Race on! Rachel vs Zenyatta in Ark. for $5 million
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Rachel vs. Zenyatta. The race is on!
One day after a matchup of racing’s leading ladies was put on hold, the owner of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., worked out a compromise to match the champion females for the first time – in the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9.
“The race is a go,” a delighted Charles Cella told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Both parties have signed off on it. I feel like we’ve been through the ringer on this thing. Now, we’re really excited about it.
“This is truly a race for the ages.”
The surprising announcement came a day after Rachel Alexandra’s owner Jess Jackson said his filly would not run in the 1 1/8-mile race because the original date of April 3 was too early. Instead, Jackson proposed a three-race series in which the horses would meet.
Cella said he worked the phones Wednesday night and Thursday morning trying to set up a race. He agreed to the April 9 date – the day before the track’s signature race, the Arkansas Derby – and apparently Jackson was sold.
Zenyatta’s owner, Jerry Moss, had said his unbeaten mare will run next month in California and then in the Apple Blossom. Rachel Alexandra is training at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and could make her first start of the year in mid-March.
The matchup has been the big story in racing for months, especially after Rachel Alexandra beat out Zenyatta for Horse of the Year.
Rachel went 8-0 last year, and beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational and the Woodward Stakes. Zenyatta capped her year by becoming the first female to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Last week, Cella said he would boost the Apple Blossom purse from $500,000 to $5 million if Rachel and Zenyatta ran.
“The conditions stay the same,” Cella said. “Both connections felt they needed a little more time so they could run in a prep and I agreed to that.”