Apple Blossom Showdown: Queen Zenyatta Vs Princess Rachel Alexandra

Emily PattonCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2010

ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Winner Mike Smith rides Zenyatta at the back of the pack down the first straight away in the Breeders' Cup Classic race during the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park November 7, 2009 in Arcadia, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

She's the best, but the other she could be even better. 

The Queen of Horse Racing herself, Ms. Zenyetta will face the Princess of Horse Racing, Ms. Rachel Alexandra in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. on April 9.

Although the two first ladies of racing have never met hoof to hoof before, they are no stranger to one another. 

The two have battled up and down the race schedule, making sure to avoid one another. Both defeated the top females, the top males -- the top horses. Both stood up to those history books and shattered records. Each horse with their own galloping swagger, their own eye-pricked stalking personality and "too close to call" matchability. But how do you choose between the best and the best?

Zenyatta is unbeaten 14 for 14, 12 of which were graded stakes, including eight of which that were Grade 1 events.  She looks beaten until the stretch when she looks to the other horses as if to ask, "Why are you standing still?" 

When Zenyatta took her turn against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, it looked as if Mike Smith let her slip to last just to see if the feat was achievable. It was. She became the first filly to win the race since it started in 1984.

"What a thrill seeing history being made by Zenyatta," fellow trainer Bob Baffert said. "It was the only time in horse racing I didn't mind getting beat in a big race. And the way she won. I've never seen a crowd so capitvated. It felt like a horse winning the third leg of the Triple Crown."

You know she coming. You know she is stalking the pace. You know she when she will come barreling on that outside turn. But can you beat her? Is it even possible?

As of today-- no horse has.

And the only horse to beat her in any kind of match up? Let me introduce Ms. Rachel Alexandra. When the two went up for the Eclipse award voting for honors of Horse of the Year--  130 votes went to Rachel with 90 going in Zenyatta's favor.

Never has a 3 year old filly won the award.

A few numbers on Rachel Alexandra: Nine straight wins. Wins in six different states on eight different tracks. She demolished records for largest winning margins, stakes records and turned history books faulty.

The first filly to win the Preakness Stakes in 85 years. 

As her owner Jess Jackson said, "Why not let the best horse win, regardless of gender?"

And thus far, the big filly has the boys running scared.

Finally, we will get the chance to see who will win in a head to head between the two super fillies in the Apple Blossom. The fans have spoken and it seems apparent that the owners will listen. Oaklawn Park has the money to make the matchup happen: 2.5 million for first and one million waiting for the runner-up. A field limited to 10 will set the stage where the princess could top the queen on horse racing's royal throne. It is the kind of event that can revive a sport and awaken new fans.

So the question remains to be answered: How do you choose between the two? Maybe you don't. 

The two debuting 2010 wins is still no guarantee.

Maybe looking ahead to a match-race is still too early when there are still horses to beat and races yet to prove. 

For Zenyatta, she has to face challengers in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap on March 13. St. Trinians, a five year old force, who beat the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Life is Sweet in the Santa Maria Handicap (Gr. II) seems prepared to take on the task.

"It should be fun, should make for a fun day," trainer of St. Trinians Mike Mitchell said, "Nobody respects Zenyatta, John Shirreffs and that whole team more than me, but we can't give it to them. We gotta make 'em earn it."

Life is Sweet's loss proved that being beaten can easily happen after a lay-off. With St. Trinians racing early and Zenyatta resting, a dangerous race could be building.

After skipping out on the Breeders' Cup frenzy, Rachel Alexandra is set to return to the racing scene in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at the Fair Grounds on March 13.

She will be met by Clear Sailing, who topped the sales at Keeneland on Nov. 17. Clear Sailing pulled out a strong stretch running victory in the Pelleteri at the Fair Grounds. And looks tough.

Defeating a Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra is slim to none. But it could happen. 

So while myself and the rest of the world are holding their breaths to see the victor of the showdown between Queen Zenyatta and Princess Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom, others are prepping to steal a crown themselves.