07/17/2011 1:29PM

The Blind Luck - Havre de Grace Rivalry


It was yet another close one.

The nose that separated Blind Luck and Havre de Grace at the end of Saturday’s Delaware Handicap was the fourth time in the six meetings between these two top-class performers that the winning margin was so small that numbers were not used to quantify it, not even traditional fractions. These two seem to have quite the rivalry going. Or do they?

Many agree that the best rivalry in the modern game was the one between Affirmed and Alydar. At one time, it really was a great, great rivalry. But the dirty truth is, by the time Affirmed finished ahead of Alydar for a third straight time at 3 (and for a seventh time from nine total meetings up to that point) to sweep the 1978 Triple Crown, it had become apparent to just about everyone except the most avid Alydar fans that the only way Alydar was ever again going to beat Affirmed was with help of some sort.

And the funny thing is, that’s exactly what happened when Affirmed and Alydar met for what turned out to be the last time a couple of months later in the Travers. Going into the far turn, Affirmed unnecessarily came over and interfered with the rail-running Alydar, and then Affirmed went on to best Alydar by nearly two lengths. The stewards stepped in, Affirmed was disqualified and placed second, and Alydar was awarded the win even though everyone knew that they could have gone around the Saratoga main track 15 more times that day, and Alydar was never going to get past Affirmed.

I’m not suggesting that everyone is wrong when they talk about Affirmed and Alydar being the best rivalry in modern racing. But I never totally understood (beyond the obvious historical implications of that amazing 1978 Belmont Stakes) how the Affirmed-Alydar took on the legendary status it did when one half of the equation was a demonstrably better race horse than the other. And I’m not saying that the Blind Luck and Havre de Grace rivalry has even remotely approached the level of Affirmed-Alydar. But there is something reminiscent of Affirmed-Alydar here, at least to me. While the Delaware Handicap result will only fuel the Blind Luck-Havre de Grace rivalry, I’m seeing evidence that one of these fillies just might be plain better than the other, even if only narrowly so.

I know people are talking about how terrible it was that Havre de Grace had to concede two pounds to Blind Luck in the Del Cap, and are pointing to that as the determining factor in the outcome. I suppose a two pound weight spread going 1 1/4 miles could be meaningful. But I have to admit I have my doubts as to how much two pounds might really impact the performance of a 1,000 to 1,200 pound race horse no matter what the distance, particularly when there are so many other far more important factors to consider.

In the case of Saturday’s Del Cap, Blind Luck had to ship all the way across the country from Hollywood Park, while Havre de Grace merely had to walk over from the Delaware Park stall she has occupied for months. And Blind Luck had the difficult task of having to close into a pace that really wasn’t all that fast, while Havre de Grace, with her positional speed, had the far better trip stalking the pace from closer range, and getting first run. These factors had much more impact on the running of this Del Cap than a mere two pound weight spread. And yet, Blind Luck overcame them, and has now finished in front of Havre de Grace in four of their six meetings.

But if you’re a Havre de Grace fan, there is one significant cause for optimism. Two of Blind Luck’s victories over Havre de Grace – Saturday’s Del Cap and last summer’s Alabama – came at the distance of 1 1/4 miles. In all likelihood, the race that will ultimately decide this rivalry (not to mention a divisional championship) will be the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic this fall at Churchill Downs. The Ladies’ Classic is run at nine furlongs, a distance that is probably much better than 10 furlongs for Havre de Grace. In fact, Havre de Grace never again has to go 1 1/4 miles if her connections don’t want her to. Then again, Blind Luck finished second, ahead of Havre de Grace, in last year’s Ladies’ Classic, and also beat Havre de Grace last year in the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks, so . . .

