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HRN Original Blog:
Kentucky Oaks Runner

Older Female Division: A Three Horse Race, Or Not?

Awesome Maria top story.
 
It seems to be an almost unanimous vote that Havre de Grace is the leading Horse of the Year candidate thus far in 2011, especially after easily defeating her toughest rival, Blind Luck, by more than three lengths in the Azeri Stakes (gr.3). The Azeri was the first start of the year for the Larry Jones trained filly and was followed up by dominant wins in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr.1) and Obeah Stakes (gr.3) that featured a weak field. She will return to the scene of her first iconic meeting with Blind Luck in last year’s Delaware Oaks (gr.2) when she ships in for the July 16th Delaware Handicap (gr.2) where she could once again face her racetrack nemesis.

[Havre de Grace and Blind Luck rank #1 and #2 in Brian Zipse latest divisional rankings]

While Havre de Grace was going undefeated in three starts this year, Blind Luck had already run twice before facing her rival in the Azeri, both times running second and looking nothing like the Blind Luck of 2010. After the Azeri trainer Jerry Hollendorfer opted to give his star filly more time between races and skip the Apple Blossom Handicap in favor of the La Troienne Stakes (gr.2) and a short rest. It worked wonders and the Champion regained her winning form with a spectacular stretch running rally from last. After a bad stumble at the break she nailed 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic victor Unrivalled Belle by a half length at the wire. Just over one month later Blind Luck returned for another last-to-first win, this time in the Vanity Handicap (gr.1) at Hollywood Park on Hollendorfer’s birthday no less, finishing 1 ½ lengths ahead of Switch. Hollendorfer mentioned the Delaware Handicap on July 16th as the next possible start for his charge, where she would once again face Havre de Grace, but he also mentioned the Clement L Hirsch (gr.1) and Personal Ensign (gr.1) Stakes at Del Mar and Saratoga respectively. That was after the Vanity Handicap, now, less than three weeks later, Hollendorfer has given racing fans even more to think about. After Blind Luck worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Thursday Hollendorfer announced he was nominating the Pollard’s Vision filly to the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr.1) on July 9th. If she was to run in the 1 ¼ mile event she could face a very deep field of older males that includes First Dude, Twirling Candy, Game On Dude and 2010 winner Awesome Gem. A win over the males in the Gold Cup would go a long way towards winning her the divisional championship for Blind Luck again, which I’m sure Hollendorfer has in his mind.

With all the talk surrounding Havre de Grace, Blind Luck, and Awesome Maria in the older female division, it seems few have taken the time to think how easy it would be for one of the supporting players could throw a wrench into the best laid plans, considering how strong the division is.

Switch started her year with a bang, capturing the Grade 1 Santa Monica Stakes for her second consecutive Grade 1 after taking the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita in December. After the Santa Monica it seemed she inherited Blind Luck’s streak of second place finishes, racking up three straight runner-up efforts since then. She missed by only a head to Miss Match in the Santa Margarita (gr.1) before finishing less than two lengths behind Havre de Grace in the Apple Blossom and 1 ½ lengths behind Blind Luck in the Vanity. In 15 lifetime starts the Quite American filly has finished first or second 11 times, third twice, and only finished off the board twice. One of these times she’s going to put it all back together and get in the winner’s circle, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later.

St. Trinians hasn’t won a race since taking the Santa Maria Handicap (gr.2) at Santa Anita on February 13th last year, but she finished first in the Milady Handicap (gr.2) on May 21st
before getting disqualified to fourth. She finished fourth behind Blind Luck in the Vanity for her last start giving her three consecutive fourth place finishes on the charts but I think there is still a lot of potential for her to come back with some good performances this year. Together St. Trinians and Switch accounted for two of the slimmest wins of Zenyatta’s career.
 
Needless to say it’s a great crop of older fillies and mares running in 2011 and it appears with the older male division still in a confused state of leadership that the females could have an advantage in the race for Horse of the Year. It’s still too early to tell, championships are almost always won in the last half of the season, but fun to speculate nonetheless.
 

 

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Older Comments about Older Female Division: A Three Horse Race, Or Not?...

