Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to make her first start of the year on March 13 at the Fair Grounds in a new race called the New Orleans Ladies.
The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares will have a $200,000 purse, and will be used as a prep for Rachel Alexandra's highly anticipated showdown against unbeaten Zenyatta in the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9 at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
"That is our intended goal," Rachel Alexandra owner Jess Jackson said. "I believe she's on schedule and she'll get the prep race before she goes on to Oaklawn. There are other tracks that have offered to have us go, but right now we'd rather stay here."
Although Rachel beat out Zenyatta for Horse of the Year, the two have never competed against each other on the track. Rachel Alexandra went 8-0 last year, including her win in the Preakness Stakes and against older males in the Haskell and Woodward. Zenyatta is 14-0 overall and capped last season with a stirring victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Zenyatta will make her first start of the year on the same day in the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita in California. The tune up races are 27 days before the Apple Blossom.
"We're obviously thrilled by the news that Rachel Alexandra, already a legend based on her accomplishments last year, intends to make her 2010 debut at Fair Grounds," track vice president Eric Halstrom said. "We are already working to make sure March 13 will be a special day befitting of racing royalty."
Fair Grounds added the race to the schedule last fall in the hopes that Rachel Alexandra would run. She's worked the past two weekends, including a half-mile breeze on Saturday, even though the region has been pelted by rain.
"It's not anyone's fault, but with the rain and track conditions it's been a serious setback to Rachel's routine," Jackson said. "She's behind schedule and that means we're compressed to try to get everything done and keep her on schedule leading up to works and preparing for a major competition at Oaklawn."
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