Rachel out of Apple Blossom

NEW ORLEANS - Rachel Alexandra's connections decided on Sunday to forgo a start in the April 9 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn and a meeting with Zenyatta.

"I decided today she will not be going to the Oaklawn Invitational on April 9," owner Jess Jackson said in a press release.

Rachel Alexandra, Horse of the Year in 2009, lost her first start of 2010 on Saturday, going down by three-quarters of a length to Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies, her first defeat since 2008. Earlier Sunday morning, Asmussen said that Rachel came out of her race in good health, eating well Saturday night, and appearing to be in good spirits Sunday morning. Nevertheless, he and Jackson decided she would remain at Fair Grounds for now, rather than shipping to Oaklawn to take up her training there later this week, and would not meet Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom.

Jackson said in a release: "Yesterday's race while a disappointment, helped us define Rachel Alexandra's racing condition. While she is healthy, just as I had anticipated, she is not in top form. Therefore, I decided today she will not be going to the Oaklawn Invitational on April 9. Steve and I discussed this fully and we now regret we tried to accelerate her training in order meet the Apple Blossom schedule. We have a whole season before us to help define her greatness. She will tell us when her next race will be."

Earlier Sunday, Asmussen had said she was unlikely to run in the Apple Blossom.

"She's not where we want physically," he said. "That most likely eliminates the Apple Blossom. We're not comfortable with how she responded to the accelerated program, so we're going to continue to train her at Fair Grounds and see what happens."

With Rachel Alexandra out of the Apple Blossom Invitational, the purse will revert to $500,000, rather than the $5 million Oaklawn had offered if Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta had both started in the race.

Asmussen said there's no specific date set for Rachel Alexandra's next workout.

Rachel Alexandra's course of training through the winter in New Orleans did not unfold smoothly. She missed time in December and January because of wet and cold weather, and was on a tight schedule to make the New Orleans Ladies, her potential Apple Blossom prep. In Saturday's race, Rachel Alexandra pressed a demanding half-mile pace, took the lead into the far turn, but was worn down by Zardana through the stretch run.

"She's clearly not up to her previous level," Asmussen said. "We're going to regroup and come back again. The disappointment from yesterday continues."

Asmussen refused to make any excuse for Rachel Alexandra's defeat at odds of 1-20. Both Asmussen and jockey Calvin Borel, however, said Rachel Alexandra tired late in her first race after six-month layoff.

"She blew after the race, but she wasn't exhausted," Asmussen said Sunday morning. "She drank plenty of water afterwards. It took her a little while to leave the test barn, but she went back to the barn comfortably. She went right to her feed tub last night, and she was in very good health this morning."