Falling in love with Zenyatta
Updated: April 9, 2010, 3:52 PM ETBy Claire Novak | Special to ESPN.com
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. It is the nature of the sporting world to challenge greatness. One good win demands another. Records are made to be broken.Tomorrow at Oaklawn Park, a big bay runner will enter the starting gates to answer that call. Her name is Zenyatta, and in the mere moments it takes to circle the Arkansas oval, she will write her next chapter in history. Five hundred and seventy-two miles away, the filly that beat Zenyatta for honors as 2009 Horse of the Year will stand in a stall at Churchill Downs. Rachel Alexandra could run in Kentucky on the day before the Kentucky Derby. Whether she'll face Zenyatta sometime this season remains to be seen. The Apple Blossom, Friday's marquee event at Oaklawn, was to have been the race of the century a purse worth $5 million, a showdown between the two greatest runners of the millennium. Then Rachel Alexandra lost her March 13 prep by three-quarters of a length, owner Jess Jackson called off the showdown, and the $5 million purse reverted to $500,000. But Zenyatta, victorious in her seasonal debut in the Santa Margarita Handicap, still had the race on her radar. An event she won in 2008, the Grade 1 test for fillies and mares is held at the site of her sole dirt triumph. Her connections count that win among her career best. Unbeaten before or since then, the daughter of Street Cry rides a streak of 15 victories including one against males in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic last November into this year's Apple Blossom. Only four other runners, none of which have ever taken a Grade 1 event, will face her in the 1 1/8-miles test. Still, thanks to her appearance Friday and the running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, this weekend at Oaklawn will hold the attention of the racing world.
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