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Rachel Alexandra to avoid Breeders’ Cup

There was shock and disbelief in the offices at Santa Anita on Wednesday when officials learned that the owner of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra said in a conference call that the filly would not run in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at the Arcadia track.

“We’re all just stunned,” track spokesman Mike Willman said.

Jess Jackson, Rachel Alexandra’s owner, said a poor performance from his horse of the year, Curlin, in last year’s Breeders’ Cup on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface influenced his decision. “I have a very strong dislike for plastic surfaces, and I don’t believe [Rachel Alexandra] should be exposed to that. I’m not going to run her on plastic. We don’t need to risk her that way.”

The decision could prevent a much-anticipated matchup between Rachel Alexandra and the 5-year-old mare Zenyatta, who has won all 10 of her races and won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic last year.

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“Love to see her,” Jackson said, “but they’re going to have to come to the East or some other neutral track.”

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the two best female horses in America, are scheduled to race Saturday on different coasts in Grade I stakes. Rachel Alexandra is running in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. Zenyatta is set to carry 129 pounds in the $300,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.

It will be the first race for Rachel Alexandra since she becoming the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924. Jackson did not rule out the possibility of Rachel Alexandra’s challenging male horses again in the Travers Stakes or the Haskell Invitational in August.

Willman said Santa Anita officials hope Jackson will change his mind before the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7, which is supposed to be horse racing’s world championships. “November is a long way off, and we’re very hopeful at the end of the day, Mr. Jackson will want to compete with this great filly on a competitive stage,” Willman said.

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Zenyatta’s connections intend to map out a schedule for the rest of the year after Saturday’s race, which will be only her second of the year. “I think we have to get this race behind us and then make decisions,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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