Del Cap One for the Ages and the Rages

First off, let me set the record straight. I love Blind Luck; have since last spring, and have made my feelings about her known several times. She is a rare link to the past; bringing back memories of the sport in its glory days and the amazing feats a great Thoroughbred was capable of. No, change that. Not even the Thoroughbreds of the past performed the feats Blind Luck has. From her pedigree (by a $10,000 stallion who is blind in his right eye) to her sales ring history ($11,000 yearling purchase and a $10,000 RNA as a 2-year-old)) to her career debut for a claiming tag going 4 1/2 furlongs at Calder, she definitely is one of the great overachievers in racing history.

This is not a reflection on her in any way and most definitely is not meant to detract from her gutsy, heart-pounding victory over her arch rival Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap. When a battle between racing’s two Titans not only lives up to its billing, but surpasses it, it is an event to be remembered for years to come.

But the bottom line is, there are two people who are responsible in a large way for this race taking place, and they made it happen at what they and others claim was their own expense. And boy do they regret it now. But more on that later.

The mind games preceding the weight assignments for Blind Luck and Havre de Grace began when Blind Luck’s trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, was quoted in the Daily Racing Form saying he would not come if Blind Luck received fewer than two pounds from Havre de Grace. This way, Hollendorfer was able to give an ultimatum to Delaware Park indirectly. No one can blame him for trying to get an advantage as the visiting team, especially after the way he has managed his filly’s career – a career that is unprecedented in the sport’s history. After all, who has even come remotely close to sending a filly, or any horse, on nine cross-country trips in 15 months, taking on all comers on their home track at all distances and giving away weight? And how many times was she, as a stone closer, at a major disadvantage competing in four, five, and six- horse fields? The answer is nine times; five of them in five-horse fields. But they came anyway.

Here is a filly who has traveled an amazing 36,000 miles in the aforementioned 15 months, has run a total of 21 times, and has finished first or second in 19 of them and has never finished out of the money. In all, she has competed at nine different racetracks in seven states at distances from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles.

So, when it comes to Blind Luck and Jerry Hollendorfer, we have nothing but the utmost praise and admiration. 

Hollendorfer got his point across and sure enough, when the weights for the Delaware Handicap were announced, there was Blind Luck getting two pounds from Havre de Grace.

There, of course, is no way of knowing for certain if those two pounds meant the different between victory and defeat in a finish that saw both these great fillies finish inches apart for the fourth time in their six confrontations. But even Blind Luck’s jockey, Garrett Gomez, felt it there was a good chance it did.

Was the two pounds justified? You can decide for yourself. Yes, the race was at Havre de Grace’s home track, but it was at Delaware Park last year that Blind Luck defeated Havre de Grace in the Delaware Oaks by a nose, giving her six pounds. And it is the consensus opinion that the 1 1/4 miles of the Delaware Handicap slightly favored Blind Luck and may very well have evened out any home court advantage Havre de Grace had, if any. After all, Blind Luck has now won six of the nine races to which she traveled cross-country, while winning only five of the 11 starts she made at home in California.

After defeating Havre de Grace by a neck in last year’s Alabama Stakes at 1 1/4 miles at equal weights, Blind Luck shipped back east to Philly Park for the Cotillion, dropped back in distance to 1 1/16 miles, and was beaten a diminishing neck by Havre de Grace, while giving her 10 pounds. Sending her for that race, in which she was at such a huge disadvantage, had to be one of the great sporting gestures seen in years. But the fact is, the Delaware Handicap, at a much more suitable distance for Blind Luck, represented a 12-pound weight shift from that race.

Some other facts of relevance going into the Delaware Handicap: Blind Luck had won six grade I stakes, while Havre de Grace had won one. Blind Luck had finished ahead of Havre de Grace in three of their five meetings.

Havre de Grace, by being assigned 124 pounds, was picking up one pound off a grade III victory, while Blind Luck, with 122, was dropping one pound off a grade I victory…and against the likes of Switch, Miss Match, and St. Trinians.
One case that can be made for the two-pound spread was the fact that in their last meeting, Havre de Grace had soundly defeated Blind Luck by 3 1/4 lengths in the grade III Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park at equal weights. But that race was at 1 1/16 miles, compared to the 1 1/4 miles of the Delaware Handicap. Blind Luck went into that race off four consecutive losses (including two sound defeats at the hands of Always a Princess), and then won her two subsequent starts leading up to the Delaware Handicap, defeating last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle in the La Troienne Stakes, despite stumbling badly at the start; and then winning the grade I Vanity Handicap, defeating grade I winners Switch and Miss Match; and last year’s Santa Anita Handicap favorite St. Trinians, who like Switch, came close to upsetting Horse of the Year Zenyatta last year. So, this was a far different Blind Luck than the one Havre de Grace defeated in the Azeri. This was the Blind Luck of last year.

Was it the actual two pounds that caused the controversy or was it the "coincidence" of the assignment in light of Hollendorfer's comments? From a racing secretary's standpoint, it was Pat Pope's job to get these two fillies to the wire on even terms, and he nearly pulled it off. But then there is the question of the head bob and the two pounds. Would the bob have gone the other way at equal weights or Blind Luck getting one pound instead of two? That obviously is pure speculation. But one can understand Porter and Jones being upset over the assignment, just as Hollendorfer would have been upset over anything less. Trainers have been trying to get weight knocked off their horse for as long as they've run handicaps. Hollendorfer just beat Havre de Grace's trainer Larry Jones to the punch by setting his own terms.

Pope, however, said he was not aware of those terms.

" I have no idea where that came," he said. "Mr. Hollendorfer never said that to me and I never read his comment in the Racing Form. I told Mr. Hollendorfer the morning the weights came out that they would not be equal weights and that there would be a two-pound spread. I just wasn't sure of the actual weights. If I could handicap every race that I'm involved with in racing and I could get two of the best horses in America to go a mile and a quarter and finish less than four or five inches apart, gosh, I would be happy every single time. It's the handicapper's job to get them to the wire in a dead-heat, and if you can't get a dead-heat, get them there as close as you can. This is what the sport is about; to get the best to run and excite the people. In fact, at the sixteenth pole, it looked like Havre de Grace put her nose back in front. I weighted the race on current form and what they've done this year."

But when the weights were announced, Havre de Grace’s owner, Rick Porter, and Jones were incensed and even threatened to pull out of the race and wait for the Ruffian Handicap at Saratoga. It was not only the two pounds, but their belief that Delaware officials did whatever they had to in order to get Blind Luck, and that included selling them out.

“Larry and I are on the verge of not running,” Porter said after learning of the weight assignments. “It is ridiculous. This is the maddest I’ve been since I have been in horse racing.”

After cooling down, Porter decided to run anyway, feeling Havre de Grace could still beat Blind Luck, and this was the showdown everyone in racing was clamoring for, especially in a year devoid of any major star attractions. So, he bit the bullet, as they say, and entered Havre de Grace, knowing he would regret the decision if his filly should come up on the short end of a desperately close finish.

Regret it he did. “Larry and I talked this morning as well as last night, and we both agreed we should have stayed with our first reaction,” Porter said the morning after the race. “We were used so they could agree to Hollendorfer’s demand. What would have happened if I had gone to them and said I wouldn’t run Havre de Grace unless the weights were equal? Then they would have had a tough decision to make. We were stupid. We learned our lesson, but too late. We felt we could beat her anyway, but we shouldn’t have run on principle.”

