Wednesday, June 24, 2009

She Runs Like a Girl!

It looks as though the rain is going to leave the Eastern Seaboard for a while, so that means that it's going to be a perfect weekend out in Elmont, New York, home to Belmont Park. I didn't attend Belmont Stakes day this year, but I'm not going to miss getting to see this gorgeous filly in person, so I'll make the short drive down to to the track. Free admission AND jewelry? (okay, a pink bracelet, but still) I'm there.

I've often lamented to a few of my horse-minded friends that I didn't live in the era of match races like Seabiscuit vs War Admiral. It was a different time, I know, but I still think it would've been a great thrill to see those head to head races in person. Not unlike watching a great pitching duel or this season's Stanley Cup made more memorable by the cast of characters.

Now it appears that there is an equally interesting cast of characters coming onto the main stage: the connections of both Rachel Alexandra (owned by Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, of Kendall-Jackson winery fame) and Zenyatta (owned Jerry and Ann Moss of A&M record fame) are not only appealing in their own right, but their respective horses seem to be headed for history. And they're girls. (Okay, I'm a little biased being female myself.)

(As an aside, I love both of these ladies, but if this were a movie, Zenyatta would be the Margo Channing character--the older, more mature and seasoned part, played to perfection by Bette Davis in All About Eve--and Rachel Alexandra would be the Eve Harrington character--played with a touch of malice by Anne Baxter--the up and coming young beauty. I'll end my flawed analogy here as there's no malice or envy between these two horses--at least none that I'm aware of--only two stories of extraordinarily talented athletes.)

In a press conference from earlier today Mr. Jackson responded to future plan questions for Rachel Alexandra and where/when/if she and Zenyatta might meet up. It won't be the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in November (due to the polytrack racing surface, it was noted) but he didn't rule out the two meeting at another point, or even in a match race. I can honestly say that I squealed a little at the thought of (a) the two great ladies meeting in a race and (b) a match race. There was even a nice little bit of posturing, I thought, when Jackson said that Zenyatta would have to come East or meet on neutral ground, in any event. Fantastic.

Bill Finley, in a great comment for ESPN on 10 June gives an idea of just how important an event like this, a head to head showdown for Rachel and Zenyatta, might be for horse racing. And honestly, what could be more uplifting than seeing these two great horses--and any others who would take them on, even--dueling it out on the racetrack. Horse racing--hell, America--needs more heroes and heroines and these two graceful athletes might be just the ones to fill the bill.

The NYRA is doing a good job of getting Rachel's Saturday race some publicity. That they're making it a sort of "Ladies' Day at Belmont Park " should bring out some more fans and I can promise you there are horse crazy little girls out there who will be begging their parents to take them to see Rachel run. We girls have to stick together! Check out the Rachel's Sandbox feature on NYRA's website...complete with coloring pages for kiddies of all ages.

Just the fact that there is discussion of a race between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta is a good thing. It's not enough, though, we fans need to be vocal and tell the racing establishment how much we want to see this happen. I'm going to start, and do my little part, by heading to the track on Saturday to cheer on Rachel and all the other equine athletes that will be racing. And most of all I'll be praying they all make it across the finish line safely to race another day.

Head to a racetrack near you, if there is one. I'm betting that once you've'll want to go again.

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