A race that at one time looked like it could feature one of the most desirable match-ups in recent racing history has now turned into a ho-hum affair featuring just four challengers to the powerful Zenyatta. And while some will point out that this is still a Grade 1 race and, thus, still prestigious to win, it certainly doesn't have the same appeal as a month ago. There are still plenty of reasons to watch, however, the top being that it isn't very often we have the opportunity to watch horses the caliber of Zenyatta. We should enjoy it while we can.
The dirt surface in the Apple Blossom shouldn't be a problem at all for Zenyatta, as she's conquered Oaklawn's track before when winning this same race in 2008. She'll get an extra 1/16th of a mile on Friday, which should do nothing but benefit her. And while there is always the danger of a slow pace compromising her closing style, Zenyatta has won under almost every conceivable pace situation and shouldn't be hindered by tepid early fractions.
1-Be Fair and 5-Just Jenda have some pace in their arsenal which should ensure that neither will steal the race on the front end. Although, I don't know that a filly or mare stealing this race is a legitimate concern due to the fact that they all are at a tremendous class disadvantage.
2-Taptam is a borderline Grade 3 mare when at the top of her game, and an allowance one the rest of the time. 3-War Echo won the Grade 3 Silverbulletday at the Fair Grounds in February of 2009, and a couple of listed stakes since then. If I had to pick a filly to spring the unlikely upset, it'd probably be her. I'm sure War Echo's trainer, Steve Asmussen, would like nothing more than to end Zenyatta's string.
The Apple Blossom is, of course, missing a big face this year in Rachel Alexandra. The 2009 Horse of the Year is now at Churchill Downs where she continues to work for her yet-to-be-determined next start of 2010. The talk out of the Asmussen/Jackson camp doesn't indicate any leanings towards running on the Derby day undercard, but that could be a likely spot. It's really anybody's guess as to where she'll show up next. One thing is for certain, she isn't in Arkansas.
Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational
1 1/8 Miles
Four Years Old and up, Fillies and Mares
Post time: 6:25 Central
PP Horse Jockey Weight 1 Be Fair Borel C H 120 2 Taptam Berry M C 117 3 War Echo Bridgmohan S X 120 4 Zenyatta Smith M E 123 5 Just Jenda Thompson T J 120
Borel C H
Berry M C
Bridgmohan S X
Smith M E
Thompson T J