Just like the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders' Cup, which will again take place at Churchill Downs this year, has a series of prep races. Between now and November, we'll take a look at some of the Breeders' Cup contenders as they compete in the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win & You're In" series. The series guarantees a spot in the corresponding championship race.
This week, we'll analyze Saturday's Grade 2 $750,000 Delaware Handicap. This is a 'Win & You're In' challenge race guaranteeing the winning filly or mare a spot in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.
The Delaware Handicap drew a short field of five fillies and mares, but includes the top older females Havre de Grace, Blind Luck, and Life At Ten.
Life At Ten, the 5-1 third choice in the field, is making her fourth start since last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic debacle when she was eased after a sluggish start. Her performance, combined with jockey John Velazquez's pre-race comments that she wasn't warming up like she normally did, resulted in a lengthy ongoing investigation that included a $10,000 fine against Velazquez.
In two of the three starts Life At Ten has made this year, Velazquez was aboard. Jockey Cornelio Velasquez was aboard in her last start, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, and Jockey David Cohen will take the mount Saturday. Life At Ten has struggled to regain the success she found last year when she won five of seven starts. She remains winless this year, with a second place finish in her 2011 debut being her best performance. She turned in a nice work earlier in the week, but needs more than that to top this field.
Blind Luck, who finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, is coming off a win in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. She has won or placed in all five of her starts this year. In her win in the La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day, she finished in front of Breeders' Cup champion Unrivaled Belle. Blind Luck, with Garret Gomez in the irons, is the 7-5 second choice in Saturday's field.
Havre de Grace has been installed as the 4-5 favorite in Saturday's Delaware Handicap. She is undefeated in three starts this year, which include the Grade 3 Azeri, Grade 1 Apple Blossom, and the Grade 3 Obeah Stakes. The latter was run over the Delaware track. Havre de Grace turned in a bullet work last week, going five furlongs in a swift :57.80. She turned in an identical work prior to her win in the Obeah Stakes. Ramon Dominguez will ride.
The remainder of the field includes 20-1 Thundering Emilia from South America and 20-1 Love's Blush. Thundering Emilia is trained by Michael Matz, best known as the trainer of Barbaro.
Blind Luck and Havre de Grace have finished in front or behind the other in several starts, including the 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic in which Blind Luck finished in second, one length in front of Havre de Grace. Who will cross the finish first in Saturday's meeting? In a short field with two top contenders at this caliber, this may not be a race worth wagering, but will definitely be one worth watching.
The race is the 10th on Delaware Park's Saturday card and can be seen live on TVG. We'll recap the race on Monday.
Photo: Courtesy Breeders' Cup