Two weeks ago on July 16, 2011 at Delaware Park, the same track as their very first meeting one year ago, Blind Luck met up with Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap (G2) in what has become one of thoroughbred racing's top rivalries.
By the end of the 1-1/4-mile race, Blind Luck came from behind and passed Havre de Grace at the wire to win the race by just a nose. Meanwhile, fans in the stands and watching on TV were cheering loudly after being witness to, arguably, the best race of the year so far.
All told, over the last two years, these two four-year-old fillies have met up six times, with Blind Luck winning three times, Havre de Grace winning two times, and Blind Luck finishing ahead of Havre de Grace one time, but not as the winner of the race (more on that in a minute).
Here's the breakdown…
Their first meeting occurred on July 10, 2010 at Delaware Park in the Delaware Oaks. It was a 1-1/16th-mile race, which Blind Luck, who was ridden by Joel Rosario, won over Havre de Grace by a nose. In her usual style, Blind Luck came from behind to nip her rival at the wire in one of the great races of last year. Little did anyone know that race would just be the start of all their great races to come.
Their next meeting came on August 21, 2010, at Saratoga in the Alabama Stakes (G1). In that 1-1/4-mile-race and ridden by Rosario once more, Blind Luck, once again, came from behind and defeated Havre de Grace by a neck to improve her record over her favorite rival to 2-0.
In their next meeting, the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (G2) at Philadelphia Park on October 2, 2010, that Havre de Grace finally took a measure of revenge, holding off the hard charging Blind Luck to win the 1-1/16th-mile race and capture her very first stakes race.
Their next meting occurred on November 5, 2010 in the 1-1/8th-mile Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs, and it had an interesting ending for their rivalry. In the race, the last time Rosario would ride her, Blind Luck did beat Havre de Grace in the race. Unfortunately, Blind Luck finished second and Havre de Grace finished in third to race winner Unrivaled Belle.
The rivalry went on hiatus over the Christmas holiday, but then resumed on March 19, 2011 at Oaklawn Park in the 1-1/16th-mile Azeri Stakes (G3). In that race, Havre de Grace pulled off a 3-1/4-length victory over Blind Luck, the biggest separation between the two at a finish line. Many said that Blind Luck, who was ridden by Garrett Gomez now, just wasn't ready that day, but – fair and square – Havre de Grace was the better horse that day and it tied their match up record 2-2.
On May 6, 2011, Blind Luck seemed to be back on track and got a measure of redemption against another rival, Unrivaled Belle, the horse that beat her in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. On this May day, Blind Luck defeated Unrivalled Belle in the 1-1/16th-mile La Troienne Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Which brings us back to the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park in July, which found both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in top form. In the race, with Gomez riding her, Blind Luck took up her normal spot at the back of the field, then came firing around the final turn, and caught up and passed Havre de Grace at the wire by just a nose to win the race and take a 3-2 edge in their match ups.
Without question, this rivalry is great for racing and could not have come at a better time, as horse racing needs some good rivalries to showcase to fans and the media. It is a sentiment that was echoed by Gomez after the Del Cap.
"This is a total grudge match," Gomez said. "These two fillies butt heads and when they get together it is a grudge match, so they got a good little rivalry going. They are both nice fillies and they both ran tremendous races. I think this really cool for the sport."
Along with their personal rivalry, the two horses have also had great success on an individual basis.
In her career, Blind Luck, who was the 2010 Eclipse Award – Champion Three-Year Old Filly – has now earned $3,279,520 with 12 wins in 21 starts. The Pollard's Vision-Lucky One, by Best of Luck filly also has seven seconds, two thirds, and has won 10 stakes races, six of them Grade 1.
As for Havre de Grace, which means "Harbor of Grace" in French, she now has six wins in 12 career starts and has earned $1,536,175. The Saint Liam-Eastern Burnette, by Carson City filly also has four seconds, two thirds, and has won four stakes races, one of them a Grade 1.
So what is next for this exciting rivalry? Well, a match up down the road in the Breeders' Cup in November at Churchill Downs is definitely a possibility, assuming both fillies stay healthy.
In the short turn… well, things are up in the air. Originally, after the race, it was thought both might be pointed towards the Personal Ensign Handicap (G1) at Saratoga on August 28. But, now, according to an article by David Grening in the Daily Racing Form on July 18, 2011, that might have changed.
According to the article, Rick Porter, owner of Havre de Grace, said that his filly's next start "could come against males in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on September 3.” The Woodward is run at 1 1/8 miles.
Meanwhile, in that same article, according to Blind Luck's trainer and part owner of Jerry Hollendorfer, his filly is "likely to make her next start in the $300,000 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 28.” The Personal Ensign is run at 1 1/4 miles.
Some of this could stem from the fact that Havre de Grace's new trainer, Larry Jones (the filly had been trained by Tony Dutrow until this year), was not pleased with the fact that his horse had to carry more weight than Blind Luck in the Del Cap.
"Tell me two pounds does not make a difference," Jones said after the race. "She (Blind Luck) won six Grade I's versus our one and we are the high weight – that makes a lot of sense. I probably should not have run."
In that race, Havre de Grace had to carry 124 pounds, while Blind Luck only had to carry 122 pounds.
Did those two pounds make a difference? Should that weight difference at one track keep Jones from running his filly against Blind Luck at another track at Saratoga?
Hopefully, for racing's sake, and for fans of both of these horses, they might get a chance to meet up again at Saratoga in the coming weeks. It would be great for the sport and a great race to watch.
Either way, barring injury, they are sure to meet up once again in November at the Breeders' Cup, hopefully, in the Ladies Classic once again, with the winner making a case for herself as the top female horse of the year.
Photo by Adam Coglianese