The “buzz” concerning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra’s
rivals in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies mostly surrounds the
Brazilian-bred mare Zardana.
That’s because she is conditioned by John Shirreffs,
who also trains Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra’s projected rival in Oaklawn
Apple Blossom April 9.
However, taking things one step at a time, Zardana’s owner Arnold
Zetcher was reached at Shirreff’s barn Monday morning, just before the
owner-trainer duo headed back to the track to watch Zardana breeze five-eighths
in 1:02.20 over Hollywood’s
Cushion track before she heads to The Big Easy.
Why would Zetcher ship his mare all the way from Southern
California to New
Orleans to run against the
Horse of the Year in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Ladies on the main track?
“Well, we came up with about 20 reasons to try her and only
one not to,” said Zetcher, who will arrive Saturday morning at Fair Grounds
from his Los
“First of all, the mile and a sixteenth is (Zardana’s) best
distance, and second of all, we wanted to try her on dirt,” said the retired
CEO of Talbots, the multi-channel retailer of women’s apparel. “Also,
I’m really looking forward to a trip to New
Zardana’s past performances confirm the owner’s assessment
of his mare’s ideal distance. She won Hollywood Park’s Grade II Bayakoa
Handicap Dec. 5 at 8 1/2-furlongs over the Cushion track, and most recently
finished fourth at that same distance in Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Maria
Handicap over the Pro-Ride surface there, but all her races in the United
States have been on grass or synthetic surfaces.
“However, she won her first starts of her career in Brazil
(at Hipodromo da Gavea) over the dirt there,” Zetcher said, “and she won all
three of those by 10 to 15 lengths apiece. (Hall of Fame trainer) Ron
McAnally was the man who brought her here because of those races. She’s
listed as a 6-year-old now, but because she’s South American-bred she’s really
only five and a half. She was foaled on Sept. 12.”
“I bought my first horse about 10 years ago,” said Zetcher,
“and I’ve been involved with some good ones. Richard’s Kid just won
Santa Anita’s (Grade II) San Antonio Handicap Feb. 7 after finishing sixth
(behind Zenyatta) in the (Grade I) Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall.
“Gabby’s Golden Gal won Santa Anita’s (Grade II)
Santa Monica Handicap Jan. 31, and she also won the (Grade I) Acorn (at Belmont Park) last
spring in New
York,” Zetcher said.
“Although I lived in Boston
for 20 years (as CEO of Talbots), I grew up in St. Louis,”
Zetcher concluded. “I got interested in horseracing at an early age, and I used
to sneak across the river to go to the races at Cahokia Downs and Fairmount
when I was a kid. Naturally, I travelled a lot in business as an adult, and in
my many stops around the country I always tried to attend the races at the
Don’t Forget About Unforgotten in New Orleans
Trainer Dallas Stewart, born in nearby McComb, Mississippi,
and a longtime resident of New
Orleans, will saddle Robert
Adams’ Unforgotten, runner-up in Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Daily Racing
Form Distaff Dec. 19, in Saturday’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies.
“Obviously, it’s a very tough race,” said Stewart Monday
morning. “We’ll just go in there and see what happens.”
Unforgotten last visited the winner’s circle in the
$125,000 Treasure Chest Stakes at Delta Downs Dec. 4, and was also easily
second best behind Augustin Stable’s odds-on Informed Decision in last
summer’s Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington
despite a bad start and having to take up during the running.
“I also trained (Unforgotten’s) sister Hot Storm for
Mr. Adams,” said Stewart, who won the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly &
Mare Sprint with that mare at Santa Anita in 2006 and then came back to finish
third in that same race with her when it was contested at Gulfstream Park in