Havre de Grace is one very special filly. For years the status quo was challenged by only the greedy, the foolish or the very gifted. Fillies rarely contested the nation’s toughest and most prestigious open company races against males, unless the male contingent came up very weak, or the filly was something exceptional. Havre de Grace proved to be the exception in her last start when she easily dominated a field of seven males to win the Woodward Stakes (gr.1) by 1 ¼ lengths, placing herself squarely in the discussion for Horse of the Year. In five starts this year Havre de Grace has won four starts in decisive fashion while losing just once by a nose. There’s been just one horse that’s had the measure of Havre de Grace from day one, and that’s Blind Luck. It takes a great horse to beat a great horse.
On Saturday, Havre de Grace will go for her third Grade 1 win of the year, when she comes to Belmont Park for the first time in her career, to contest the 72nd Beldame Stakes (gr.1). A short field of five fillies has been entered in the Beldame, including brilliant 3-year-old filly Royal Delta, dual Grade 1 winner Life at Ten and graded stakes winner Satans Quick Chick. The Larry Jones trained Havre de Grace has turned in just two works since her exciting romp against the boys on September 3rd, most recently turning in an easy 1:02.20 five furlong breeze at Delaware Park Monday. Fitness will not be an issue for the 4-year-old Saint Liam filly. She’s conquered everyone except Blind Luck in one of their two meetings this year, so if she’s feeling as good as she’s been feeling since March, there might be no stopping her in the Beldame.
If anyone’s going to stop Havre de Grace, the most logical choice appears to be Royal Delta. The 3-year-old Empire Maker filly last raced on August 20th in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, winning by more than five lengths over a strong field that included dual Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky, and Kentucky Oaks (gr.1) winner Plum Pretty. It was a breakout performance by any standard, from a filly that has been knocking of the door all year. The Grade 1 Alabama was her second graded stakes score after her dominant Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr.2) win on May 20th. Her last three works have been outstanding, first turning in a bullet four furlong move completed in :47.57, followed up by a flashy :59.36 five furlong breeze. She most recently went four furlongs in :47.50 at Belmont on Monday to signify her readiness. The Beldame will be the first time she returns to Belmont since breaking her maiden at first asking by more than twelve lengths last October. It’s a surface she obviously loves.
Life At Ten will break from post position number one for trainer Todd Pletcher and will be looking for her first win since capturing last year’s Beldame Stakes by two lengths over future Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr.1) winner Unrivaled Belle. The Malibu Moon filly has been in a terrible slump since finishing dead last in the Ladies Classic last year after failing to mount a challenge of any sort, losing all four of her subsequent starts. Most recently Life At Ten finished third, more than 18 lengths behind Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap (gr.2) on July 16th. Her last four works have actually been very good, but sadly, good works have not yet translated into good performances on the track this year for the 5-year-old filly. If she can return to last year’s pre-Breeders’ Cup form, she can mount a serious challenge, if not she’s a toss. Satans Quick Chick and Banker’s Buy complete the field.
[Havre de Grace currently ranks #4 on HRN's Active Horses page, while Royal Delta is a distant #26]
Not surprisingly Havre de Grace had many detractors before capturing the Woodward Stakes, but now she will be a strong favorite to win the Beldame and continue her march towards Horse of the Year and a possible run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 5th. The sophomore filly division this year is full of talented, consistent runners and the greatest among them could very well be Royal Delta. I believe she has the ability to win the Beldame if we see the same incredible turn of foot she displayed in the stretch of the Alabama Stakes when rocketing past It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty. It’s a huge task taking on older fillies, and Havre de Grace is an exceptional older filly, so winning will in no way be an easy task for Royal Delta. She may well need Havre de Grace to lose a step or two in order to win.
Tactically speaking both fillies employ a very similar running style, rating close to the pace up front and launching their moves coming off the turn to bid for the lead. They should be placed close to each other throughout the race and you can bet jockeys Ramon Dominguez and Jose Lezcano will be tracking each other at every stage. The filly that gets the jump first could win the prize, but then again Havre de Grace is a fighter and has never shied away from a head on head duel. Royal Delta is untested in that degree.
Another factor to consider is the difference in speed figures between the two fillies. Havre de Grace earned a huge career best 111 Beyer Speed figure in her win against the males in the Woodward, while Royal Delta earned a 100 career best Beyer for her romp in the Alabama. By the figures alone Royal Delta would have to improve by 11 points to catch her older rival. Can it be done, or will Havre de Grace continue her easy coast dominance with Blind Luck out of the picture?