Jones was even more direct. “Give it up to the racing secretary,” he was quoted on Delawareonline. “He got what he wanted. It stinks that we had to lose because of two pounds. It’s just not right. (Blind Luck) has won six grade I races, and we’ve won only one, and we end up the high weight. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.”

Hollendorfer admitted he would not have run had it not been for the two pounds. As for the difference they may have made, he said. “I’d rather have the two pounds than not, let’s put it like that. I mean, Havre de Grace was rated the No. 1 filly coming in here, and we’re coming into her home track, so they gave us a couple pounds.”

Blind Luck’s rider, Garrett Gomez, was more definitive.

“You’re talking half a head,” he said in the same article. “Two pounds -- a lot of people don’t think it’s much, but when you start going a mile and a quarter, two pounds can mean a lot. These fillies are so closely matched. You think about those two pounds.”

Jones welcomes another showdown between these two remarkable fillies, but under one condition.

“If we’re going to race again, the weights have to be even or else we won’t do it,” he said in the article. “We’re not going to give any weight. If they’re the two best horses in the country, then they should race at even weight. Then we’ll see who the best horse really is.”

So, no matter how bitter Porter and Jones are over the weights, the outcome, or their decision to run, you have to give them credit for running, even though their first instinct was to skip the race and go to the Ruffian. Porter put his outrage aside and ran his filly, despite feeling he had been used and betrayed by the very racetrack he had supported by running Havre de Grace there six times and the track that his filly called home.

This controversy should in no way detract from what was an epic battle between two extraordinary fillies, both of whom had every shot to win. How many times have we seen Blind Luck apparently on the verge of defeat, almost to the point where she looked as if she were hanging, only to manage to stick her head in front right on the wire? It is uncanny how she knows exactly when to get that head down.

And as for the numbers crunching, what about Blind Luck coming home her final quarter in :24 1/5 in a mile and a quarter race, following a :24 flat quarter and a :23 4/5 quarter before that. And Havre de Grace’s final quarter in :24 2/5 wasn’t exactly chopped liver, as the two fillies finished a staggering 18 1/2 lengths ahead of last year’s Delaware Handicap winner Life At Ten.

Blind Luck, the $11,000 yearling and 2-year-old sale reject by a $10,000 stallion who was tough as nails as a racehorse, and Havre de Grace, the $380,000 yearling by a $50,000 stallion, have now finished in the money in all 33 of their starts, with 18 wins and 11 seconds.

They have met six times (now that is what you call a rivalry), and other than the 3 1/4-length margin of the Azeri, they have been separated by a nose, a nose, a neck, a neck, and one length.

It will be very interesting to see what paths each one takes. There is the Pacific Classic against the boys over the Del Mar Polytrack (no way they’ll meet there), the 10-furlong Personal Ensign at Saratoga (how big a race would that be?), and, of course, either the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic or the, uh, real Classic the following day. Either one could decide Horse of the Year. By then, these two pounds will seem insignificant.

Both these fillies have come from totally different worlds, but as Thoroughbred racing has shown time again, it doesn’t matter where a horse comes from. In the beginning, a horse is judged by the size of the bankroll it might one day accumulate, as perceived by buyers and other horsemen. But there comes a time on the racetrack when a horse is judged only by its talent, its heart, and its will to win. What happened on the farm, in the sales ring, and in baby races no longer have any meaning. When eyeballs meet and spirits clash there is no past.

Once in a while, two horses will cross paths who possess the same talent, the same heart, and the same will to win. But only on a rare occasion will you find two such horses cross paths six times.

We never got to see Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra cross paths even once. So, this rivalry between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace must be embraced, supported, and treasured by the entire racing community, whose responsibility it is to bring these two warriors and their epic conflicts to the attention of the American public.

Enough of Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. Who can resist Xena vs. Wonder Woman? By the time the Breeders’ Cup rolls around, the names of Blind Luck and Havre de Grace should be entrenched in the minds of people all over the country. It is up to us to make that happen.


Leave a Comment:


I thought the Delaware Handicap was an epic battle, a treasure, what horse racing fans live for.  Havre de Grace loses nothing in defeat, though I understand in the long run when one gets around to talking about championships she could.

Honestly, they should have been at even weight.  But given HDG's resounding defeat of Blind Luck in their previous meeting this year it doesn't seem like a big stretch to give up two pounds. Even the betting public thought HDG was the better horse.

On top of that, Blind Luck is a smaller filly than her rival. Am I really suppposed to believe that 2 lbs on a bigger frame is that much of a handicap?

Blind Luck and Havre de Grace have salvaged what at best has been a disappointing year in American racing.  I want to thank the connections of both of these great horses for running them, and risking the losses that are inevitable when one isn't dodging the competition.

17 Jul 2011 10:19 PM

Wow I did not realize that Jerry brought Blind Luck here with the weight being an issue can't help but feel for the Grace team ..seems that their home track could have worked out a better deal ..I would feel betrayed too.thank you for writing this article ..these two horses are the biggest thing in racing right now and! Ihope we do see more match ups. I have been following the Fhf horses for years and never heard Larry Jones ever complain about things like this ..

17 Jul 2011 10:35 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

These two fillies are the closest thing we have to the Affirmed vs. Alydar rivalry and I am thrilled to see every race they run!

Blind Luck has been special to me since she came to CA. What a gutsy, hard trying little thing she is. Making her come from behind Zenyatta-like finishes that almost stop your heart. Blind Luck is always thilling, even in defeat. Maybe even more so because you don't know how the race is going to play out. She doesn't win or usually get beat by much. That's not her style. How could I not adore that?

Havre de Grace... WOW, what a filly! She always runs huge. Right now I think she should be Horse of the Year for 2011.

17 Jul 2011 10:52 PM

Sorry, but it sounds like sour grapes to me. Maybe the two pounds had something to do with Blind Luck winning, maybe not. Both horses ran sensational. The comment made by Larry Jones "Then we'll see who the best horse really is" is disappointing to me. I really liked Larry Jones before I read that comment. Good thing his horse has some "Grace". I don't see any coming from his side.

17 Jul 2011 11:26 PM

Havre De Grace was made the 7-10 favorite by the general public and handicappers alike. Despite the distance and any past defeats at the hands of her rival. She also thoroughly dominated Blind Luck in the Azeri on a neutral field in the dead-center of America. Sending Blind Luck scurrying away from Arkansas avoiding a rematch in the Apple Blossom. This was an upset according to just about everyone even Havre De Grace's owners and trainer who thought she would win anyway. The race was a handicap, which is supposed to provide a closer finish and a better betting race than it would be otherwise. So it came down to the hearts of the horses and strength of the riders, which we all know were in the favor of the winner here. The Blind Luck of last year might have shown up here, but Havre De Grace was supposedly better this year, and has a trainer who sent her out to dominate Blind Luck in her first start for him. Blind Luck has spotted a combined 14 lbs. to Havre De Grace in their six meetings, it was about time she was given some weight for all her courage. Tell Rick Porter to send his filly to California and she can have 2 lbs. from Blind Luck and I bet he stays put. They are sore losers and they now know, if they didn't already, that Havre De Grace for the second year in a row must play second fiddle to Blind Luck. I bet they would have loved if Havre De Grace defeated last year's Delaware Handicap winner by 18 lengths and started up comparisons to Rachel Alexandra in how she can dominate overmatched fields so thoroughly. Or maybe she could have avoided a race worth plenty of money at her home track because they were scared, and Blind Luck would have scored a measured 2 length win over so-so competition.

