Reconsiders; Won't Keep Rachel Out
By Steve Haskin - May 11, 2009
After being besieged with unfavorable comments regarding his earlier
decision to enter enough horses to prevent Rachel Alexandra from
running in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Ahmed Zayat, owner of
Pioneerof the Nile, said on TVG that he has decided to reconsider and
will not enter any other horses.
Zayat said he had been contacted by Mine That Bird’s co-owner Mark
Allen informing him he will be entering another horse in the second
leg of the Triple Crown in order to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the
race, and asked Zayat to join him, which he initially agreed to do.
Zayat had earlier told HRTV: "I got a phone call earlier today that I
wasn't familiar with the phone number of that particular person, and
that person kept calling and, lo and behold, it was the owner of the
Derby winner, Mine That Bird, and he said, 'Mr. Zayat, you don't know
me, I'm Mark Allen. Listen I have a request for you. I think this race
is between me and you. You'd have been the favorite if Rachel
Alexandra is not in the field and I'm looking for vindication that my
colt was not a fluke and I'm sure you are looking to beat us also. I
think this match is between us, it's a rivalry. I'm going to be
entering a colt, an A.P. Indy colt, to fill the field. I understand
you are the number one owner in number of nominations — 22 colts — can
you please help us. It's good for the game.'
"His trainer actually got sick. I don't know if you know this, he was
on crutches; he actually went back because he has an infection in his
leg. (Allen) said, 'Listen, my trainer is gone and I also have my
jockey being taken away from me and I don't know if I'm going, even
can run in the Preakness like that. I feel like I want to compete in
the Triple Crown, I want to have my colt prove himself, you want to
prove yourself, can you help me?'"
Zayat also said that he heard from Marylou Whitney that she will enter
a horse as well to help promote her stallion Birdstone , the sire of
Mine That Bird.
“She is one of the bluebloods of the game, and has done so much for
the sport, and because she wanted to showcase their stallion
Birdstone, she has instructed trainer D. Wayne Lukas to enter a colt
(Luv Gov) in the Preakness," Zayat said on TVG.
“That is the background of what I’ve been through. I’ve reflected on
my decision. At first I said I would use my legitimate right to try
with owners to fill the field. The two factors were the following. I
think the filly is really special. She’s the most beautiful thing. I
watched her race in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and it was spectacular.
I felt so privileged to see that. Then I see the filly is running in
two weeks. I have a colt who competed in the Derby who finished
second. I feel I have to come back in two weeks and compete in the
second leg and the third leg if I will. She didn’t go through that.
She didn’t run in the Derby and lo and behold she changes owners and
they decide they want to take a shot in the Preakness.
“Her former owner’s original plan was not to run in the Preakness. He
said he had respect for the industry, and that the Triple Crown was to
showcase the 3-year-old colts and future stallions. I have never heard
of a jockey moving from a Kentucky Derby winner to ride another horse.
I find it disrespectful for America’s most coveted race. Considering
all these factors, along with what I heard from other owners and
breeders, I decided I would do what was in the best interest for all
of us. To be honest with you, I’m not playing saint and am not above
everything else. I have a vested interest; it was a business decision.
“One other criteria for me, I like playing by the rules. All these
colts from the very beginning have had to compete and go through the
regimen and tough scheduling and go from one race to another to get
graded earnings, and that puts a lot of stress on them. And in all
fairness, she did not have to go through all that, and her previous
owners did not even bother to nominate her to the Triple Crown, and
then someone else comes in and tries to change the name of the game
and the rules in the middle of the game and I think that is unfair.
I’m not against the filly running against the boys. Who am I to say
that? But I am questioning the two-week interval. Why not give her a
freshening and run her in the Belmont? Two weeks for a filly. Does our
sport need another Eight Belles? We all know what happened to Rags to
Riches after her race in the Belmont. We all know what happened to
Ruffian. I did not want to have that part of it on my watch.
“Nevertheless, after talking to the president of the Maryland Jockey
Club I have decided I don’t want to be viewed as not being a
sportsman, so I am happy not to block her for the good of the game.
Please understand this is not about me; this is about the industry,
and although what is right is not very clear to me I am happy to
reconsider my decision for the fans.”
Even with Zayat’s change of heart, Rachel Alexandra still will be
excluded if Whitney and Allen go ahead and enter horses, which would
put her at No. 15 on the earnings list for the Preakness. She would
then need another horse to be withdrawn.