• The greatest maiden race ever

    POSTED Mar 8, 2012
    As the racing world and Zenyatta fans anxiously await news of the Horse of the Year's first delivery, it is impossible to suppress memories of her brilliant career, which I consider to be the greatest by any older female in the history of Western Hemisphere racing.

    That such a career happened to coincide with the greatest campaign by a three-year-old filly in the history of the American Turf was both exhilarating and spoiling for horse racing fans. Both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were once-in-a-generation horses. I might see a few more of their ilk before I die, but the chance that they're around at the same time is unlikely.

    That leads to a common lament of fans of both horses: Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta never faced each other on the racetrack. Will their foals?

    About 31%-32% of each foal crop races as two-year-olds. I'm willing to round up and call it an even third given the success of the broodmares in question. If each foal has a 2-to-1 chance of racing as a two-year-old then there is an 8-to-1 chance that both would race, which isn't too bad.

    Granted, Zenyatta did not debut until the fall of her three-year-old season, and Bernardini was relatively late to the races as well, but both came out running, and Bernardini's offspring have done well as two-year-olds (e.g. Stay Thirsty, To Honor & Serve). The sire of Rachel Alexandra's colt, Curlin, is similar to Bernardini in that he, too, debuted as a three-year-old before going on to win the Preakness and three-year-old male championship (Curlin also added Horse of the Year honors with a 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic victory, a race that eluded Bernardini the previous year when he was second to eventual Horse of the Year Invasor).

    What anyone would really want, though, is for the two foals to run against each other--or at the very least to be good enough that there would be an opportunity for them to run against each other.

    The Wynn Las Vegas race book got some good publicity by offering 60-to-1 that Rachel Alexandra's colt would start in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, and I expect that the casino will offer a similar prop when the sex of Zenyatta's foal is known. If it's a colt, and Avello sets a similar 60-to-1 line on his chances to make the Derby starting gate, then the odds both get in is 3,720-to-1.

    But why wait to see how good they are(n't)?

    Assuming that the Moss's will place Zenyatta's kin in the care of John Shirreffs and the Rachel Alexandra colt will be with Steve Asmussen for Stonestreet, it's not inconceivable that both foals will eventually find themselves stabled in Southern California. Santa Anita Park should begin planning for a maiden race on December 26, 2014, that would carry a $1-million purse if both foals show up.

    It isn't completely out of line with the owners' ways of thinking. Jerry Moss has said before that maiden races should be worth $100,000 to give owners a better chance to recoup the cost of racing horses more quickly, and the late Jess Jackson made similar points about the value of overnight races.

    The publicity surrounding either horse making it to the races would be immense, but it would be nothing compared to if they were able to do what their mothers didn't by racing against each other.

    Obviously a lot can happen between now and then. If Zenyatta has a filly then a maiden race is the best chance for the two foals to race, anyway. Either could be two-year-old phenoms and win at Del Mar or Saratoga, and either could need more time and not start until their three-year-old seasons as both their sires did.

    Still, such a maiden race would allow any track to cash in on the mares' star power. Remember when Sam Houston offered a big purse to try to lure a RA-Zen matchup? Why not throw the money out there now to generate excitement? I chose Santa Anita because of the calendar and proximity to trainers, but Sunland would be just as fun.

  • No comments:

    Post a Comment