Before she even crossed the finish line as the winner of Saturday’s Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace was being pelted with shouts from the rail:
“Go to the Classic!"
By beating a field of males considered the top contenders in this year’s older horse division, Havre de Grace stamped herself as a viable candidate for Horse of the Year. To achieve that goal, she’d need to prove herself in the sport’s crowning race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Havre de Grace’s owner, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm, has said he’s considering both the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic - held Friday, Nov. 4 at 1 1/8-miles - and also the Classic for his daughter of St. Liam. While she’s won twice at 1 1/8-miles and is dominant at 1 1/16-miles, Havre de Grace has never won at the Classic distance of 1 ¼-miles, and trainer Larry Jones has expressed concern about the challenge that poses.
Another looming threat is Havre de Grace’s arch nemesis -a chestnut filly named Blind Luck whose trademark late run in the stretch has resulted in several close finishes between the two in the burgeoning rivalry. Most recently, Blind Luck nipped Havre de Grace by a nose at the wire in the Delaware Handicap, a 1 ¼-mile test.
Blind Luck is currently training in California with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who so far has indicated he prefers the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic for his 4-year-old daughter of Pollard’s Vision.
It’s still uncertain if the rivalry will reach the distinguished stage of the Classic, but fans are already crossing their fingers for a brilliant battle with the year’s top honor on the line.
Photo: J.J. Hysell