The Delaware Handicap was first run in 1937 and went for six straight years until 1943 when the race was not run. Since then it has been contested every year since 1944 making 2011 the 67th consecutive running and 73rd overall. That’s a lot of history and tradition to stack up to, and with great names like Miss Grillo, Busanda and Susan’s Girl listed among the winners, it’s a Grade 2 race that commands great respect and carries a lot of weight on a filly’s resume.
This Saturday Champion Blind Luck and Havre de Grace will square off against each other in the Delaware Handicap for the sixth time, continuing what has become one of the most exciting and competitive rivalries in recent history. Ultimately both fillies are chasing after the division championship and perhaps even Horse of the Year. To attain that goal they will most likely have to show up at the Breeders’ Cup in the fall at Churchill Downs and prove their worth yet again.
[Havre de Grace and Blind Luck currently rank #8 and #9 on HRN's Active Horses rankings page; who will be ahead after saturday?]
Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup has instantly become one of the greatest sports spectacles in the world of thoroughbred horse racing, and especially American racing. The Breeders’ Cup Ladies' Classic, the premier event for fillies and mares at the Breeders’ Cup, was formerly known as the Breeders’ Cup Distaff from 1984-2007. In 26 running’s of the Ladies Classic/Distaff only nine winners of the Delaware Handicap have stepped into the starting gate to contest the Breeders’ Cup.
In 1984 Adored put together a 13 race campaign that started in early January and lasted until early November. She won four consecutive starts including the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational to begin her year, and then seventh in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr.1) before winning two more consecutive Grade 2’s. After finishing second in her next three consecutive starts, one grade 1 and two grade 2’s, she captured the Delaware Handicap. Adored next finished third in the Ruffian Handicap as her final prep before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She ultimately finished third behind a powerhouse effort by Princess Rooney.
Nastique won the 1988 and 1989 Delaware Handicap but didn’t contest the Breeders’ Cup in 1988. During her twelve race, 1989 campaign, the Naskra mare captured just one start; the Delaware Handicap, and finished on the board just three times. She finished a dull 7th
in the 1989 Distaff behind super-mare Bayakoa.
The Grade 3 Delaware Handicap was the only win Tap to Music posted in seven starts in 1999 but she did finish third in two grade 2’s and fourth in the Grade 1 Ruffian. After finishing fifth in the 1998 Distaff she returned three races after her Delaware Handicap triumph to finish fifth again behind Beautiful Pleasure in the 1999 Distaff.
Lu Ravi raced for five seasons but posted her most successful campaign in 2000 at the age of five. She put together a three race win streak that started with the Sixty Sails (gr.3) and Molly Pitcher (gr.2) Handicaps and concluded with the Delaware Handicap (gr.3). In her final Breeders’ Cup prep she finished sixth in the Ruffian Handicap (gr.1) and subsequently finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
2002 saw Summer Colony put together a very solid season of four wins, two second and one third in eight starts. She won the Delaware Handicap (gr.3) and Personal Ensign (gr.1) Handicaps before finishing third in the Beldame Stakes (gr.1). Her last place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr.1), when she crossed the line more than twenty lengths behind Azeri, was puzzling to say the least.
Fleet Indian took 2006 by storm, winning six straight races including the Delaware Handicap before entering the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as a solid favorite. Unfortunately she suffered a career-ending injury to her suspensories during the running of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and was pulled up.
Unbridled Belle only raced five times in 2007 but still managed to put together a strong season with two wins and two seconds. The Delaware Handicap was her first win of the year before finishing second in the Personal Ensign (gr.1) and winning the Beldame Stakes (gr.1). She completed her campaign by finishing and finishing fifth against a strong field of fillies in the Distaff at Monmouth Park, just seven lengths behind a victorious Ginger Punch and more than seven lengths behind Balance in sixth.
Hystericalady went 50/50 in 2008, winning half her starts and finishing in the money and out twice each in eight starts. She took the in Delaware Handicap in between wins in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr.2)and Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr.2) before finishing second behind Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (Gr.1). She once again finished in Zenyatta’s wake in the Ladies Classic, crossing the wire fifth.
Life At Ten won the Delaware Handicap as her sixth consecutive victory before taking third in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr.1) behind Persistently and Rachel Alexandra. In her next start she regained winning form by taking the Beldame Stakes (gr.1) and started as the second choice in the Ladies Classic (gr.1). Her now infamous last place finish after her abnormal post-race attitude is well documented. It appears she is back to defend her winning title in the Delaware Handicap against leading older fillies Havre de Grace and Blind Luck.
So to recap; out of nine Delaware Handicap winners to contest the Distaff and Ladies Classic, not a one has finished better than third and four finished seventh or worse. It’s not a very good track record but If both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace remain in the tip top form they’ve shown all year the first Ladies Classic winner to come out of the Delaware Handicap could happen this year.