The Great Race between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta is back on, Charles Cella, the owner of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., said Thursday. According to Cella, the race will now be pushed back six days from its original date, and the connections of both horses have agreed to meet.
"The Apple Blossom Invitational has been renegotiated. Both principles are on line and have pledged to me they will enter their horses and race," Cella said. "The date will be Friday, the ninth of April. All other conditions remain the same."
The Grade 1 Apple Blossom will be at 1 1/8 miles. If both horses run, the purse is $5 million. Otherwise, it reverts to its original $500,000.
On Wednesday, Jess Jackson, the majority owner of Rachel Alexandra, said in a statement that Rachel Alexandra would not be ready for the original date of the Apple Blossom, April 3, and that his request to have Apple Blossom moved back one week had been denied by Oaklawn Park.
Cella on Thursday said he had been in touch with the owners of both horses over the previous 24 hours. The two horses have never met.
"I've never had so much trouble giving $5 million away," Cella said. "We've got a solid commitment, assuming, of course, their health continues."
Jerry Moss, the co-owner of Zenyatta, on Thursday said he told Cella that he'd be willing to have the Apple Blossom moved back to April 9 "if that's what's needed."
"We had a conversation about that today. We're still hoping the race happens," said Moss, who owns Zenyatta with his wife, Ann.
Jackson, in his statement on Wednesday, also said he had been in contact with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association over a proposed series of races with Zenyatta.
"The whole thing was a big surprise to us," Moss said. "We knew nothing about it. We absolutely were not a party to any of it. We'd like to see in writing what's intended. We had returned from New York [Wednesday]. I went with my wife to the dentist. We got back in the office in the afternoon and saw what was being written. That was the first we knew about it.
"There were some reports that we had no comment. No one even tried to get a comment from us. I know we're out on the West Coast, and it's a big distance, but it's not as if we're on the moon.
"As far as we're concerned, our focus is on Oaklawn, and we're still hoping that happens."
Zenyatta is scheduled to make her first start of this year in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 13 at Santa Anita. She worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park on Thurday morning in 1:13.80, breezing, for trainer John Shirreffs.
"We still planning on the Santa Margarita," Moss said. "It's a month away. Zenyatta worked today and worked very well. We're feeling good about where things are now."
Moss said plans beyond the Apple Blossom had yet to be finalized.
"We always go race to race," he said. "We'll look at our horse after each race and then make a judgment. We've got these two races picked out. Beyond that, it would be premature to comment. But our plan, like last year, is to point for the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year. That's not a change in our philosophy. Since the Breeders' Cup this year is at Churchill Downs, we will be traveling."
Zenyatta has not raced since capturing the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.
Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, is based at Fair Grounds with trainer Steve Asmussen. She has not raced since winning the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga five months ago.
- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini