03/17/2011 4:25PM

Oaklawn to see Blind Luck, Havre de Grace clash again

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– Blind Luck and Havre de Grace put on some memorable stretch battles during the second half of 2010. This year, there could be at least four more showdowns between the fillies. The first comes on Saturday, in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn.

“We had some real interesting races last year,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of champion Blind Luck. “It was a lot of fun to run against her. We won some, she won one. That’s the way racing is. We’re looking forward to running against her again.”

The Azeri will share a card with the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel for 3-year-olds.

The Azeri, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, is a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 15. That race is a goal for both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. Their connections also said the Delaware Handicap could become a target for the fillies en route to their ultimate objective, a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.

Blind Luck and Havre de Grace last met in the Breeders’ Cup, and finished a respective second and third in the race won by Unrivalled Belle. Leading up to it, Blind Luck had edged Havre de Grace in both the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, while Havre de Grace turned the tables in the Grade 2 Fitz Dixon Cotillion. She held off the eventual champion by a neck, while toting 10 fewer pounds.

For their first matchup of the season, both will carry 115 pounds. The showdown comes earlier in the season than expected, but according to Hollendorfer the race was the right one for Blind Luck, a late-runner who has finished second in a pair of Grade 2 races at Santa Anita in her first two starts at 4.

“Our filly has been running very good at Santa Anita, but it’s been very hard to close any kind of ground on that racetrack,” he said. “We also were already pointing for the Apple Blossom as one of our key races for 2011, and now we’ll have a race over the track.”

Garrett Gomez has the mount on Blind Luck. Havre de Grace, an Oaklawn-based runner to be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, will be a formidable rival. Larry Jones, who in January began training the filly who started her career with Tony Dutrow, has been impressed with what he has seen from Havre de Grace. Jones has also been on a hot streak, as he sent out Joyful Victory to a more-than-eight-length win last weekend in the Grade 3, $125,000 Honeybee.

“I was high on Joyful Victory, but not as high as I am on this horse,” he said. “Havre de Grace, it kind of looks like maybe this could be her year. She’s a late-maturing horse, a big mare that just now is really getting herself together. Not taking one thing against Blind Luck. She’s a great filly, but I think this could be our year.”