Rachel Alexandra leaves behind lofty legacy

The retirement this week of Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, was not unexpected. In early August, I wrote that the filly might not make the Breeders’ Cup and it was unlikely she and Zenyatta would ever meet.

I wish I had been wrong.

Arguments will go on forever debating which horse was better or more deserving of Horse of the Year honors. I expressed my respect for the two champions in splitting my vote.

I will offer this thought: In my lifetime, I expect to see another mare win the Breeders’ Cup Classic long before we see another 3-year-old filly win the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward. It was that ambitious schedule by Rachel Alexandra that ultimately tilted the vote.

Last year, we were fortunate to see these two greats have undefeated seasons. But the fact that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta never met leaves a gigantic hole in racing history. It would be as if boxing Hall of Famers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had never fought.

Undefeated Zenyatta will seek career victory No. 19 in the Lady’s Secret at Oak Tree on Saturday. She will be 1-10 odds to do so in her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Lady’s Secret is among 11 Grade 1 stakes offered this weekend as Breeders’ Cup prep races. Nine more will be offered next weekend for a staggering 20 Grade 1 stakes in the next nine days.

If as a horseplayer you can’t get worked up watching Zenyatta and betting on 20 Grade 1 stakes, then you should start shopping for a coffin. You have no pulse.

On Saturday at Belmont Park, Blame is the star heading up the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Blame is scheduled to run next in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, making him and Quality Road the biggest obstacles left to Zenyatta winning her 20th and final career start.

As the defending Classic champion, you could not ask for a more dramatic ending to her storied career.

■ FALL CLASSIC — Here’s a final reminder that the three-day Fall Classic at The Orleans begins Thursday. The entry fee is $500, and the top 25 finishers will qualify for the 2011 Horse Player World Series.

■ TVG ONLINE CHALLENGE — The free TVG Online Challenge will take place Saturday. At stake are two seats to the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship on Jan. 28 and 29 at Red Rock Resort.

You do not need to be a TVG account holder or NHC Tour member to play. Just log on to games.ntra.com to sign up.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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