07/14/2011 1:27PM

Delaware Park: Havre de Grace looks to level the score with Blind Luck in Delaware Handicap

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Havre de Grace edges Blind Luck to win the Cotillion at Parx Racing last year.

With three other horses in the lineup, including defending champion Life At Ten, it’s incorrect to label the Delaware Handicap a match race. Realistically, however, Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 stakes that serves as the crown jewel of Delaware Park’s season boils down to the latest chapter in a long-running rivalry between the sport’s two leading older females, the 4-year-old fillies Havre de Grace and Blind Luck.

Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, who have met five times since last July, will be the focal point in a five-horse field going 1 1/4 miles in the 74th running of the Del Cap. In addition to gaining the upper hand in the battle for season-ending honors in the Eclipse Award balloting for outstanding older female, the winner will earn an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs as part of the Win and You’re In program.

Although Blind Luck was crowned last year’s 3-year-old champion filly and has finished ahead of Havre de Grace in three of their five previous meetings, the locally based Havre de Grace is considered this season’s top older female, thanks to her 3 1/4-length win over her arch-rival in their only 2011 meeting in the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park and a folliow-up win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

Havre de Grace prepped for the Del Cap by winning the local prep, the Grade 3 Obeah, by 2 1/4 lengths on June 11.

Trainer Larry Jones, who won the 2005 Del Cap with Island Sand, said Havre de Grace may turn out to be the best horse he has trained for Delaware native Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm since they began working together five years ago.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

“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 then anything we have ever had.”

Havre de Grace must cope with nemesis Blind Luck once more. The last time they met at Delaware Park, in the Delaware Oaks, Blind Luck just got up to win by a nose over a sloppy track.

Blind Luck, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 12, gets in at 122 pounds, two pounds less than Havre de Grace, the track’s morning-line favorite at 4-5.

“This filly usually gives a good effort every time,” said Hollendorfer, who won the Delaware Handicap with Hysterical Lady in 2008. “I think Larry Jones has done a remarkable job with Havre de Grace this year But do not forget, there will be more than two horses, so we are not counting anybody out. But hopefully, we can put on a good show for the fans.”

The field’s third millionaire, Life At Ten, will try to revive her career in same race she won a year ago, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth Del Cap win, tying the record of Henry Clark, a Hall of Famer who won the race with Endine in 1958 and 1959, along with Obeah in 1969 and 1970.

Life At Ten has yet to regain her old form, however, losing her last four starts. She most recently was fourth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. If she can reverse her form and win, she would become the fifth two-time Del Cap winner and the first since Nastique in 1989.

Rank outsiders Thundering Emilia and Love’s Blush round out the smallest Del Cap field since 1992.

Thundering Emilia, a Group 3 winner and Group 1 runner-up in Peru, won her North American debut, the off-the-turf John Rooney Memorial, but got only a modest 66 Beyer that is far below the par of 102 for the Del Cap.

The Maryland-based Love’s Blush is 0 for 5 in stakes over the past two seasons. Her best performance was a runner-up with a 90 Beyer in the 1 1/8-mile Love’s Blush in February 2010.

◗ Bim Bam gets class relief off a pair of in-the-money finishes against Grade 1 and Grade 2 company in the $100,000 Sussex at 1 1/16 miles on turf (race 6). Racing 1 1/4 miles over yielding ground last time out in the Grade 1 Manhattan, Bim Bam outran his 31-1 odds to finish second, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths.

His six rivals include Followmyfootsteps and Mikoshi, who were a half-length apart as the winner and third-place finisher in the one-mile Da Hoss at Colonial Downs, and the Christophe Clement-trained Mr. Ryder, who steps up in class seeking his third straight win.

◗ Edgewater and Alma d’Oro, separated by less than a length in two stakes locally last summer, resume their rivalry in the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial at 1 1/16 miles on the main track (race 9).

In this same race last year, Edgewater finished second, a half-length in front of Alma d’Oro. Edgewater prevailed again, this time by a neck, in the 1 1/8-mile Governor’s Day.

Most recently, Edgewater was fourth of seven in an overnight stakes going a mile and 70 yards. Alma d’Oro cuts back in distance and drops in class after finishing third in the Grade 2, 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap.