08/19/2010 4:03PM

Blind Luck, Devil May Care square off in Alabama

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Tod Marks
Blind Luck, with Jerry Hollendorfer on Thursday at Saratoga, has won races in California, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Delaware this year.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer compares his filly, Blind Luck, to a former heavyweight champion boxer.

“My filly’s like Joe Frazier, just keeps coming at ’em,” Hollendorfer said.

That trait could prove useful, considering that Blind Luck’s matchup with Devil May Care in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Alabama at Saratoga could be considered a prize fight of sorts for the 3-year-old filly title.

The Alabama winner has been named champion 3-year-old filly 18 times since 1942, the last one being Proud Spell who in the 2008 Alabama beat Music Note by a head. Blind Luck and Devil May Care are the two most accomplished 3-year-old fillies in the country, combining to win 7 of 11 starts this year, including four Grade 1 and three Grade 2 events. This will be the first time they have met.

“There’s too much left to do to say for sure that the winner of this race is going to automatically be champion 3-year-old filly,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Devil May Care, winner of the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. “What happens if one of these fillies goes on and wins the Beldame and the Ladies’ Classic? There’s still a lot left to do; obviously a head-to-head match-up means a lot.”

There are several reasons to favor Devil May Care in this race. She is 2 for 2 over the track and has won her last three starts against her own gender. In between, she finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby, run over a sloppy track. Pletcher said one of the reasons he and owner David Greathouse decided to run in the Derby is because of the 1 1/4-mile distance.

“I’ve always been very confident she’ll run that far,” Pletcher said. “Even though she loomed up and faded the last part of the Derby, everything else I’ve seen about her indicates to me she’ll run that far.”

If there’s a flaw in Devil May Care’s game, it is that she has shown the tendency to slow down once she makes the lead. But her performance in the Coaching Club may have been her most professional to date.

“I think her last race, she polished off the best of any so far,” Pletcher said. “I think the addition of blinkers has kept her somewhat more focused, but it’s something I’m very aware of, and Johnny and I will talk about it. Hopefully, we’ll be in the situation where we’ll actually have to worry about it during the race.”

Hollendorfer’s comparison of Blind Luck to Joe Frazier was evident in both the Kentucky Oaks and Delaware Oaks. In both races, she looked like she was beaten, only to get up in the final strides to win by a nose.

“She’s very relentless, she never stops trying,” Pletcher said of Blind Luck. “A couple of her races this year she looks like she wasn’t going to get there, but she finds a way to get there.”

And she does it after shipping a long way to get there. Based in Southern California, where she won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, Blind Luck is 3 for 3 out of town, winning the Fantasy at Oaklawn, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, and the Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park.

“She’s kind of remarkable the way she’s been taking the shipping,” said Hollendorfer, who starts just his third horse at Saratoga, and his first since Eye of the Tiger finished sixth in the 2003 King’s Bishop. “I was very cautious about shipping her too much, but then we felt that we had to ship and be in certain races timing-wise. After the Delaware race, she came back bouncing. I don’t really think it bothers her that much.”

Joel Rosario, who has never ridden at Saratoga, has the call from post 2.

If there is an upset to be had, Havre de Grace appears the most capable of pulling it off. She came within a nose of beating Blind Luck in the Delaware Oaks.

“I was feeling really good about Havre de Grace going into the Oaks,” trainer Tony Dutrow said. “I was in much deeper water that day than I feel like we’re in in the Alabama. I’m feeling good that Havre de Grace is among the best of her generation.”

Tony Dutrow’s brother, Rick, sends out Black-Eyed Susan winner Acting Happy, who finished third to Devil May Care in the Coaching Club. Rick Dutrow is confident the 1 1/4 miles is in her range.

“I know she’ll get the distance, I don’t know if she’ll be able to beat them doing it,” Dutrow said.

Connie and Michael, the Mother Goose runner-up who was scratched out of the Coaching Club Oaks due to a foot abscess, and Tizahit, last year’s Demoiselle winner, complete the field.

The Alabama will go as race 10 on an 11-race card. It is the third leg of a late pick-four wager with a guaranteed pool of $500,000.