Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rachel Alexandra - The Preakness Conspiracy

This is absolutely the most ridiculous situation I've ever come across during my time of being a horse racing fan. Here is the summation from

"The owners of Mine That Bird and Pioneerof the Nile began the day on Sunday by revealing that they were going to do what they could to keep Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness Stakes (G1). By the end of the day, after hours of controversy and hand-wringing by Thoroughbred racing officials and fans alike, both parties decided they would do no such thing and would not try to prevent the Kentucky Oaks winner from taking on the boys in the middle leg of the Triple Crown.
Since Rachel Alexandra was not nominated to the Triple Crown, she would have to be supplemented to the Preakness for $100,000 by new owner Jess Jackson, and she could not take the place of a nominated horse if the race draws more than the maximum of 14 starters. Mark Allen, the co-owner of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Mine That Bird, said early on Sunday that he planned to enter a nominated maiden named Indy Express in the Preakness. Ahmed Zayat, the owner and breeder of Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, also said on Sunday morning that he planned to enter at least one additional horse. Zayat led all owners with 22 nominees to the Triple Crown.
Both Allen and Zayat acknowledged that they wanted Rachel Alexandra to be excluded. “I just want my rider back,” said Allen, referring to jockey Calvin Borel’s decision to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness rather than Mine That Bird. Borel piloted the Medaglia d’Oro filly to a dominant 20 ¼ victory in the Oaks (video).
Zayat originally said he had both business and personal reasons for wanting to avoid Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness.
“I want my chance for revenge with Mine That Bird,” Zayat said. “It’s also a business decision.”
Zayat said he had received numerous calls from owners and breeders encouraging him to use the power that he has to bump Rachel Alexandra. “People are concerned that it would not be for the good of the sport,” Zayat said. “Nobody wants a situation like we had last year with Eight Belles.” Zayat also received a call on Sunday morning from Allen, urging him to help push the filly out. Allen said he did not think fillies should race against colts at this stage of their careers. He also said entering the maiden, who is winless in nine starts, was a business decision. Allen said the colt would not be scratched and would run in the Preakness.
“He’s a good colt; I can tell you one thing, he won’t be last,” Allen said of the A.P. Indy colt trained by Joe Merrick. Zayat also indicated that he would scratch any horses he entered other than Pioneerof the Nile.
As the drama continued throughout the afternoon, industry professionals and racing fans made their feelings known.
"If that’s what we’ve come to, it’s a sad state of affairs," Maryland Racing Commisision Chairman John Franzone said. "If you’re doing it to prohibit this horse from being in, it’s just not good. The point is, if you truly think you have the best horse, you take on all comers, you don’t try to manipulate it so there’s an advantage."
Franzone did, however, admit that there was not much Maryland Jockey Club officials could do in the event that Zayat and Allen did try to keep Rachel Alexandra from the field.
"What if the Maryland Jockey Club just said, no, this is bad for our event? They’d be sued," he said. "Somebody would probably come to the racing commission and ask for an immediate decision. I can’t sit here and quote all the regulations, but I don’t think we have the wherewithal to stop someone from entering an open race."
Several hours later, both Zayat and Allen had backpedaled and dramatically changed their tunes.
Late Sunday afternoon, Zayat—who said he received a call from The Jockey Club—told Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas that he intended to enter only Pioneerof the Nile.
In an interview later in the afternoon on Television Games Network (TVG), Zayat said he would do what was best for the fans of the sport.
“Her former owner’s original plan was not to run in the Preakness. He said he had respect for the industry, and that the Triple Crown was to showcase the three-year-old colts and future stallions. I have never heard of a jockey moving from a Kentucky Derby winner to ride another horse. I find it disrespectful for America’s most coveted race. Considering all these factors, along with what I heard from other owners and breeders, I decided I would do what was in the best interest for all of us. To be honest with you, I’m not playing saint and am not above everything else. I have a vested interest; it was a business decision.
“One other criteria for me, I like playing by the rules. All these colts from the very beginning have had to compete and go through the regimen and tough scheduling and go from one race to another to get graded earnings, and that puts a lot of stress on them. And in all fairness, she did not have to go through all that, and her previous owners did not even bother to nominate her to the Triple Crown, and then someone else comes in and tries to change the name of the game and the rules in the middle of the game and I think that is unfair. I’m not against the filly running against the boys. Who am I to say that? But I am questioning the two-week interval. Why not give her a freshening and run her in the Belmont? Two weeks for a filly. Does our sport need another Eight Belles? We all know what happened to Rags to Riches after her race in the Belmont. We all know what happened to Ruffian. I did not want to have that part of it on my watch.
“Nevertheless, after getting off the phone from the president of The Jockey Club, who told me what he had been hearing, I have decided I don’t want to be viewed as not being a sportsman, so I am happy not to block her for the good of the game. Please understand this is not about me; this is about the industry, and although what is right is not very clear to me, I am happy to reconsider my decision for the fans.”
Later in the day, Mark Allen also retracted his earlier plans to block Rachel Alexandra from the race.
"I was thinking about entering a maiden in the Preakness to get Calvin back and to keep that filly out of the race," Allen told Sports Illustrated. "But that ain't right. I ain't gonna do it. It just ain't the right thing to do.
"I was hanging out with my girlfriend and riding my Harley around and I got to thinking about it. It just ain't right. And when you do things that ain't right, it'll come back on you.
"She might kick our butts, but she deserves a shot. Myself, I wouldn't run her against the boys. I'd go for the filly Triple Crown. But she ain't my filly. She may outrun us and she may not. But I ain't gonna stop her from running."
Jackson, who along with Harold T. McCormick purchased Rachel Alexandra earlier in the week, said through all of the controversy that he still planned to enter the filly in the Preakness.
"Rachel Alexandra had an impressive workout today, and she is ready to run in the Preakness," Jackson said. "Since it's Mother's Day, I wish I could announce to all mothers everywhere that this incredible filly is entered to take on the boys, but Triple Crown rules may prevent us from sending her to Pimlico. I want the fans to know we are prepared to enter her, and I am hopeful that her entry will be accepted. I know we all want the thrill of seeing Rachel Alexandra race next weekend."
Zayat said he also had been encouraged by a representative of Marylou Whitney, the owner of Mine That Bird’s sire, Birdstone. Whitney plans to start Luv Gov, who won a maiden race on Derby undercard (video), in the Preakness.
Luv Gov's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said the colt's presence would have nothing to do with Rachel Alexandra. “We think he has a legitimate chance,” Lukas said. “It has nothing to do with keeping the filly out. When I called [Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coleman Blind] I asked him how many they had and he said 13. It has nothing to do with Rachel Alexandra. We want to run.”

As a fan of the sport, and a lover of thoroughbreds, let me just chime in and this is outrageous, this is as bad for the game of horse racing as Manny Ramirez's suspension from baseball for doping. Bad sportsmanship is not something that should be tolerated and just the fact that the owners would make a statement of this nature should lead to suspensions and huge fines. I don't like this for the game of horse racing and I hate this for the connections of the filly. I guess we will see what develops.

1 comment:

belles forever said...

saw your linc on your thoughts here and must say i totally agree with you.despicable acts by less than honorable owners! this sport needs a hero or heroine badly.not a drugged one not one tied to controversy but a real honest to goodness champ! to the race goes the fleetest of foot!why people think that girls should not race the boys is beyond me. such backward thinking only reflects ignorance.why did zayat even mention eight belles? nothing like throwing the fear card..hmm reminds me of others who have tried scare tactics.IT'S UGLY!