This discussion is pointless, these owners lack sportsmanship and probably decided to run so they could either win, or complain about the weights if they lost. Running in races that people don't want to see will continue the downturn of horse racing. Zenyatta never got to run against to Rachel Alexandra because of that reason, let's no let it continue. Because Rick Porter actually ran his horse unlike the late Jess Jackson who chose not to, we get to talk about this race for a long time instead of what could have been.

This whole deal reminds me of Mr. Porter's decision to send Rockport Harbor to Kentucky after the Rebel avoiding Afleet Alex, and then marking him finishing in front of that one in the Rebel as some sort of triumph.

I have no doubt that if they race six more times Havre De Grace will have her share of victories against Blind Luck but that's only if they race. I'm sure Havre De Grace could also go undfeated for the rest of her career if she starts avoiding the likes of Blind Luck. They are very evenly matched, despite being very different. So it would be good for the sport to see this rivalry play out like it should, on the track and not in the paper.

17 Jul 2011 11:49 PM

One of the great things about the Blind Luck/Havre de Grace rivalry is that each time one or the other has won, there have been legitimate questions -- weight, distance, whatever -- that lead you to just want another race to see more, to try to figure out who's really best.  Neither loses any respect when the other wins.  (I've loved BL from the beginning, but over the past few months have gotten so crazy about HDG that it's getting to the point that I feel like I've won, whichever one of them gets across the line first.)

While I understand Jones and Porter's bitterness and feeling of betrayal, I applaud them for running their filly.  To be a real champion, you can't back away; you have to go looking for the big competition.  You have to travel, and both these fillies have.  Neither has ever backed down.  A perfect record is not really what it is all about -- as these fillies are proving, losing here or there does not tarnish the record of a great horse.    

All that said, I think they should run at equal weight next time.  We may find that BL won't get by HDG at a mile and sixteenth and HDG won't hold off BL at a mile a quarter.  Or maybe one will finally triumph . . . Brava to both camps.

18 Jul 2011 12:21 AM

It's too bad that the fillies/mares are not as celebrated as their male counterparts. In the last ten years we have been witness to greatness in mares: Quija Board, Goldikova, Zenyatta, Zarkava...Thank you for the great article about two great more racing mares.

18 Jul 2011 12:27 AM

The comparison of the rivalry to Blind Luck and Havre de Grace to Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta is a tempting one, but I believe an inaccurate one.

The difference is that these horses are both 4-year-olds.  With Rachel 3 during her knockout season and Zenyatta older, their schedules never really matched (RA started her campaign at the beginning of the year, while Z began hers in four or five months farther on; they peaked at different times).  After that killer year of RA's, to have held her in training and raced at the end of the year against a fresh Z would not have proven anything.

I do agree that a match-up the following year would have worked fine, once RA was back in shape.  To hustle her into it early against competition like Zenyatta was madness on Jackson's part, as he realized.  Later, as we all saw, it became apparent that that hard 3-year-old year had taken all she had give.  Again, it would be pointless to race them against each other.  It only means something if we see them when they are both if not at their best, then near it.  It can be said that the owners avoided each other (Z could have come east for the Woodward), but that's reaching.  The flat fact was that the timing was just not right during the season that mattered.

One of the many great things about Blind Luck and Havre de Grace is that they are well matched and in good form now.  Each race is breathtaking.  While I will understand if the connections of each decide to dodge the other, I hope they don't.  Racing needs a great rivalry like that, and the owners and trainers' sportsmanship in giving it to us would be much appreciated.

18 Jul 2011 12:37 AM

As usual, Steve, it was an excellent article.  The race was unbelievable; two great horses, great desire to win, and tremendous heart.  It was an exciting race, and I am sorry that the owners and trainer of Harve De Grace were unhappy about the weight issue.  They have the right to complain if they are not happy as that is our fundamental right as Americans.  I hope that these amazing horses will race together again.  I don't like the idea of "match races"-it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for some reason.  Again, thanks for a great and enlightening read.

18 Jul 2011 12:43 AM
Aaron McC

This whole debate is just strange.  If I'm not mistaken, the job of the handicapper is to try to assign weights such that horses are equalized, each horse in the race running the same time, finishing in a line across the track.  In my book, if the weights had any effect, then the handicapper, at least for Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, was exactly right, since they finished a nostril apart at the line (maybe they both should have carried about ten pounds more, actually, since Life at Ten was 18 lengths back).

But reducing a race to weight assignments is silly -  handicapping a race by weight isnt a science.  There are so many other factors that influence a races outcome.  Larry Jones, Im sure, knows that.  His comments, I think, are just well-meant and strategic trash talking in support of his filly as he thinks about the races she'll run in the future and her possible weight assignments.  

More importantly, what a great race.   Absolutely the race of the year so far and probably one of the all time great stretch duels.  

18 Jul 2011 1:17 AM
El Chico

@TC: Thanks, you've said pretty much what I was thinking, so I don't have a lot to add.  I'm glad both sides took a risk on this race, but unfortunately, I think we are in for a replay of the Zenyatta and Rachel show from here on out.  Can you imagine if Citation's peeps had packed it in when he started losing against Noor during Citation's 5 year old season?  We would be missing a beautiful chunk of racing history, that's what.  Sigh.

18 Jul 2011 1:51 AM
The Deacon

Steve, excellent article and assessment of the two connections. Both mares are simply awesome, as you said throwbacks to racings glory days. I have a special place in my heart for Blind Luck. You are right, she is very special. I would say after Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Azeri she might be the best mare we have seen in a long time. I would also mention Rags to Riches in that group.

I sure hope that the connections don't spoil this rivalry, horse racing as a whole is the true winner here. Watching these two compete is breath taking. Watched the race several times, still brings chills up my spine.

As Sigmund Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and two pounds can make the difference between winning and losing. If Zenyatta would have been in that race Saturday she probably would have been assigned 130 pounds.

Thanks again for sharing............

18 Jul 2011 1:58 AM

Ok, my guru Steve, I need a little help to explain this weight business to me. I'm a novice, so forgive me if I sound totally stupid, but, when we talk about 2 pounds between two seasoned horses, and then discuss St.Trinians nearly besting Zenyatta, I'm sorry folks, I just don't think that is a fair comparison.  Zenyatta in the 2009 and the 2010 Vanity carried some REAL weight:  129 POUNDS!!!!  Heck, what horses nowadays carry that kind of weight?  And, she gave St. Trinians 9 POUNDS! That it was a close race I can understand that the weight probably did make a difference. But Zenyatta carried the day anyway. I just have a hard time believing 2 little ole pounds on a 1,000 pound horse would make much of a difference. I have a deep and abiding respect for and think highly of you, Steve, and of Garrett Gomez, but as a little ole beginner out here looking at this, if Havre de Grace couldn't get up on her own turf to keep her nose in front going all out at the wire like they were, I fail to see that 2 pounds could be considered the difference. (And isn't Blind Luck a little bitty thing, barely 15 hands?) In any event, the next time these two meet, they should be allowed to race with equal weight. They are about as evenly matched as we are ever likely to see.

