Pool Play threw yet another wrench into the Older Male division on Saturday when he captured the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr.1) at odds of 36-1, making the case for Havre de Grace as leading Horse of the Year candidate an even more obvious fact. And after Saturday it appears that her main opponent for racing’s top honor could be last year’s Champion Three-Year-Old Female and arch nemesis, Blind Luck.
It took Blind Luck four tries to finally get back to the winners circle this year but once she did made it count and pulled it off in true Blind Luck style. After five consecutive runner-up efforts dating back to October 2nd 2010 the diminutive champion filly had even her staunchest supporters concerned that something was amiss. She won the Las Virgenes (gr.1), Fantasy Stakes and Kentucky Oaks and finished second to Switch in the Hollywood Oaks before meeting the toughest rival of her career. Havre de Grace and Blind Luck put on two of the most spectacular stretch runs of the summer in the Delaware Handicap and Alabama Stakes in the filly’s next two starts, with Blink Luck eking out a nose and a neck victory. They carried their rivalry to epic proportions in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion where Havre de Grace turned the tables on Blind Luck, just holding her off by a neck for the win in a performance that just missed the track record. Awesome Maria finished almost ten lengths back in third that day. It was on to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic next where Blind Luck’s patented late-run came up 1 ¾ lengths short of Unrivalled Belle with Havre de Grace another length back in third.
When Havre de Grace began her 2011 campaign by easily defeating Blind Luck in the Azeri Stakes (gr.3) at Oaklawn Park on March 19th, Blind Luck had already race twice, both times finishing second in Grade 2 races to Always a Princess. After finishing more than three lengths behind Havre de Grace in the Azeri trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gave his filly a short break and pointed Blind Luck toward the La Troienne Stakes (gr.2) on Kentucky Oaks day May 6th. After stumbling badly at the break Blind Luck uncoiled with a fury in the stretch to run down Unrivalled Belle and win easily by half a length. That performance proved to the racing world that she had not lost her drive from last year and was perhaps coming back to her championship form.
[Havre de Grace and Blind Luck both rank in the top ten on HRN's active horses rankings page]
Saturday at Hollywood Park she proved she is better than even by defeating a small, but very deep field of fillies and mares in the Vanity Handicap, while at the same time bagging her 6th career Grade 1 victory. She broke forwardly in the Vanity but quickly relaxed and settled at the back of the six horse field just behind St. Trinians and Switch. Miss Match raced in third down the backstretch with the big three right behind her, a length separating each one from the other. As they moved into the far turn Switch was fastest to make her move, gaining on the front-running American Story rapidly as Blind Luck moved up beside St. Trinians. The field flew into the stretch with Blind Luck swinging out six wide and set down for the drive by Garret Gomez. She responded with an explosive move that propelled her to the lead under a hand ride, easily moving past Switch and winning by half a length.
The Delaware Handicap (gr.2) on July 16th could be up next for Blind Luck which would see her facing Havre de Grace yet again. Havre de Grace is undefeated in three starts this year, winning the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr.1) over Switch in April and most recently besting a weak field in the Obeah Stakes (gr.3) in what proved to be little more than a paid workout on June 11th. While Havre de Grace has been unbeatable and impressive this year I will still cast my loyalties to Blind Luck when the pair meet again, and I think a win by the little chestnut filly is highly probably possibility. Awesome Maria who finished a distant third to the dynamic duo of Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr.2) last year won the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr.1) by three lengths on Saturday. Form is holding up remarkably well from the sophomore fillies of last year and with Life at Ten still kicking around as well as St. Trinians who put in a good run on Saturday, the older Female handicap division is looking very strong this year.