Unbeaten Zenyatta and Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra thrilled racing fans on different coasts Saturday with memorable performances in Grade I stakes that only enhanced their reputations as the best horses in training.
Rachel Alexandra, the 3-year-old filly who conquered the boys in the Preakness, faced only two horses in the $270,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. It wasn't a race -- it was an annihilation. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, carrying 121 pounds, won by 19 1/4 lengths over Malibu Prayer under jockey Calvin Borel in a stakes-record time of 1:46.33 for 1 1/8 miles.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, July 01, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Horse racing: An article in Sunday's Sports section on Grade I stakes races in Southern California and New York said Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, paid $2.10 to win at odds of 1-5. The odds were 1-9.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 05, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Horse racing: An article in the June 28 Sports section on Grade I stakes races in Southern California and New York said Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, paid $2.10 to win at odds of 1-5. The odds were 1-9.
"I'm a modest guy. I was hoping for maybe 10 lengths," owner Jess Jackson said. "She is a special filly. She is a champion."
Then, 19 minutes later, Zenyatta, a 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry carrying 129 pounds, came away with her 11th consecutive victory, unleashing her customary stretch charge for a 2 1/2 -length triumph over pacesetter Briecat in the $287,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. She covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.15.
Jockey Mike Smith, the rider of Zenyatta, called her "a horse sent from God."
"She's just incredible," Smith said. "It was a short field, and she had a lot of weight on her and I didn't want her to have so much to do, so I stayed a little closer than normal."
Zenyatta was racing fifth in the field of sixth when she began her move around the final turn and ran down Briecat and the third-place finisher, Dawn After Dawn. It was the highest impost from a Vanity winner since Cascapedia carried 129 pounds in 1977. Zenyatta spotted her five rivals 13 to 16 pounds.
"I'm very happy," trainer John Shirreffs said. "She ran a brilliant race."
Afterward, Shirreffs expressed optimism that the connections for the two horses would find a way to set up a meeting this year despite Rachel Alexandra's owner's insisting earlier in the week that she would not race in the Breeders' Cup in November at Santa Anita.
"I think there's a great chance they'll meet," Shirreffs said. "I don't know where."
Zenyatta's next race probably will come at Del Mar. Jackson indicated that Rachel Alexandra will be sent to Saratoga to train and possibly race, then head back to Belmont.
What's clear is that these two horses are going to have a tough time finding competition within their divisions.
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, moved to within two victories of equaling the record of Personal Ensign, the filly who retired as an unbeaten champion in 1988.
Rachel Alexandra has won seven consecutive races, including six in a row this year.
Their connections and their fans keep thinking they are the best.
"Believe me, she's not normal," Borel said of Rachel Alexandra. "I'm telling you, she's unbelievable. I nudged her on the turn for home around the quarter pole, but that was it."
Fans at both tracks were treating Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra like royalty. In the paddock at Hollywood Park before the Vanity, the rails separating spectators and the horses were crowded with people holding cameras and video recorders trying to capture Zenyatta up close as she was walking around. Then came the cheers and clapping in the winner's circle.
"I ran dead last in the race and here I am cheering," said trainer Doug O'Neill, whose horse, Modification, finished sixth. "She's a freak. And Rachel Alexandra -- it would be so nice to see them hook up."
In New York, Borel said of the crowd reaction to Rachel Alexandra: "She's like -- I don't know -- like a Secretariat or a Seattle Slew. Whatever you want to call it, I've never been on one like that in my life."
The bettors were certain who would win. There was no show or place wagering in the Mother Goose, and Rachel Alexandra returned $2.10 as the 1-5 favorite.
There was no show wagering in the Vanity Handicap, and Zenyatta paid $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-10 favorite.