In their unfolding battle for supremacy in the national older female rankings, Blind Luck put her nose narrowly in front of Havre de Grace after winning a spellbinding stretch duel in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (gr. II) July 16 at Delaware Park (VIDEO).
The Southern California-based Blind Luck, urged home under a frantic hand ride from Garrett Gomez, surged in the final yards to nip 7-10 favorite Havre de Grace to her inside by a nose in the 1 1/4-mile test in a sharp 2:01.28 over a fast track. Life At Ten, last year's Delaware Handicap winner, finished far back in third.
Blind Luck picks up an automatic berth for a return trip to the 1 1/8-mile Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 4 as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series. The late-running Blind Luck carried 122 pounds to victory in the Delaware Handicap, two fewer than Havre de Grace.
“This is a total grudge match,” said Gomez. “These two fillies butt heads and when they get together it is a grudge match, so they got a good little rivalry going. They are both nice fillies and they both ran tremendous races. I think this really cool for the sport.”
Winning for the 12th time in 21 lifetime races for owners Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, Peter Abruzzo, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 2010 champion 3-year-old filly went over $3 million in career earnings. The little chestnut daughter of Pollard's Vision --Lucky One (by Best of Luck) was bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm.
Hollendorfer, who also won the Del Cap in 2008 with Hystericalady, hoped the two 4-year-old fillies would put on a good show for the crowd at Delaware Park. But in spite of small field of five older fillies in mares, this race was better than that.
Gomez kept Vanity Handicap (gr. I) winner Blind Luck, last early, a little closer to the pace than usual as Life At Ten set a contested pace with David Cohen aboard over the outsider Thundering Emilia. Havre de Grace, winner of the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in April, raced just behind them in third for Ramon Dominguez as Life At Ten clipped off fractions of :23.73, :47.74and 1:12.53.
Havre de Grace was keen to challenge and Dominguez guided her outside of the front-runners on the backstretch as Blind Luck advanced into fourth, a couple of lengths behind her rival. As Thundering Emilia gave way on the final turn, Havre de Grace advanced to challenge and took the lead rounding the bend without much of a fight from Life At Ten. But Blind Luck, three wide coming into the stretch, was closing quickly.
Blind Luck, tapped lightly on the shoulder in upper stretch by Gomez, surged to even terms with Havre de Grace and appeared ready to go by. But Havre de Grace fought back tenaciously under left-handed urging from Dominguez. The two fillies battled head-and-head to the wire. Havre de Grace had a bare advantage in the final sixteenth but she couldn't hold it as the relentless Blind Luck, under a hard drive, got her nose in front in the final jump.
“We had a great trip,” said Dominguez of Havre de Grace. “My horse dragged me to the front and turning for home she gave me all she had and she really kept on digging. It was just a head bob and the other filly got up just in time. But my filly tried very hard.”
The thrilling victory was the third in a row for Blind Luck, who was sent off at odds of 11-10. Havre de Grace, trained by Larry Jones for Fox Hill Farms, was the better filly in the first half of 2011. She defeated Blind Luck by 3 1/4 lengths in Oaklawn's Azeri Stakes (gr. III) prior to her triumph in the Apple Blossom and tuned up for the Delaware Handicap with an easy win in the Obeah Stakes (gr. III) over the track June 11.
Blind Luck, though, has now defeated Havre de Grace in four of their six meetings, including victories last year in the Delaware Oaks (gr. I) and the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Blind Luck also finished in front of Havre de Grace in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic when she was second behind Unrivaled Belle, while Havre de Grace was third.
That was the first of four consecutive runner-up finishes for Blind Luck, who was suffering from sore feet, according to Hollendorfer. She broke out of it with a win in the La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) May 6 at Churchill Downs and returned June 18 with a fast-closing half-length win over Switch in Hollywood Park's Vanity.
“I always have confidence that I think she is going to do it,” said Hollendorfer after collecting his 5,979th career victory. “There are always moments in the race when you do not know, but once they hit the far turn, I thought there was a good chance she would win.
"I do not think you can be surprised and we have the utmost respect for Larry Jones and his filly. We have hooked up six times and each time it has been exciting. We have come out well a couple times and we have been beaten a couple of times, but that is okay because it is not supposed to be easy.”
Jones was grousing about the weight assignment afterward.
“Tell me two pounds does not make a difference,” he said. “She won six grade I’s versus our one and we are the high weight; that makes a lot of sense. I probably should not have run.”
Blind Luck improved her career mark to 12-7-2 in 21 races with earnings of $3,279,520. The winner's share was worth $450,000.
Blind Luck paid $4.20, $2.10, and $2.10, and topped an $8.10 exacta. Havre de Grace returned $2.10 and $2.10. It was 18 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Life At Ten ($2.40), whose perplexing decline since last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic continued with her fifth consecutive defeat.
Love's Blush and Thundering Emilia followed.