Thursday, February 04, 2010

The $5,000,000 Question

Oaklawn Park in Arkansas has announced that they are intent on getting the much-desired matchup between last year's Horse Of The Year finalists, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. The already prestigious Grade 1 $500,000 Apple Blossom would get a boost in purse to $5,000,000 if the two super horses would agree to come to Hot Springs and fight it out once and for all. The race would become a mile and an eighth, up from its current distance of a mile and a sixteenth. This is certainly a very concrete and spectacular offer to get the leading ladies of racing together.

However, the questions must be asked. Would this become little more than a match race? Who would line up to face these two great runners in Arkansas? Would John Shirreffs also send Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner, Life Is Sweet, to Arkansas to help fill the field? I know I argued this question once before on this blog, but now, I think these are questions that must be considered. I couldn't ever comprehend the connections of Zenyatta wanting to match race with Rachel Alexandra simply because of her running style. Zenyatta usually comes from well off the pace to surge to victory in the stretch. This would be increasingly harder to accomplish against Rachel Alexandra if there were no other horses in the race to soften her up for such a stretch challenge with fast early fractions. Any historian with an eye on match races can tell you that speed usually wins. The most famous match race in history between Seabiscuit and War Admiral hinged on the fact that Seabiscuit went out and took the early lead, which was a testament to a great job of training by the legendary Tom Smith.

I am not trying to be a killjoy. In fact, far from it. But, these are questions I am sure that will be realistically pondered in the days leading up to the race should the Big Two agree to come. I am also reasonably sure that the ones doing the pondering will be the same ones at Oaklawn Park that have created such a fabulous situation.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

1 comment:

Brian Appleton said...

It's a good point you bring up about the possibility of no competition but I don't think that will happen. With $5 million dollars to go around, 3rd place and even 4th place is going to get a pretty sizable amount just for placing. They might even win more than if they were to win another graded stakes event against weaker competition.
Many trainers and owners most likely won't need to be persuaded to run for that kind of money, and placing behind 2 of the greatest race mares of all time doesn't diminish you're mares record too much.