Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
A week after Grace Hall finished seventh and last in the G1 Apple Blossom, Reynolds Bell, an advisor to owner John Clay, revealed that the Empire Maker filly had been diagnosed with a partial fracture of the lateral wing of the coffin bone on her right front foot and some bruising on her left front foot. The injury is not career threatening, and the filly will likely return for a fall campaign. While it is not clear whether Grace Hall sustained the injury before, during, or after the Apple Blossom, most are putting a line through her dismal performance on account of her recently discovered injury. Though it makes sense to give the filly a pass for the Apple Blossom, that excuse only covers that one race.
Let’s say that Grace Hall did in fact injure herself in the Apple Blossom. That would excuse her performance, but even a completely healthy, 100% sound Grace Hall would not have won the Apple Blossom. When I saw that she had been installed as the morning line favorite for that race, the words “false favorite” immediately started flashing in big neon letters in my mind. Oaklawn is one of those tracks that a horse either relishes or does not take 100% to, and Grace Hall was facing a trio of Oaklawn monsters in Tiz Miz Sue, Don’t Tell Sophia, and On Fire Baby. Bettors were willing to give Grace the benefit of the doubt, however, and she entered the gate as the post time favorite, as well. Sure enough, the trio of Oaklawn monsters finished 1-2-3, and Grace Hall once again disappointed as the favorite.
Grace Hall burst into the national spotlight as a juvenile, reeling off three consecutive victories and entering the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies undefeated. Though it was not clear at the time, a closer look at the fields Grace Hall beat prior to her run in the BC Juvenile Fillies revealed Grace’s vulnerability. Of the fifteen fillies she beat in her first three career starts, none went on to become graded stakes winners though Georgie’s Angel was a Grade 3 winner prior to facing Grace Hall in the G1 Spinaway. Only three of the fifteen, Judy the Beauty, And Why Not, and Georgie’s Angel, went on to become graded stakes placed. Despite not having faced quality fields prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Grace Hall finished second in the Juvenile Fillies, well clear of third place finisher Weemissfrankie while being no match for My Miss Aurelia.
As a three-year old, Grace Hall captured a trio of Grade 2 stakes, but she also disappointed as the favorite in a trio of stakes races, including the G1 Kentucky Oaks and the G1 Alabama. The fields she faced as a sophomore were arguably much stronger than those she faced as a juvenile, but out of the fifteen fillies she defeated in her three victories, only three went on to become graded stakes winner after facing Grace Hall. Two of the three won Grade 1 races, but Emma’s Encore became a Grade 1 sprinter after finishing eighth and last behind Grace Hall in the 9 furlong G2 Gulfstream Oaks.
Many believed that Grace Hall’s fourth place finish in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic back in November showed that she was ready to springboard to the top of the Distaff division as a four-year old. While she certainly put in a good race, I would argue that her effort wasn’t nearly as great as it initially looks. Of the four fillies and mares she beat in that race, Love and Pride tired after pressing the pace through splits of 22:69, 45:81, and 1.09:80, Awesome Feather folded while facing a quality field for the first time, Class Included could not carry her big fish in a little pond form to Santa Anita, and Questing was pulled up and vanned off due to an eye injury.
Grace Hall is a nice filly, but she is just not as good a filly as her juvenile year led us to believe. She has no problem beating up on minor stakes winners or allowance tier types, but she cannot stand up against quality competition. Sure she had an excuse last out, but there is no excuse for her other races. Plain and simple, Grace Hall just does not have what it takes to be at the top of her division.