Blind Luck and Havre de Grace: a Hall of Fame rivalry

By Brian Zipse
March 01, 2018 11:32am
Blind Luck Delaware 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

There is not much in racing better than a good rivalry, and there is nothing in racing better than the roll call of superstars in the Hall of Fame. Induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame ensures immortality. Members of the highest honor in Thoroughbred horse racing will forever have their name and memory preserved and cherished.

It is my sincere honor to play a small part in the process, by casting a ballot each year for my choices to enter the Hall. This year, I will have the pleasure to cast my vote in favor of not only two very worthy candidates in
Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, but also in celebration of a dying facet of racing: the rivalry.

I was lucky enough to have enjoyed racing's greatest rivalry in my formative years. 
Affirmed and Alydar, and their numerous battles, were everything good about the sport. I followed both horses' every move intently, and was enthralled every time they met on the square. To this day, I believe having them come from the same foal crop was as good as racing gets. I'm not sure if we will ever see anything quite like it again, but I am sure I enjoyed every second of the Blind Luck and Havre de Grace rivalry.

Blind Luck was a 3-year-old champion, and I truly believe the romping winner of the Hollywood Starlet should have been a champion at 2 as well. Havre de Grace was that rare female to become a Horse of the Year. On their own, they were outstanding, but together, they were special. I believe the two fantastic female runners to be the greatest American rivals of the 21st century.

Blind Luck and Havre de Grace
 brought out the best in one another, and their match-ups were consistent thrillers. When it was all said and done, the pair did battle against each other on six unforgettable occasions during the 2010 and 2011 racing seasons.

It cannot be argued that Blind Luck was the best 3-year-old filly of 2010. The daughter of Pollard's Vision had risen from a maiden claiming debut to be the one which I considered the best juvenile filly in the land the season before
. At 3, the smallish filly picked up right where she left off, while under the guidance of trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer. Before she ever met Havre de Grace that season, the chestnut filly had won the Kentucky Oaks, Las Virgenes and Fantasy.

Havre de Grace, on the other hand, was more of a late bloomer for trainer, Larry Jones. With only a victory against maidens at 2, she came into her first matchup with Blind Luck with plenty of promise, but only four lifetime races and no stakes wins. The good looking daughter of Saint Liam would quickly prove to be the serious competition for which Blind Luck had been waiting.

Their first meeting came on July 10, 2010, at Delaware Park in the Delaware Oaks. Proving to be a wonderful indicator of things to come, Blind Luck, under Joel Rosario, needed every inch of the 8 1/2 furlongs to get by Havre de Grace on the wire. It was a terrific race, but few could have guessed what was still to come for the pair of fantastic fillies.

After that initial meeting, the two would go on to the historic Alabama Stakes six weeks later at Saratoga. This time their matchup stretched to 10 furlongs, and once again, Blind Luck needed her patented strong finish to beat Havre de Grace. Round two again went to the champ, this time by a neck over the stubborn newcomer ridden by Jeremy Rose.

They say a rivalry does not become a rivalry until both sides taste victory. That is how it was for Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. Heading into their third tussle, Blind Luck was a seven-time graded stakes winner, while the talented runner from Fox Hill Farm had nary a single stakes win.

The Cotillion would finally be time for Havre de Grace to turn the tables on her rival. On October 2, 2010, the Cotillion, at what was still called Philadelphia Park back then, the runner-up in the first two meetings finally got the best of Blind Luck, but it was not easy. She had to hold off a furious late charge from her determined, late-running competitor in their third straight fantastic race together to capture her very first stakes victory.

The reversal of fortune for Havre de Grace meant that a great rivalry was finally official. Both topnotch females would both go on to become champions, Blind Luck as the 3-year-old filly of 2010, and Havre de Grace as the Horse of the Year in 2011. But before the rivalry ended, they had three more memorable meetings.

The last of them occurred on November 5, 2010, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (then called the Ladies Classic) at Churchill Downs. It actually became the only time in their rivalry where they did not run first and second. In their only Breeders' Cup meeting, Blind Luck rallied by Havre de Grace in the stretch, but fell short of victory to the older Unrivaled Belle. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace finished second and third, respectively, closing out their sophomore seasons.

As older horses, the two wonderful young mares picked up their sensational rivalry on March 19, 2011, at Oaklawn Park. The occasion was the 8 1/2-furlong Azeri Stakes. Though they ran 1-2 for the fourth time in five races, this one proved to be the most lopsided victory within the series. A bigger, stronger version of Havre de Grace was unstoppable in Arkansas, and rolled to a 3 1/4-length victory. Blind Luck easily got up for second-place money, but was no match for the winner on this day.

The two stars took a break from each other for a few races. Both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace won a pair of graded stakes races around the country before their next meeting. For the second time in their rivalry, the classic distance of 10 furlongs was the assignment, this time in the prestigious Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park.

It what would turn out to be their final meeting, the two gave it their all, and likely produced the best battle of all. Wouldn't you agree that racing need more rivalries like the one below? Rivals on the track, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace will enter Racing's Hall of Fame together, just as it should be.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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