In a marquee matchup of older fillies, 2010 Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic third place finisher Havre de Grace showed that she could be on the verge of another strong campaign. She beat 2010 Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck by 3 1/4 length in winning the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park last Saturday.
Ever since Blind Luck’s win in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, there’s been something of a rivalry between her and Havre de Grace. Including the 2011 Azeri, the two fillies have finished in the money in the same race on six different occasions. In five of these six races, they’ve finished one/two with each filly claiming a pair of victories. Blind Luck has been consistent since her Kentucky Oaks win but, for the most part, has been a step or two short. She followed the win at Churchill Downs with a victory in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga but has since finished second in her last five races.
Saturday’s victory by Havre de Grace was the largest margin of victory for either rival during their hotly contested three and four year old seasons. Since Blind Luck’s win in the Alabama, Havre de Grace has won twice in head to head matchups leading many to suggest that she may be a better competitor as an older filly and mare than as a 3 year old. Havre de Grace is owned by Rick Porter and trained by Larry Jones and veteran jockey Ramon Dominguez was manning the reins on Saturday. After the race Dominguez expressed his pleasure at her effort:
“When I asked her to run she just picked it up nicely and really, turning for home, she was striding out beautiful and galloped out strong. She could be anything.”
Blind Luck has become known for coming well off the pace and closing strong a la Zenyatta, and that was the case again on Saturday as she came from last place to finish second. Jockey Garrett Gomez dismissed suggestions that his mount was a better competitor as a three year old:
“The pace didn’t help her at all. I mean that other filly was sitting in the garden spot the whole way. I do feel like [Blind Luck] ran back to her races here that she was running earlier, and throughout her year last year. She’s still good as she as ever was.”
It’s unlikely that we’ve seen the last of the Havre de Grace v. Blind Luck rivalry. Both horses are being pointed to the April 15 running of the $500,000 Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.