The showdown is upon us.
In a battle between the top two 3-year-old fillies in the nation, California invader Blind Luck
will take on New York-based Devil May Care
in the $500,000 TVG Betfair Alabama Stakes
(gr. I) Aug. 21 at Saratoga. The star fillies, who have a total of seven grade I wins between them, will also lock horns with four other capable rivals in the 1 1/4-mile dirt contest, one that could go a long way in determining champion 3-year-old filly. Devil May Care was installed as the slight 7-5 morning-line favorite, with Blind Luck pegged at 8-5.
Post time is slated for 5:48 p.m. EDT.
Though Blind Luck is based in California for trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer, she has proved her herself all over the country, beating rivals in five different states and at seven different racetracks in her career. The daughter of Pollard's Vision
has notched four grade I wins, including her biggest score, the Kentucky Oaks on April 30 at Churchill Downs.
In 2010, she has captured four of six starts. In addition to the Oaks, she has won the Las Virgenes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), and most recently prevailed by a nose in the July 10 Delaware Oaks (gr. II). Hollendorfer has worked his charge three times at Del Mar since that last victory. She arrived at Saratoga on Aug. 16.
“Shipping doesn't seem to bother Blind Luck,” Hollendorfer said. “We've shipped her several times and she's done well each time.”
Joel Rosario will have the mount once again in the Alabama. They will break from post 4 as the chestnut filly tries 10 furlongs for the first time.
Hollendorfer, who owns the filly with Mark Dedomenico, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo, thinks the winner will be the filly that handles the extra distance the best.
“First of all, I don’t see this as a two-horse race,” said Hollendorfer. “I know the media wants to play it up that way, but there are some very capable fillies in here. I am not looking past anyone and I know (Devil May Care trainer) Todd Pletcher isn’t either.
“None of the horses have won at 10 furlongs in here, so they all have something to prove. To me, that is the biggest question to answer—who can handle it. In my opinion, (Blind Luck) wants to go a mile and a quarter.”
Bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck has already earned $1,578,712.
Glencrest Farm’s Devil May Care was not in the Kentucky Oaks to face Blind Luck. Instead, she was the lone filly to take on the boys in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Though she finished a tiring 10th that day, the daughter of Malibu Moon
turned in a solid effort on an off track and has come out of the race even stronger.
Devil May Care, a maiden winner at Saratoga and victor of Belmont’s Frizette (gr. I) as a juvenile, has won twice convincingly since the Derby, taking the June 26 Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont and July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) by four lengths over a strong field. The Pletcher trainee has stayed at Saratoga since that last effort, working twice under regular rider John Velazquez.
A winner of five of eight starts for earnings of $599,000, Devil May Care will break from post 2 under Velazquez.
“She’s held her form since the Coaching Club, which I don’t think was a particularly taxing race for her, and so far everything is going to plan,” said Pletcher. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Blind Luck, and I’m looking forward to the race. You’re putting the two most accomplished fillies on the racetrack and that’s what everyone wants to see.”
One of the challengers that Hollendorfer cautions not to forget about is Fox Hill Farms’ Havre de Grace
, who was caught at the wire by Blind Luck in the Delaware Oaks in a heartbreaking nose defeat. Though Havre de Grace pressed the pace in that contest, she could make the early lead this time around in a race without a lot of early speed.
Trained by Tony Dutrow, Havre de Grace was beaten only a neck in her start prior to the Delaware Oaks, the June 5 Go For Wand Stakes, also at Delaware. In her 3-year-old debut, she won a one-mile allowance test at Philly Park.
Dutrow’s brother, Rick, will send out Jay Em Ess Stable’s homebred Acting Happy
, winner of the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico before finishing third to Devil May Care by nearly five lengths last out in the CCA Oaks. The Empire Maker
filly has never finished off the board in five starts.
“It’s a grade I, it’s not supposed to be easy, but we think she’ll like 1 1/4 miles and maybe that will help even things out,” said owner Samantha Siegel. “Those two are very nice fillies, the top of the division on dirt, but it’s the distance that really wants to make us try this.”
“(The CCA Oaks) was her first time in a graded stakes, and when those horses came to her, she just kept running. She’s still a work in progress, but that race showed how much potential she has.”
Connie and Michael
has not raced since finishing runner-up to Devil May Care in the Mother Goose in her second start of the season. She was supposed to meet Devil May Care again in the CCA Oaks at the beginning of the Saratoga meet, but an abscess in her right front hoof declared her from the race.
The Roman Ruler
filly won her 3-year-old debut at Churchill Downs in May, a one-mile allowance contest.
“There’s no question this will be a test for her,” said Anthony Bonomo Jr., assistant to trainer Domenick Schettino. “This is probably, next to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, going to be the biggest test. Since Ian McKinlay has been with her and worked on her feet, she’s been a different horse. I’m excited to see what she’s going to be like. Blind Luck and Devil May Care may catch a different filly in this race—that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Rounding out the field is Jim and Susan Hill’s Tizahit
, winner of the Demoiselle (gr. II) at Aqueduct as a juvenile. She has not won in two starts this year, both in allowance company, but was a solid runner-up last out at Saratoga on July 30. Edgar Prado will ride for George Weaver.
Last week, the Hill's sent out 65-1 Miami Deco
to win the Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
“It’d be really exciting and incredibly lucky to win both the Breeders’ and the Alabama, luckier than most people will ever be,” said Jim Hill. “I think she is going to run better than people expect her to do. I’ll be disappointed if she doesn’t outrun her odds.”
$500,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:48 p.m.) 3YO Fillies, 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Acting Happy (KY), J Lezcano, 121, R E Dutrow Jr.
2. Devil May Care (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, T A Pletcher
3. Tizahit (VA), E S Prado, 121, G Weaver
4. Blind Luck (KY), J Rosario, 121, J Hollendorfer
5. Connie and Michael (KY), R Maragh, 121, D A Schettino
6. Havre de Grace (KY), J Rose, 121, A W Dutrow