Team Rachel raises stakes

Owner ducks Oaklawn run against Zenyatta but issues best-of-three challenge

Even when the sparring remains merely verbal, it is great box office. What will it be like when they finally step into the ring together?

A proposed $5m (£3.2m) bout between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, whose competing claims as the greatest filly in American Turf history remain contingent on the showdown they have so far avoided, was yesterday rejected by Jess Jackson, sticking scrupulously to his script as pantomime villain. But Rachel Alexandra's majority owner, who notoriously refused to run his filly in the Breeders' Cup Classic last November, insisted that he would come up with something even better instead.

A racecourse in Arkansas, Oaklawn Park, had promised a tenfold prize-money boost for one of Zenyatta's early targets, the Apple Blossom Stakes on 3 April, if Rachel Alexandra showed up as well. But Steve Asmussen, trainer of the latter, has now decided that the race will come too soon. And Jackson promptly announced that he is negotiating a best-of-three series with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association – to the evident surprise of Zenyatta's own connections.

Jackson issued a characteristically portentous statement. "The fans have spoken," he said. "The media has spoken. Everyone wants to see Rachel race against Zenyatta, including me. In fact, I want it to happen several times. We have been in discussions with [the NTRA], with the hope of co-ordinating training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown."

He is probably not wrong about that, though Jerry Moss, co-owner of Zenyatta, professed himself mystified. "I have no idea what he's even talking about," he said. "Which three races? And where? And when?"

Moss added that he was sorry Rachel Alexandra would not be going to Oaklawn. "In the meantime, there's some plan here, which we're supposed to respond to, and we haven't even been consulted about it," he said. "So I don't know what I'm supposed to say."

For now, all he could confirm is that his unbeaten champion, sensationally brought out of retirement during the winter, was on course to reappear at Santa Anita on 13 March. But he did reiterate that he wanted her to end up back at the Breeders' Cup, which this year returns to the dirt surface favoured by Jackson, at Churchill Downs. "The Breeders' Cup is something I honour," he said. "I believe that's where championships are decided."

Closer to home, there is a no less momentous duel on the horizon at Cheltenham next month. Denman goes to Newbury tomorrow for a final rehearsal before his Gold Cup stand-off with Kauto Star, and happily the course management was yesterday sounding extremely positive that the weather will not intrude.

Paul Nicholls has asked Ruby Walsh to surrender the mount on Denman to Tony McCoy, in readiness for their Festival date. But yesterday Walsh reminded the champion jockey who comes first for the champion trainer by showing up unexpectedly at Huntingdon to claim the mount on Sang Bleu in the Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle. Walsh had been due to ride at Thurles, but dashed for a plane when that meeting was abandoned. Sang Bleu made his efforts worthwhile.

Turf account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Gershwinner (3.55 Bangor) Remains in the early stages of his chasing career and looked ready to resume his progress at Taunton last time, going exuberantly for a long way before tiring. That was only his second start of an interrupted winter.

Next best

Polyfast (4.20 Kempton) Returns to course and distance of his impressive chasing debut at Christmas, where he jumped like a natural and beat a decent field decisively.

One to watch

Erinjay (M Wigham) had looked an improver before failing to settle upped in trip and showed he has more to offer at Lingfield the other day.

Where the money's going

Nicky Henderson is 7-2 with the sponsors to win his fourth Totesport Gold Trophy in eight runnings at Newbury tomorrow with Spirit River, Stravinsky Dance, Fairyland or First Point.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week