With other Thoroughbred racing divisions a scramble thus far, the fillies and mares have offered the most clarity. Clearly Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, both 4-year-olds, are among the division leaders and will meet for the sixth time in their careers in the Delaware Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I).
Fox Hill Farm’s Havre de Grace, a Saint Liam filly bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman, is undefeated in three starts this year: the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) and Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, and the Obeah Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware Park.
Blind Luck, owned by Mark Dedomenico, John Carver, Peter Abruzzo, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, has two wins (the grade I Vanity Handicap and grade II La Troeinne Stakes) and three seconds this year. In her only meeting with Havre de Grace this year, Blind Luck, a Pollard's Vision filly bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, finished second to her foe in the Azeri.
Last year as 3-year-olds, Blink Luck finished ahead of Havre de Grace in three of four races, including the Ladies’ Classic, in which they finished second and third, respectively, behind the now-retired Unrivaled Belle. In the grade II Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap, Havre de Grace finished a neck ahead of Blind Luck; distant third-place finisher Awesome Maria, who is on a tear at age 4 this year, isn’t entered in the Del Cap.
Blind Luck, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, is the 7-5 second choice in the morning line behind 4-5 Havre de Grace, who is based at Delaware Park with trainer Larry Jones. Blind Luck defeated Havre de Grace by a nose in last year’s Delaware Oaks (gr. II).
“We are not shy about going on the road because sometimes you have to do it, but all the guys who run, they all ship if they have to,” California-based Hollendorfer, who won the Del Cap with Hysterical Lady in 2008, told Delaware Park officials. “We try to do the best thing for our horse, but the purse is big there, and we have never ducked anybody, especially with this filly.
“Sometimes we win and sometimes we take our lumps, but we are always in there trying. You know if you are running for big money, the race is supposed to be tough.”
Rick Porter, who owns Havre de Grace and lives in Delaware, said winning the Del Cap is “high, very high” on his list.
“We thought a few times we had some nice horses that might win it for us, but for some reason or another they just did not work out the way we had hoped,” Porter said. “When I first gave Larry (Jones) the horse, I told him she might be the horse that could win the big one at Delaware. She is obviously one of the nicest-looking horses I have ever had.
“As far as talent and accomplishments, I would put her right up there with Hard Spun. I hope she turns out to be the best horse I have ever had, and I have been fortunate enough to have some nice ones.”
Jones, who won the 2005 Del Cap with Island Sand, has said he believes Havre de Grace is the best horse he has trained.
“I even said that before we actually raced her for the first time,” Jones said. “I thought she was showing me signs of being a special horse. Hard Spun was a very, very nice horse. Unfortunately, we do not know how good Eight Belles was going to get, but she sure was good.
“Proud Spell and Kodiak Kowboy both won Eclipse Awards, and they were both special. But I think Havre de Grace is as good or better than anything we have ever had.”
Ramon Dominguez will ride Havre de Grace, the 124-pound highweight, while Garrett Gomez is named aboard Blind Luck at 122.
Candy DeBartolo’s Life At Ten, 4-1 third choice in the line, won the 2010 Del Cap last year for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won four editions of the race. Life At Ten hasn’t won in three starts this year at age 6.
David Cohen will ride Life At Ten at 115.
Two other stakes will be run July 16 at Delaware Park: the $100,000 Sussex on turf and the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial on dirt.
$750,000 Delaware Handicap (Race 10, 5:18 p.m. EDT), F&M, 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Morning Line Odds
1. Life At Ten (KY), D Cohen, 115, T A Pletcher, 5/1
2. Thundering Emilia (KY), J Pimentel, 111, M R Matz, 20/1
3. Havre de Grace (KY), R A Dominguez, 124, J L Jones, 4/5
4. Love's Blush (MD), T L Dunkelberger, 112, R Jenkins, 20/1
5. Blind Luck (KY), G K Gomez, 122, J Hollendorfer, 7/5