Nevertheless, Blind Luck, as you have elaborated on her accomplishments, is hands down the horse of the year. I admire greatly BL's connections at stating flatly they intend to keep her on the track next year! Wow!  How great is this for the sport! A la Zenyatta! It's my understanding they don't intend to point her to the Classic, although it is not out of the question.  They don't want to "use her up", they said, since they do want to keep her racing another year. Gee, I sure hope they don't get criticized like Zenyatta's connections did for not running her more against the males!  

I am prepared to be taught something about this so-called "weight controversy", and will be eagerly awaiting further commentary. Also, I do concede that it must have meant something, or, BL's trainer would not have thrown down the gauntlet and flatly stated he wanted at least 2 pounds. But really, guys, I think it amounts to a tempest in a teapot! Don't you think it was more a psychological ploy on the part of BL's trainer rather than a big physical advantage?  Reminds me a little bit of the Seabiscuit/ War Admiral discussions about the conditions for that race! In the end, didn't mean a thing once those horses got on the track!


18 Jul 2011 3:46 AM

P.S. Reminds me a little bit of the so-called ill-bred Sunday Silence and the aristocrat Easy Goer! West Coast/East Coast..another nice rivalry!

18 Jul 2011 4:04 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on a great race.  I was truly impressed with that stretch run.  When the articles began to appear on the various websites and I read more about the times these two fillies previously met I realized just what a great rivalry this is.

I hope that the rages are kept to a minimum.

It was a great race, and the weights they carried are those that were assigned.  That's handicapping.  Havre De Grace's connections should take a professional approach to this issue and leave it alone.  That's handicapping.

I love to read the fan comments comparing the merits of one filly against the other.  Clearly, they are both exceptional fillies and everyone is entitled to their point of view.  Once the race is on paper it is over until they meet again.  Both of these Thoroughbreds are champions.  

I appeal to those who are inclined to argue the merits of the previous match ups and speculate for the future to keep in mind that these forums are permanent electronic records.  I look forward to reading intelligent well thought out comments, and beg of my fellow fans to refrain from making it personal.  It is about two great fillies and a rivalry that is great for racing.  Even if the two never meet again what matters is that we were treated to a thrilling duel.  : )

18 Jul 2011 6:41 AM

Seems to me that Rick Porter, and Larry Jones have short memories. In the Cotillion at Philly Park, Havre De Grace was getting 10 lbs. from Blind Luck, and racing at a distance not suited for Blind Luck. Yet, the Blind Luck team raced anyway. I congratulate Jerry Hellendorfer for his classy, and professional handling of his filly. I love this rivalry!!!

18 Jul 2011 7:48 AM
Fran Loszynski

Reading this article Steve reminds me of the remnants of articles about Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Can you imagine Blind Luck has already won over 3 million!  

Congrats to Bizzy Caroline for the awesome race she ran in the American Oaks. She held on to second for the whole race and almost won. What a champion.

18 Jul 2011 7:57 AM

Regardless of the weight controversy, I became a Havre de Grace fan after this race. Blind Luck looked like she was going to sweep past her when they entered the stretch, but Havre de Grace dug down like a champion. Like Seattle Slew in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Havre de Grace lost nothing in defeat and helped elevate herself and the sport.

18 Jul 2011 8:06 AM
Steve Haskin

I have added quotes from Pat Pope giving his side of the story.

18 Jul 2011 8:32 AM

Regardless of all the squabbling about weight assignments this was easily the best race of the year so far. Two terrific fillies renewing a rivalry - that is what racing should be about. As the race announcer stated, there are no losers in a race like this. Everyone knew that this season would not match the excitement generated by Zenyatta last year but Blind Luck and Havre de Grace have certainly done their part to thrill us race fans. Both are deserving champions and nothing is gained by trying to discredit either one.

18 Jul 2011 8:35 AM

This rivalry reminds me of AFFIRMED AND ALYDAR.

18 Jul 2011 9:29 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

It's not carrying the two pounds more for Havre that was the problem it was the way they added the two pounds and she ate them too close to race time so she had to run with indigestion from eating eight quarter pounders with cheese. I got an upset stomach last time I ate just one of those burgers. I was a little surprised when I saw the weights(thinking they would be equal between the two) but I'm even more surprised at the controversy. Maybe I'm not paying attention but I never heard of just two pounds being controversial before, and I never heard anyone say before that two pounds would be the difference between winning and losing. This whole controversy is a bit shocking and detracts from one of the greatest races of all time. Phenominal race. The kind that we all dream about between two great champions. The most surprising thing about the race to me was how low the odds were for Life At Ten who has not wanted to finish since they ran her sick and appeared to have no chance against these two fabulous fillies. She should be retired. I love Blind Luck, and I've grown to have a tremendous amount of respect for Havre. I hope the rivalry, one of the greatest of all time, continues. Put the squabbling aside, give them equal weights and enjoy the show.

18 Jul 2011 10:15 AM
Ida Lee

This was one of the best races ever. I was screaming so much my husband thought I was going to have a heart attack!! What two incredible mares we have in Blind Luck and Havre. Although BL is my special girl, you can't take anything away from Havre. This is one beautiful and talented mare. I adore them both and wish nothing but the best for them and their connections. What a show they put on!!!!

18 Jul 2011 10:21 AM
calico cat

Mr. Haskin,

Much ado about two pounds, that's all I have to say on the subject. I choose to ignore the made up controversy and concentrate on the thrill these two great fillies gave us in the stretch run of the year. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace did not disappoint. They gave us everything they have.

As you point out in your article, they are so different in so many ways, yet they both have the heart of a champion. I'm grateful beyond words for both fillies and their super effort in the Del Cap. It was everything I anticipated and more, much, much more.

If the result was reversed, would the race be any less than it was? Not in my books! Bravo Blind Luck! Bravo Havre de Grace! What a gift you both are to the horse racing world!

18 Jul 2011 10:28 AM

My feelings more closely align with TC.  HdG came into the race as the leader of her division, the leader in the NTRA poll (which I think is ridiculous but it's published so someone must think it relevant), was undefeated this year, had beaten BL this year and was the post-time favorite. On paper at least, two pounds seems unrealistic and certainly not worth all this fuss.

How many handicaps are left for either one of them that the weight situation will become an issue? As someone else said, no one was complaing when BL carried 10 pounds more and still won.

I read that the Personal Ensign is the most likely race for Blind Luck.  I'd think that might be the best race for Havre de Grace too.  They've met there before.  Let's to it again in about 6 weeks and stop the grousing.  The DelCap was a great race.  Each one looked a winner until the other came back; they traded the lead at least once in the stretch.  What's not to love.

It's too bad humans have to get in the way of a good rivalry.  I hope this doesn't mean they will start avoiding each other.  

18 Jul 2011 10:40 AM
Abigail Anderson


I really appreciated the "insider's" view of the Blind Luck-Havre de Grace match-up. Unlike some of your other commentators, I can understand how the 2 lbs. might have made the difference between two such evenly-matched fillies. I understand the handicapping principle but it did come as a surprise that track handicappers could be "wooed" into making a race look attractive to a particular owner. I would like to know: what was the weight distribution between Personal Ensign & Winning Colours in the Breeders Cup? What was it for Affirmed & Alydar? (I tend to think that an uneven weighting for fillies like these two carries greater implications than for colts, given the size-weight differences. Am I right about that?)

18 Jul 2011 10:53 AM

Congratulations to all the connections of this two oustanding fillys.What a thrill it was to watch perform this two outstanding fillies.It really is a shame that one of them has to be on the losing end.We need more races like this.