A duck is a duck, you dont announce in the drf that you're going to the Apple Blossom and then make another plan and skip a Grade 1 worth $500k to run in a Grade 2 worth $300k and not call it a duck. Havre De Grace is more mature and is much stronger than she was at 3, it will be interesting to see if BL can make up any of the 3 1/2 lengths she lost by in the Azeri causing them to duck the Apple Blossom for a lesser race. More importantly its wonderful to see Hollendorfer not duck two races in a row.
Blind Luck hasn't ducked anyone yet and I don't think Hollendorfer will do it now, the only reason he would choose the Hirsch is probably so he doesn't have to ship her to meet HDG again. It's more strategy than ducking in my opinion, he's targeting the Breeders' Cup and wants to get her there the best way possible while winning the championship in the process. I personally think she could handle the Gold Cup field.
Meant to also say that Blind Luck looked absoutely sensational and back to her top form in the Vanity, along with the win in the LaTroienne, beating the BCLadies Classic 2010 winner, Unrivaled Belle! In 20 starts, she has NEVER finished out of the money, so her experience and her reaching top form at this point in the season bodes well for her to win some big races coming up. No body can hope to rise to the level of Zenyatta over 3 years any time soon, but Blind Luck may just be getting better with age. She's often referred to as a "throwback" because she is so tough and durable. Gotta love her for her consistency and her longevity. Also, she did come in second ahead of HDG's third place finish in their 5th meeting in the same BCLadies Classic!
  • KyOaksRunner · I hope they both meet in the Delaware Handicap, they appear to be in great form and I personally would be in Blind Luck's corner. · 1269 days ago
Yes, Brian, While most divisions remain wide open, I think this is one division that can be narrowed down to the big 3 ... and they make up the strongest group in American racing for sure.
  • KyOaksRunner · I'm of the opinion that Switch might be better than Awesome Maria. She's not winning like Maria but I like her better, and she's certainly been facing much stronger competition. · 1269 days ago
Its a three horse race for sure, even though it could have been a four had UB not had such an unlucky accident. Blind Luck is in third right now, IMO. Now way you can put her in front of two horses that are unbeaten at this stage. Personally I would love the Del Cap showdown, because I believe the Hirsch would be a sign of ducking and that the Gold Cup may be too much for BL.
  • DanielWard · Let me get this straight, if Blind Luck runs in the Hirsch it's ducking but Havre De Grace can run each time at the track she's stabled at, for example, the Obeah, and she's not ducking? Please! When either Awesome Maria or Havre De Grace competes on the West Coast, let me know. If there's a horse in the country that never ducks anyone it's Blind Luck, and she'll travel to their home base also. · 1271 days ago
Great piece, and it has certainly been more fun to follow the ladies than the colts this season! In the colts, it is a different player almost every week! You didn't mention that in their 4 meetings Blind Luck has bested Havre de Grace 3 times. Awesome Maria is 4 for 4 this season, so, record-wise, she probably has the edge on the other two! All three have a G1 this year. It's really a toss-up among these terrific fillies, and they are giving us a lot of thrills by actively competing against each other! And, yes, you are right, St.Trinians and Switch accounted for closest victories by Zenyatta, but what everyone always leaves out is Zenyatta has carried some REAL weight, something her male counterparts hardly ever do anymore!!! Try 129 pounds and spotting St. Trinians 9 pounds in the 2010 Vanity!! Zenyatta caught and passed her with relative ease. Looking forward to more of this division, as well as the 3 year old filly division. Love your coverage of the distaff group! Thanks so much!

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 Meet Brian Appleton 

Thoroughbred Horse Racing is my passion.  It started when at the age of 9 I found a book called Come On Seabiscuit by Ralf Moody on my Mother’s shelf.  Reading that book was one of the most exciting things I ever did as a kid. I read that book so many times that I had entire chapters committed to memory and the dust jacket worn and ripped beyond recognition from so much use. From that point on I was hopelessly addicted, reading every book on horse racing I could get my hands on, especially racehorse biographies. In 2009 I began my own blog called Rail Runner on wordpress and have continued to blog there to this day.

Curlin is probably my favorite racehorse of all time. Being able to attend six of his races will always be one of the highlights of my life. Whenever I need to re-find some inspiration in my life all I need to do is watch one of his incredible victories and relive the memories. Rachel Alexandra ranks right up there too. As any horse racing fan will tell you it’s almost impossible to choose just one favorite and I am no exception. Phar Lap and Citation are another two of my all time favorites and the list could go on and on.

I was homeschooled my entire life by my parents and graduated High School in 2006 at the age of 17.  Currently I am completing my Marketing degree with the hopes of entering the Thoroughbred Horse Racing field as a writer/journalist , or in the marketing/advertising/promotions side of the industry.

It is my dream to someday become a thoroughbred racehorse owner and win major races across the United States. Who wouldn't want that, right?  For about 1 ½ years I was part owner in a racehorse, Lord Greystoke raced, and owned by Hibiscus Stables. I was able to attend one of his races at Belmont Park on Kentucky Derby day, May 2, 2009 and it was an incredible experience. While Lord Greystoke finished 7th in the race, being able to stand in an owner’s box not 30 feet away from Penny Chenery’s owner’s box was one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Later in the year Lord Greystoke was finally able to break through with a 4 ½ length win which made me feel like one of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbred owners and further fueled my appetite. I think it would be rally neat to win the Appleton Stakes (Gr.3) at Gulfstream Park, even though I'm generally a bigger fan of dirt racing I can't help but think it would be neat for me to win a race with the same name as my last name.

That’s me in a nutshell, just a very passionate, driven young guy that wants to be a part of this amazing sport and share the adventure with other fans.