Jim Darden More than 1 year ago
i was at this race and have been going to del park for 40+++ years, that race was one of the most exciting sporting events i have ever been at in my life, the crowd was so electric, please horse race people keep this up
GeorgeC. More than 1 year ago
The weak older male division, which I feel is one of the worst in the last 15 years, should be challenged by Blind Luck. I feel she could compete if not win the Classic esp. at CD.
Commish More than 1 year ago
Regardless which horse you like better, this rivalry is great for the sport. Let's hope they both reach the Ladies Classic in good order. It was neat to see such a stirring stretch drive without aggressive whipping. It appeared that Blind Luck was never hit with the stick and while Dominguez did urge Havre de Grace multiple times, not in what I'd consider a real aggressive manner. The gameness of the two fillies really showed in that stretch drive.
Jay V.H. From H-town More than 1 year ago
Mr. Watchmaker, you are exactly right. Blind Luck is not only superior to Grace but to any other horse in America as well. I'd love to see her chasing So You Think down the Churchill stretch on Nov. 5th. Other fillies who should consider racing against the boys are Wasted Tears and Switch. Wasted Tears could hold her own against Kova and Canford Cliffs in the Turf mile while Switch should relish the Mile on dirt. One last comment in regards to this years Breeders Cup. Workforce or Rewilding will win this years Turf and Apriority or Smiling Tiger will take the Sprint. My longshot for the Classic may be Flat Out. He is starting to get really good right now and just may be the colt America's handicap division needs. As for the Affirmed Alydar debate. I was born in "79" so no comment.
Joe More than 1 year ago
Come on, as nice as these 2 fillies are, you can not even start to compare their rivalry to Affirmed and Alydar. In 1989 when they tried to compare Sunday Silence and Easy Goer to them, it was a joke. Please remember Affirmed and Alydar started their rivalry as 2yr olds. The Laurel Futurity that they ran as 2 yr olds was incredible. They slugged it out down the stretch like older horses not juveniles and this was Affirmed's 9th start as a 2 yr old! Think of the horses in recent years people were ready to label "Great" (Smarty Jones, Big Brown, Ghoztzapper), they didnt start that many times in their career. Then Affirmed and Alydar came back as 3yr olds and put on a show for the ages in the 1978 Triple Crown. The '78 Belmont Stakes is possibly the greatest race ever run. Although it may have not been as visible impressive as Secretariats, these 2 horses battled it out head and head for almost a mile, after running the slowes 1/2 mile in Belmont history, they ran the fastest closing miile in history, and this was after competing in the Derby and Preakness, plus each having 4 prep races before. While having a rivalry is great for the sport, lets not get crazy and speak of them in the same breath as Affirmed and Alydar, afterall their rivalry included a Triple Crown winner!
Bill B. More than 1 year ago
I think these two nearly equal in ability fillies (one seems a nose better at shorter; one seem a nose better going longer) are doing a terrific job of coming close to holding up an otherwise very disappointing year in racing. I thought Saturday's Delaware Oaks was thus far the race of the year and I cannot wait to see more of this as these are game sports loving owners. However, at this point in time, to put them in the league of Affirmed/Alydar is a bit premature to say the least. Their ten races were some of the most anticipated and exciting of my lifetime with only the shorter Sunday Silence/Easy Goer rivalry even remotely coming close. I think HDG & BL might be in third place on this list, but that's about it for me. So far. Odd times. For the past three years, racing has been dominated by two fillies, Zenyatta & Rachel Alexandra, and now we may have racing ruled by another two fillies. I don't quite ever remember a time with so many fillies in a row dominating the scene. Oh and then there's this. I don't agree one iota with Watchmaker's analysis of the 1978 Travers.
Janice Palmer More than 1 year ago
Wait a minute, isn't their record 1-1 this year and didn't, under equal waits, HdG beat BL by over 3 lengths, the biggest margin ever between them? Isn't it widely believed that HdG has improved this year after a more lightly experienced 3 yr. old season than BL? Couldn't this race, despite the 2 pounds have gone either way? So why wouldn't one wait, because we are talking about THIS year, and see what the future races disclose before declaring BL better by a nose? ;-)
plodderman More than 1 year ago
Right on Janice. THIS YEAR, Harve De Grace is lenghts better than Blind Luck.
Marc Mink More than 1 year ago
Mike, having witnessed many of the Alydar Affimed races, as well as two of the 4 Dr Fager/Damascus races, i think you find that often it is an issue of apples and oranges. It did indeed take Alydar fans a long time to understand that regardless of the margin of victory, Affirmed tended to do taunt Alydar , and wait for him , and would not have been passed by him at all as a 3 or 4 year old. However, the rivalry began as two year olds and Alydar gave Affirmed a couple beatings, and perhaps that's why the idea continued that they were inseparable. Dr Fager and Damascus traded wins twice. Taking these 4 races apart, it is difficult to conclude much of anything other than to say that Dr Fager improved a lot as a 4 year old, and Damascus not as much-the rivalry was till significant with the players involved , just like the players with Affirmed and Alydar. to me the gauge is simply this.. did we get a corking great race at a very high level of competition in important races and the answer was a resounding yes on Saturday and i , for one , am grateful
Sam Ludu More than 1 year ago
I hope Blind Luck and Havre de Grace meet again, in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on August 28. Hollendorfer said Blind Luck is a go for the race, but I don't know about his rival, whose trainer sounded bitter about the weights in the Delaware.
Captain Bodgit More than 1 year ago
Sunday Silence had a runty unimpressive physique? I think Blind Luck is the favorite for HOY for now. The "Dudes" are breathing down her neck though. I hope HdG and BL meet again at Saratoga.
CAM More than 1 year ago
Yes, unfortunately Sunday Silence was, at best, of average size and had lots of conformational flaws--cow hocks, weird pasterns, narrow chest. And I say that as a lifelong fan who thought he was very beautiful while running past the wire first! My statement wasn't intended to insult SS, just to reflect upon how most people viewed him, and how he compared physically to his arch-rival Easy Goer. EG was a solid, muscular colt who outweighed the slender Sunday Silence by a meaningful amount.