18 Jul 2011 10:56 AM
Karen in Texas

Another wonderful article and presentation of facts and opinions, Steve. I liked Gomez's comment that two pounds might be significant because of the distance, but really, it was a well-matched race. Blind Luck's closing style, with her flying tail, is so compelling! That battle through the stretch reminded me of Flanders and Serena's Song in the '94 BC Juvenile Fillies--I actually felt physically involved by the time they reached the finish line!

18 Jul 2011 11:25 AM
Steve Haskin

Zookeeper, I have no way of knowing whether the two pounds had any bearing on the result, but if you have followed handicap racing over the years it is not much ado about two pounds. If you believe in the concept of handicaps and weights, then who's to say Havre de Grace wouldn't have won by five inches had they carried equal weight or separated by one pound or two. Whether or not you agree with Jones and Porter, they had every right to be upset, just as a batter in baseball gets upset over a pitch that the umpire calls a strike and he feels is a ball, even though the difference is only an inch or two either way. Every trainer wants to take whatever advantage he can and doesnt want to give away any advantage when the outcome is decided by inches. I can assure you a trainer like Bobby Frankel would not have run in the same situation. I've seen Frankel withdraw his horse on principle over a pound or equal weights.

18 Jul 2011 11:42 AM

People ask me why, since I'm generally a cheapskate, why I have satellite tv.  This is one of the reasons why - so I can pick up races here and abroad.

What a race, and what a wonderful picture actually posted on (go to "other sports" to find horse racing.......sigh) that shows Blink Luck and Harve de Grace within a stride or 2 of the wire, and Blind Luck's head is still up.

What a pair - and to outdistance the pack, including Life at Ten by 18?  And finished in 2:01 (and 28 hundredths)!

[and, yes, horses and tracks and conditions are different, but BY TIME ALONE, in the Kentucky Derby in this century, I think these fillies would have finished in front of 8 winners.  And since this year's time was 2:02.04, they'd have been clear by daylight.)

I think the handicapper did a heck of a job.  Did 2 pounds matter?  I wonder if it really did.  These 2 fillies know each other, and when they lock horns and start to run their own race, do they care who is on their back?  Do they care about weight?

It would be fun to see them at this distance at equal weights at a neutral track.  Heck - it would be fun to see them run anywhere, anytime under any conditions!

Congratulations to them and ALL their connections.  Great victories are made from great opponents, may they both stay happy and healthy!

18 Jul 2011 11:45 AM
Steve Haskin

With that said, I am not a believer in handicaps, period, It is an outdated concept, originated to give the bettor a chance to beat a big favorite and provide him with an incentive to bet the race. But that was before exactas, trifectas, superfectas, daily doubles, quinellas, pick 3's 4's and 6's, and any other wagers designed to give the bettor a way of making money on a race, whether there is a big favorite or not.

18 Jul 2011 11:47 AM

Jones and Porter are out of line.  The last time they raced against each other, in the Azeri at Oaklawn Park, the two ran at equal weights, and Havre de Grace won by 3 1/4 lengths.  The next race was a HANDICAP: what did they expect?

I do not recall Hollendorfer being so bitter when his filly spotted Havre de Grace 10 pounds last October in the Cotillion.

18 Jul 2011 11:49 AM
Ida Lee

I love Larry Jones. No one is better with fillies/mares. But it would have been a shame not to race Havre because of the 2-pounds. A race like this does so much good for the sport and in my opinion, Havre lost nothing in this race. She was great!!!! Just like Zenyatta was great in losing to Blame.  The only thing bothering me about the race was Life At Ten. Why is my beloved LAT being forced to race when she obviously is finish with it?? If something happens to her, I will never forgive her connections!!!

18 Jul 2011 12:05 PM

I have never understood why horse racing insists on weighing down it's brightest stars in order to try to make them the same as lesser horses. It's just like if NASCAR gave it's reigning champion a motor with less horsepower so that other teams could keep up. If you have a horse that's superior, let it run! Don't add tons of weight in order to make things equal! Racing fans love to see a superior horse run away from the competition. Didn't we all thrill to Secretariat's come from behind and leave them behind style? What if he'd had to carry "handicap weight" in his Belmont? Would we have the incredible memories we have now? I have never understood handicap racing. No other sport does this to it's stars. I don't want to see my favorite horse weighed down so that a lesser horse has a chance. To me, there is no sport in this at all. I understand how Havre de Grace's camp feels, but they made the decision to run and their filly's race should have made them proud. Perhaps it is time to do away with handicap type races altogether. That way, no one can use weights for excuses or threats not to show up.

18 Jul 2011 12:11 PM
Linda in Texas

Welcome back Steve, i know we all missed your comments. And now this article. You hit the high note on this one. But before i read all of it but after i read some of the comments, especially Dr. Drunkinbum's comment on the 2 quarter pounders Havre ate before the race, you just cannot ignore his comedic comments, i will say

that that race was awesome. Yes

Havre was ahead, but that bustin' butt little Blind Luck caught her

and when she saw Havre she knew exactly who and what she had to get up to and in front of. And she has now done it 4 times.

I posted on a guest commentor's blog that i watched all of the races on Saturday, and that was the best when it came to sheer competitiveness.

Mr. White, the announcer on HRTV later compared Blind Luck and Havre de Grace's races to previous races among other females including Personal Ensign's and said he thinks it will go down as the greatest rivalry in horse racing history. And Zoe agreed. He was totally pumped from that race.

So now i will go back and read your article, but i bet i already know the premise of your article.

And from an article written for Bloodhorse on Saturday that was posted describing the race,

Hollendorfer was quoted as stating Blind Luck was running with sore feet.

And also in the same article Mr. Jones' comment that it was the 2 pounds that allowed Blind Luck to win was unfortunate and totally does not fit Larry Jones' usual sportsmanship demeanor.

18 Jul 2011 12:12 PM

We have the great fortune of witnessing THE greatest filly/mare rivalry in the history of American racing.  Thanks to both conections of these talented fillies for not ducking each other.  I understand Jones and Porter's disappointment as their goal is a year end championship, but the year is not over yet. Although I'd prefer to see BL and HDG meet at equal weights, this was a handicap and the racing secretary did his job to have these two fillies finished together on the wire.

Alydar never won a championship, but you can't mention Affirmed without mentioning Alydar. He was a champion in every sense of the word.

18 Jul 2011 12:12 PM
Windy City

It was a really great race, you gotta love those two fillies! I really hope to see them against each other (and maybe some boys?) soon.

Anyone knows what happened with Fresian Fire? I thought he was pulled up but then I saw him cross the wire, probably about 20 lengths after the last horse...Is he ok?

18 Jul 2011 12:24 PM
Linda in Texas

Mr. Haskin, i read the article. I have no change in my posting.

Blind Luck was last, she got up and beat Havre de Grace slimly, but the photo tells which one hit the wire first, head bob or no.

Running on her home track gave Havre an immediate advantage. And your mention that the person who decided the 2 pound weight thing says he did not hear Hollendorfer's statement. I take him for his word.

Blind Luck won. She is a gutsy little filly/mare. And i love her massive heart to want to win. I always said about Zenyatta,

she knew where the wire was until the last race, when in the dark she missed it. This little filly knows where the wire is and i hope they never turn out the lights for her to lose.

Thanks Steve, i just am glad i am enough of an educated fan of horse racing that when i see something  truly great that i am not alone.

This article is fair to all sides.

