers are worth playing next week. On Wednesday, Red Rock will host a Last Chance qualifier for the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship. It’s do-or-die time because you cannot buy into the NHC, which is Jan. 29 and 30 at Red Rock. Then on Jan. 31, qualifiers will take place at The Orleans for the Horseplayer World Series and at Red Rock for the 2011 NHC. Enlist a friend, use your cell phone and get situated so you can play in both.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.