07/12/2011 10:22AM

The Week Ahead: Havre de Grace vs. Blind Luck for Breeders' Cup spot


With any luck, this week's Breeders' Cup Challenge Series races will be just as thrilling as last week's. Both the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Smile Sprint Handicap featured roaring comebacks in deep stretch by their respective winners, First Dude and Giant Ryan. Three more "Win and You're In" races will be held this weekend, highlighted by another Blind Luck-Havre de Grace matchup in Delaware.

Delaware Handicap

This Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile dirt race for fillies and mares 3 years old and up will be a five-horse field, including a showdown between the two favorites, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. The two horses have faced each other five times, with each horse winning two of those matches. The one race neither won was last year’s Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, in which Blind Luck finished second and Havre de Grace finished third. The win would be big for both trainers as well; Jerry Hollendorfer (Blind Luck) and Larry Jones (Havre de Grace) have each won the Delaware Handicap once already.

But, to gain a second victory in the race they may have to face the most accomplished trainer in the race’s history, Todd Pletcher, who is tied with Henry Clark for the record most wins as a trainer: four. Pletcher may run Life at Ten, who deserves consideration as the defending champion, despite having a rough year after controversy at last year’s Ladies' Classic when the horse showed no interest in running. Only four horses have won the Delaware Handicap in consecutive years, most recently Nastique in 1988 and 1989, with no filly having won the race more than twice.

Greenwood Cup Stakes

Small park -- big race. The Greenwood Cup, an endurance-testing 1 1/2-mile route on dirt for 3-year-olds and up, is also part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, meaning the winner of the race will earn an automatic entry into the BC Marathon. Last year’s running, despite the extreme distance, was not settled until the final seconds when A.U. Miner barely edged out Alcomo by a neck in the final strides. A.U. Miner headlines another strong field this year. A.U. Miner will be ridden by top jockey Calvin Borel, who is coming to give the 6-year-old a leg up on his competition. The $200,000 purse of the race is supplemented by the $50,000 from the Breeders' Cup for the nomination. GREENWOOD CUP

A Gleam Invitational Handicap

In the 1950s, A Gleam was a renowned filly. Saturday, one filly or mare will honor her name by winning the 56th running of the A Gleam Invitational Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint that sends the winner into the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Last year's winner Sweet August Moon came in fifth in the November Breeders' Cup event, losing to Dubai Majesty.

This week's races to watch

Friday Night Lights racing fans will want to check out this card at Penn National. The highlight is the Day Lilly Stakes ($75,000) sprint for 3-year-olds and up. PENN NATIONAL LIVE VIDEO

Friday also means Happy Hour here at DRF, with Brad Thomas, Kenny Peck, Brad Free, and Steve Andersen giving you picks from Monmouth Park, Hollywood Park, and the biggest races of the day around the country.

Another spot in the Breeders' Cup will be available at Hollywood Park in the A Gleam Handicap (see above). Ultra Blend is among the 12 nominations. The winner will qualify for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Hollywood Park Saturday Stakes
Race Grade Purse Conditions
 American Oaks 1 $250K  3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles (turf)
 A Gleam Handicap 2 $200K  3-year-olds and up, 7 furlongs
 Landaluce Stakes -- $100K  2-year-olds, 6 furlongs
 Turkish Trousers Stakes -- $77K  3-year-olds, 7 furlongs

Colonial Downs in Virginia also is getting into the night-time racing trend, with most of the Virginia Derby race card starting after 5 p.m. ET for the first time.

Monmouth Park will feature a couple of stakes races as well: the $75,000 Serena's Song route for 3-year-olds and the $65,000 Klassy Briefcase turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up.

In harness racing, Saturday night brings the Meadowlands' signature pacing event, the $1 Meadowlands Pace, along with a $150,000 guaranteed pick four.

Get a head start on the 2012 Kentucky Derby watch with the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes for 2-year-olds at Hollywood Park. Other major races for the day include the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, the $150,000 Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Sunset Handicap, also at Hollywood. On the East Coast, the $65,000 Spruce Fir Handicap for 3-year-olds is the biggest Monmouth Park offering of the day.