18 Jul 2011 12:32 PM

I see both sides of the weight issue.  For Hollendorfer, a little concession on weight would have given him a little assurance that the track was acting as a neutral interest rather than trying to give a home field advantage.  I thought HDG was going to win anyway.  Epic battle!

18 Jul 2011 12:33 PM

BooHoo Larry Jones. Is this the same trainer who quit a few years ago? Why don't you bring your horse out to SoCal, get a few pounds and still get beat?

  This is just another example of East Coast bias. Virtually the only time anyone from the East ships West is for the Breeders Cup. Even then it is with lots of kicking and screaming. (Curlin, Sky Beauty, plus countless others.)

  Yor horse got beat in a great race, quit whining about two pounds please.

18 Jul 2011 12:44 PM
The Deacon

The weight issue in any major horse race is going to be controversal. Assigning weights for big races hasn't been a major issue of late it seems . Every so often it pops up though. If the connections for both horses agree before hand to the assigned weights then they should not complain once the race is over. It appears childish and gives the perception of sour grapes because someone lost. Whether you win or lose always be professional and courteous. Owners and trainers will gain much more respect that way.  Seabiscuit gave Stagehand 29 lbs in the Big Cap back in the day and lost by a nose. Do you think 29 may have made a difference. Citation gave Noor weight in their races as well. It's been this way since the beginning of time. Change the way things are done or quit complaining about it. We can argue until winter whether 2 lbs made that big a difference, truth is these 2 champion mares are so equal that the slighest inperfection could cost either one of them the race. Racing conditions determine the outcome as much as weight does.  People always have to find something to complain about. C'mon, are there any perfect conditions out there.

For me, I just want to enjoy these 2 mares and the special moments they are given us. We have so few champions in the sport these days, let's just sit back and enjoy the ones we have.............

18 Jul 2011 12:46 PM
Bill Two

Now, that is what horseracing is all about. It is certainly true this race will be talked about for quite some time and should be.  It is disappointing to hear whining from the losers, especially when Larry Jones admitted to HRTV that he didn't mind the advantage of taking on Blind Luck at his home track.  Prior to the race he seemed content with this advantage; nothing was said about the 2 lbs.  Conversely, Hollendorfer seems content to travel all over America with this remarkable filly taking on all comers.  I don't remember any cross words after her defeats at the hands of Havre de Grace. I don't want to dwell on this pettiness, but really Jones and Porter have nothing to complain about. Travel to California and take on Blind Luck at whichever track will write a race for you and then if you lose while spotting her 2 lbs. you might have something to complain about. Please.

18 Jul 2011 12:52 PM
Linda in Texas

First heard about Brown Bess on Saturday. No mention of her age at the time. However, reading about Bess today on, i see she was 29 and had colic.

But she had not had a foal for 9 years of those 29. So often i read of mares losing their lives due to the complications of foaling at 25 and thereabout. I feel for a mare to be bred after having a foal a year for many is not fair. The age range i feel is enough for a mare to give multiple year foals is 19 or 20. At least Brown Bess had several years to live foal free until her death and i so respect her owner for that. 15 hands high and 850 pounds, she was a small ball of fire for sure. May she rest in peace.

18 Jul 2011 12:57 PM
calico cat

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for your response (although I feel a bit chastised). I agree that Havre de Grace's connections have every right to feel and say whatever they want. However, I have the right to ignore them and focus my attention on their wonderful filly and the heart she showed in the Del Cap.

I loved and admired Bobby Frankel a great deal because he was an outstanding trainer, not because he fought and complained over the weight assigned to his horses. The fact that he did it doesn't make it good sportsmanship... although it did add to the interesting nature of his personality.

18 Jul 2011 1:03 PM
Steve Haskin

Taxman, you can mock Larry Jones all you want and say whatever you have to about weight issues, but enough of this east coast bias nonsense already. To be honest, I'm sick of hearing that. Blind Luck has a huge fan base in the east, as did Zenyatta. Everytime there is an issue about anything it is blamed on an east coast bias. It's time to lose that already. It's gotten stale.

18 Jul 2011 1:11 PM
Steve Haskin

Zookeeper, I am not chastising you. You say you have the right to ignore them, but you didn't ignore them. You said you chose to ignore the controversy, which is fine, but by saying much ado about two pounds, that is not ignoring the controversy, that is taking a stand. All I was doing was telling you how horsemen throughout the years have dealt with weight, many of them complaining about it. It comes with handicap racing. Racing secretaries make weights and trainers complain about it, partly to try to get a break the next time. It's all part of the game. There is no set formula when it comes to how weight affects the outcome of a race, so none of us really know for certain whether two pounds can turn a possible five-inch victory into a five-inch defeat.

18 Jul 2011 1:19 PM
Smoking Baby

 I'm often amazed at the double standard of many racing fans (I include myself I admit).  If it's a horse that we like that gets beat in a photo the weight makes a difference.  On the other hand if a horse we don't like gets beat in a photo while giving weight it makes NO difference.  What's my point?  Havre de Grace gets beat a nose while giving away two pounds going a mile and a quarter and it's a big controversy.  Twirling Candy gets beat a head and a nose while giving away six pounds to the winner and four pounds to the second horse while also going a mile and a quarter and THAT result apparently proved that he was an overrated bum with no heart?  I don't get it.  And Steve, please know I'm not saying that you said this, it's just what I've been reading these last few weeks from others.  All I'm saying is if weight makes a difference for one horse the same should be true for another.  Another thought.  John Sadler knew of the weight assignments for the Hollywood Gold Cup.  I'm sure he would've preferred different weights but thought he had the best horse in the country and would go out and prove it.  When his horse fell short at no point have I read anywhere of him whining or grumbling about how he shouldn't have run.  He took his loss like a gentleman knowing that tomorrow's another day.  Just my opinion...I could be wrong.  Thanks for listening to my rant.

18 Jul 2011 1:20 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Some say the ball was foul. I agree with those that said it was fair because it didn't make any difference. The Umpire might need new glasses but I don't think it effected the outcome of the game. And it wasn't blind luck, it was skill and an overwhelming will to win that drove this amazing filly to victory. A pounding, punishing duel by two greats and they both won by 18 lengths over the rest of the overmatched field that carried from 9 to 13 pounds less than Havre and nearly that for BL.  Would they have won by a Secretariat-Like-Belmont fashion by 30 lengths if they only weighed 111-115 ???!!! A nose by any other name would still be a nose. Give Blind Luck the 124 and Havre the 122 and Blind Luck still finds a way to win. That's who she is. How many tight ones has she lost less than half a length? None that I know of. She's got a longer nose and that's the truth.

18 Jul 2011 1:21 PM

The time to fuss and take a stand against the weights was before the race, when the weights were announced. To do so immediately after the race in the way they did it is poor sportsmanship, IMO. Perhaps the thing to say was, we look forward to taking on Blind Luck at equal weights, and leave it at that.

I have always admired Larry Jones, but this left a bad taste in my mouth.

18 Jul 2011 2:09 PM

i'm not a very experience horseperson and after recent views of the sad stories of ruffian and eight bells, it became very depressed and dishertened with my favorite sport. after reading your stuff on blind luck and havre de grace i have renewed my old fire and so exited to hear of the girls rivalry. it seems only commen sense to me that equal weights would show the better horse.the whole handicapping business seems idiotic to me, but what do i know?

