Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monmouth Park's 2009 Haskell Invitational

Haskell Invitational Grade 1 August 2, 2009

Its official – as is his customary way Jess Jackson loves to keep everyone on the edge of their seats, awaiting the announcement. Then he steps to the podium, and then comes the announcement:
“Rachel Alexandra is to face colts in the 2009 renewal of the Haskell Invitational”.

The announcement makes for huge ovations and applause in the conference room where the management of Monmouth Park has awaited the announcement.
At this point in her 3 year old season there is really no other decision to make, why you might ask. First, the last two times that Rachel Alexandra has stepped out onto the track against her own gender she has won by a combined 39.5 total combined lengths. For those that don’t know during her stretch of 7 straight victories her margin of victory in these races is 63 ¼ lengths. So the question is who really wants to run against her. Apparently not the connections of Big Drama who have deferred to the West Virginia Derby, not the connections of Papa Clem, and can you believe that even the connections of the great Zenyatta does not want to test the abilities of Rachel Alexandra. Watching the interviews of some of the great trainers of our day, and trying to put Rachel Alexandra’s accomplishments into perspective, there are a number of adjectives that are used to describe her. Beating the likes of Pioneer of the Nile, Mine That Bird, Papa Clem, Musket Man, General Quarters. You can understand why Kieran McLaughlin would call Rachel Alexandra a “Superstar”, he says he at no point wants to have to run against this filly.
I recall the discussion that I had with a man at Oaklawn Park who told me that Stardom Bound would run down Rachel Alexandra, and with all due respect to Stardom Bound’s race record and the wonderful decision to give her some time off from racing to freshen up, I would have to say that Rachel is on a totally different planet compared to the other fillies and mares that are out there training right now. If you listen to Larry Jones you’d get an understanding of how incredibly impressive this filly is.
“Only the Lord knows how fast Rachel Alexandra is,” said Larry Jones, who plans to start Friesan Fire in the Preakness Stakes (G1). “Anytime you have a horse as fast as her, the only chance anyone has to beat her is with the boys. “We chased her earlier this year with two fillies and finished 19 and 11 3/4 lengths behind her, but all of the sudden that didn’t seem so bad after she won the Oaks by 20 [1/4 lengths].”
“I don’t know that we can beat her based on talent or physically, but maybe we can beat her mentally,” said Gary Stute, Papa Clem's trainer. “She’s had a clear run in most of her races, so maybe if she gets pinned inside she won’t like that very much.”
“She may not even know she’s running against boys,” Jones said. “She’ll go to the front and just think there’s a bunch of girls chasing after her.”
What was the result; Rachel Alexandra stormed to a clear length victory in the Preakness which we know is now well documented. But what of the Haskell field, as of right now with the possible defection of Papa Clem and Big Drama, there will be only 6 entrants in this race, thus far. , The Haskell lineup at the moment also includes Belmont winner Summer Bird, Munnings, Atomic Rain, Bunker Hill, and Duke of Mischief.
There will be some speed in the race, and it looks like that could set up perfectly for both Summer Bird and Rachel Alexandra. No one would expect Rachel to have to go to the front unless she is coming from the outside, but that would be in a full field, in a field this small this would most likely be a stalking trip for Rachel. Summer Bird though is an interesting entrant into this race with Monmouth Park known for such tight turns and with the shorter distance here not really being the best for Summer Bird. Summer Bird is known as being a plodder, a steady horse but has never really shown much of a turn of foot which will be needed in this race, but he is training beautifully according to his trainer Tim Ice. "He was perfect again," said trainer Tim Ice, referring to his Sunday morning breeze. "Everything is exactly on schedule. He'll have his final breeze next Sunday. Kent Desormeaux will be here for that." "He was perfect again," said trainer Tim Ice. "Everything is exactly on schedule. He'll have his final breeze next Sunday. Kent Desormeaux will be here for that."
This filly is something special and when you see a filly begin to turn colts and geldings towards a plan B, that’s saying something. She has their respect and they are paying attention to what she is doing. But its not only the boys that are taking notice, looking at the way that the connections of Acoma looked at running against R.A. gave indication that she has everyone’s attention. According to David Carroll he would run Acoma in the Delaware Handicap if the situation was right. He said: "If Rachel goes, we're not going to run.” It says a lot when the connections of a 5 year old mare don’t want to run against a 3 year old filly. But this is not the first time this has happened if you recall this was the interview that Jerry Moss gave on 6.27.2009. Saturday morning, in an interview on the "Down the Stretch" radio show on Sirius XM radio, Jerry Moss, the owner of Zenyatta, said "there's a good chance" Zenyatta would leave Southern California to race this year and that he "would very much like" to see his mare face Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra.
Moss said no decision on Zenyatta's schedule would be made until after trainer John Shirreffs assesses how the mare comes out of Saturday's Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Zenyatta scored her 11th victory in as many career starts in the Vanity. Rachel Alexandra posted her seventh straight victory with a romp in Saturday's Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park.
"Obviously, we take it race to race," Moss said. "[Shirreffs] is going to need a week to see how she's come through this . . . then maybe we'll say something about where our next start will be, and it could be out of the state for certain."
"If the two horses are ready and at the top of their form, I would very much like to see a race between the two of them," Moss said. This was before the running of the Mother Goose, then after seeing both horses run that day Mr. Moss came back on 6.28.2009, and changed his mind. Stating that the detention barns would cause Zenyatta problems just as it did Tiago and Giacomo. Is it really the detention barns that caused these two horses’ issues or the fact that they were not the highest quality of horse?
I would think that in Zenyatta’s case there would be no reason to worry about that due to her being undefeated and of such high quality stock. Hopefully we’ll see these two clash. That is still in the air, as for right now we have one horse working towards a Horse of the Year campaign and another horse working towards Horse of California Campaign, very similar to Lava Man. Stay tuned the Haskell should be exciting.

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