18 Jul 2011 2:11 PM
Ida Lee

Mr. Haskin:  RE YOUR COMMENTS...AMEN!!!!

18 Jul 2011 2:17 PM

These are two great race horses!

They have the courage and power of champions.

In my book, without the purse, they are both winners.

Way to go gals!!!

18 Jul 2011 2:25 PM

As far as assigning the weights, I think that the assignments were fair.  Some points to consider:

• Blind luck might have won 6 G1 races, but the fact is, her score in the Vanity was her first G1 win since the Alabama 11 months ago, a string of 7 races.

• HDG had won a G1 race this year, the Apple Blossom, and she had actually defeated BL twice (winning these races) since Blind luck’s last G1 win, and Blind Luck had finished ahead of her once in the BC Distaff, a race she didn’t win.

• HDG had also defeated BL by more than three lengths this year at equal weights, which further confirms that the weight assignments were at least legitimate.

• Beyers are also supposed to be a measure of performance.  HDG’s Beyer for her G1 Apple Blossom was 108.  Blind Luck’s Beyer for her G1 Vanity was 96.

As far as the effect of the weights themselves, we’re not talking about carrying 128 or 130 lbs.  The weights were realistic for both when we consider that scale is 123 lbs.

Another point to consider is the fractional times of the race.  HDG ran her actual final quarter in 24.51 seconds.  When going back to last year’s 10F Alabama HDG’s final quarter was run in 24.60 carrying 121 lbs., a differential of .09 seconds, meaning she actually ran that final quarter slower while carrying three less pounds.  To me this means she ran a better final quarter in the Del Cap than in last year’s Alabama when she again failed to hang on against Blind Luck.

At some point people have to give Blind luck the credit she deserves.  She fell off the bandwagon when becoming tired, stale and was suffering from sore feet after a hectic schedule of 12 races in 13 months going into her meeting with HDG in the Azeri.  After that race they skipped the Apple Blossom (some say ducked which is pretty sad all things considered) in order to give her a much needed rest.  She has come back as good as ever and recorded a 106 Beyer, which I believe is a career high.  She has one of the greatest wills to win you will ever see in any race horse and considering her humble beginning she should be commended without looking for a reason to taint the results of the Del Cap.  That being said, Havre de Grace must also be commended.  She’s as tough and as legitimate as they come and these two great fillies have revitalized a sport that was looking for an energetic boost.  

18 Jul 2011 2:27 PM

Taxman, let's see, race for $750,000 in Delaware or $250,000 in California. NO THANKS. No trainer is sending their top level horses to run at Hollywood or Santa Anita to run for less money. Makes no sense at all... There is a bias. Hollenodorfer and Baffert have it right. They ship to win the money.

18 Jul 2011 2:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Looks like the jury is still out on this difficult, controversial and heated case. The jury is deadlocked 6-6, plus or minus 2. I say that we should be sequestered in Hotel rooms with meals, paid for by Bloodhorse until a verdict is rendered but I suspect that it will be a mistrial. Handicappers, writers, and racing fans have always disagreed on the meaning of and existence of weight discrepencies and always will as long as different weights in a race exist. Trainers will take any possible edge they can get but not all of them take this issue that seriously. I don't know why I keep thinking about the Merchant Of Venice and I haven't read it in over forty years since it was mandatory reading in High School Freshman English.

18 Jul 2011 2:51 PM
Smoking Baby

 Billy's Empire is right.  The purses out here have become so low we can't complain too much that no one ships out here for anything other than our biggest races.  

 Another point...Can anyone give me a good reason that the Delaware Handicap is not a Grade 1 race?  It consistently draws a top quality field and the list of Hall Of Fame fillies and mares among the winners and also rans rivals ANY other race.

18 Jul 2011 2:55 PM

If Havre de Grace's connections feel two lbs made that much of a difference, how should Twirling Candy's connections feel about the Hollywood Gold Cup.  He was giving 6 and 8lbs respectively to the top two finishers, if I remember correctly, and he didn't lose by much.  If two lbs can make such a difference at 10 furlongs, Twirling Candy's performance should be looked at in a little different light.

18 Jul 2011 3:09 PM

Smoking Baby

Your 1:20 post really hit the nail on the head.  Great points.

18 Jul 2011 3:19 PM

Let's face it.  West Coast horses have always had to ship East.  There always has been a bias against West Coast horses and West Coast tracks.  The airplanes rarely have crossed the Rockies flying TO the Wast Coast for as long as I can remember.

18 Jul 2011 3:30 PM

sigh...what a way to sour a wonderful race and a wonderful rivalry...i could have lived my whole life without ever knowing what a sore loser larry jones was...or the unseemly backstory regarding the weight assignments for this, the very best race of the year so far.

mr. haskin, would it not have been better to have just let this bitterr, snarky owner/trainer/steward business pass by unmemorialized?

horse racing surely has enough of a dark, ugly underbelly to occupy us all with, that broadcasting these ill-mannered, ill-considered temper tantrums is unnecessary...and unhelpful...

as to whether blind luck's 2 pound break in weight cost havre de grace the race, well, my understanding regarding weight assignments is that ideally the weights assigned should even the score--and if perfectly assigned, all horses should cross the line simultaneously. if so, then i'd say the weights were perfectly assigned between havre de grace and blind luck in the del cap. you can't get much closer then they were at the line.

also, might we put the rivalry that never was between z and RA to bed already--they never met, they never knew the other existed, they never had a rivalry, and their respective camps will never meet in the middle. instead, why not just enjoy the real live east coast-west coast rivalry right before our eyes? i hope that we see these two race again, and that this silliness doesn't prevent the best thing going for racing right now from blossoming into historic proportions.

18 Jul 2011 3:33 PM

Billy's Empire said what I've been thinking about lately.  Why ship to SoCal to run for $250,000 when you can stay home and run for $750,000.  The Sunset at HP is now a grade 3 and is run for $100,000.  It costs a lot more to race a horse now and purses are so much lower.  Everywhere.  I live in SoCal, but I'd ship for $750,000 if I had the horse.  

Great article Steve, and what a great race.  Blind Luck and Havre de Grace were awesome.  

18 Jul 2011 4:03 PM

If weight does not matter why do trainers use apprentice jockeys to take advantage of the weight allowance? It's proven it works for races longer than a mile. In races at 1 1/4 2 lbs equate to about a length.

18 Jul 2011 4:25 PM


Great job. I would like to chime in on this subject of weights, hopefully for the last time.

This example was written to be published on another blog but evidently it was submitted too late.

Here goes:

Any attempt to argue that small  differences in weight carried do not matter, results in the following absurdity.

Let us say that the difference in weights must be at least 10 pounds for it to matter, as some commentators claim. (For argument any difference can be used).

Suppose the following. There are 3 horses in a race who are equal in all respects so that in a race they should theoretically finish in a triple dead heat.

In an upcoming  race the horses are assigned weights as follows:

High One   131 lbs

Mid Two    127 lbs

Low Three  120 lbs

In this scenario, Low Three should finish ahead of High One because the weight difference is more than 10 lbs.

Mid Two should finish in a dead heat with the others because the difference between him and the others is less than 10 pounds.

This results in an absurdity.

The only way to deal with this is to admit that every pound counts. The greater the weight conceded, the greater is the disadvantage. It is the Timeform method for ranking horses.

18 Jul 2011 4:32 PM
calico cat

Smoking Baby,

Someone wrote a blog on BH about the inconsistencies of the grading committee. It was a real eye opener for me.

18 Jul 2011 4:54 PM

Linda in Texas;

Couldnt agree with you more on your comment about older mares being allowed to foal even if it results in their death.  I remember this happening to Winning Colors, a Derby winner.  She should have deserved better and been retired from breeding.

Great article Steve.  I have watched the video of that race over and over.  Like Affirmed and Alydar for sure.  So glad to see the fillies doing so well. Hopefully, one day they will earn the respect of the breeding happy owners and get deserved rest. Would be great to see them at Old Friends.

18 Jul 2011 4:57 PM

TWO POUNDS!?? give me a break. Not to sound disrespectful but

1. We now breed horses that are lucky to survive their 3 year old season.

2. Few if any can run 10 furlongs (thank goodness for Blame, Zenyatta)

3. There are talks to modify the Triple Crown series to accomodate these whatevers

4. They barely run 7 races a year

if that.

I remember when the mighty Forego carried 130-140 pounds or the great John Henry running 10 furlongs or more. And people wonder why the industry is losing popularity. Look at your product. The best horses today are females and their trainers are debating TWO 2 POUNDS! on a 1,000 lbs horse (notice I didn't use the word thoroughbred)

18 Jul 2011 6:01 PM

It is time to do away with handicapping. As a fan, I want to see the best horse win by however many lengths that horse can manage to put between itself and the rest of the field. I do not want to see 10 horses cross the finish line at the same time and have the best horse lose if he/she is carrying more weight than the others.

Maybe there was a time when handicapping races made sense, but I don't see it. Injuries are taking out the top horses entirely too often and carrying extra weight is only added strain. Why set up the best horses to fail, not just by losing the race, but also physically? It is barbaric and denies us the knowledge of which animal might have won at even weights.

I love both these fillies and their connections deserve kudos for bringing them together as often as they do, as well as, keeping them healthy and happy enough to continue to race well beyond the short careers of some of the more pampered male of the species.

Now, if the horse gods are willing, this year and/or next we will have the pleasure of seeing one or more of the following face-off in the Breeders Cup; Snow Fairy, Black Caviar, Havre De Grace, Blind Luck. Hurray for the fillies!

18 Jul 2011 6:05 PM

It looks taht these two are the BEST at longer route races as stated in a blog on this website.Blind Luck has never been out of the money(going  by memory)always 1st or second,she is getting closer to Zenyatta.Her Brisnet figures BL are over 100 on Brisnet,I am in accord with those that opine that she should enter the classic against the males(she gets a weight allowance in the classic dosent she)

18 Jul 2011 6:22 PM
The Deacon

I have always believed that horses should carry equal weights in a race, except for fillies against colts and the 5 lb weight advantage is accurate. Why penalize a horse for being good. Did the NBA put ankle weights on Michael Jordan because he was better then anyone else. Did the NFL require Joe Montana to tie his left arm down so he wouldn't have an advantage. Did the Olympic committee demand that Michael Phelps tie both legs together while swimming.

Just something for horsemen to complain about.

Maybe Dr. Dis right, keep the blog light hearted and fun. Let the connections complain, the race is over and if they were that adament about the 2 lbs then they should have scratched HDG. Like I said, both mares are brilliant and I for one just wish to enjoy them.

As for east coast and wet bias, this arguement has been going on for at least 56 years, my dad used to talk about it with his buddies when discussing Nashua and Swaps. It came up when Seabiscuit was to face War Admiral in the match race....

get rid of synthetic racing surfaces, bring the purses up to a level playing field, and make the weights even and then no one can complain..........

18 Jul 2011 6:44 PM

  Billy's Empire -First of all I never said I wouldn't ship for $750,000, no owner is his right mind wouldn't with the right horse.  SoCal purses are not what they used to be, but they just ran a Grade 1 - $250,000 race for 3 yo fillies that attracted only six, any owner that wants a Gr.1 next to a fillies pedigree at sale time should have been there.

   Steve - thank you for your columms but there is an East Coast bias. Zenyatta was a special horse that captured many fans. But how many Eastern horses ship to SoCal for the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup or Pacific Classic? It was be tired but it is still out there.

18 Jul 2011 7:09 PM
Smoking Baby

 Lazmannik.  Thank you.  Don't even get me STARTED on last year's Whitney and the five pounds that Quality Road spotted Blame.  Really made a big difference next time the faced each other in the Breeder's Cup at equal weights right?

18 Jul 2011 7:22 PM
John from Seattle

Forget about the thought of having Havre de Grace come to California and win a big race over Blind Luck.

She just needs to win a big race at any big track, other than Delaware Park, Oaklawn or Parx, over Blind Luck.

So far she' 0 for 2 finishing behind Blind Luck both times in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga and the BC Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Time for HdG to move on from the backwoods and backwater tracks and prove she can win at the bigger venues, California notwithstanding.

18 Jul 2011 7:22 PM

2 lbs should not be a big deal. HdG had home court advantage, and this was BL's Xth cross country trip. That said, it'd be great if they could run at equal weights here on out to make this a non-issue.

I cannot say enough about Hollendorfer here. Steve, you hit the nail on the head about his sportsmanship. Nobody is this brave with his/her horse anymore! The way she's campaigned reminds me of the horses I saw, growing up on So Cal racing in the early 80s - very Ladys Secret-esque!

I think both fillies are the two best older horses in training, until one of the older males can put up back to back multiple solid efforts.

It'd be interesting to see what BL's connections do with the rest of her campaign. If HdG wins the Woodward and BL the Personal Ensign, then what? HdG goes on to the Beldame, and BL to...Lady's Secret or Spinster? If they then win both those starts, lots will be on the line in the Ladies Classic.

As for the rest of the divisions, it's been largely a yawner all year. Hopefully a few star 2 YOs come out of the woodwork, to join these two great fillies.

18 Jul 2011 7:37 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

"She is a rare link to the past"

So true and just love to watch Blind Luck and her huge heart coming down the stretch, it is what makes this sport so thrilling.  I made the trek down to beautiful Delaware Park just to see Blind Luck take on the great Havre de Grace.  It was so worth it, easily the best race of the year to date, just glad Blind Luck pulled it out!

Here are a couple of videos of the day:

Prior to the Delaware Handicap in the paddock:

The race (yes, I was very excited to see Blind Luck nose out the victory!):

18 Jul 2011 9:08 PM

These two fillies are awesome and did not disappoint.  What a race!  Filly power, Zenyatta is proud of these gals!  Contrats to Blind Luck and thanks to the connections of both for running them.  They both ran a huge race.

The weight thing?  Sounds rather silly to me.  Where, exactly do they put the 2 lbs.?  The horse weighs what it weighs, the jockey weighs whatever he is so do they add a 2 lb. weight in the saddle or where?  It has to be in the equipment somewhere.  Why can't they just let them run at whatever they weigh, whatever the jockey weighs, whatever equipment they normally carry, or equalize the weights and so be it may the best of them win?  If 2 lbs. could make such a difference I can understand Larry Jones getting upset.

Dr. D,

Too funny about the burgers!  And for sure with the Lasix they did not let her drink anything more to wash the burgers down! I say equalize the weights too.

18 Jul 2011 9:12 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

A joy to read!  I hope I get to see Blind Luck and Havre de Grace race.  I have admired Blind Luck for some time now.  What a girl!

18 Jul 2011 9:47 PM

Wow, I am shocked by the public poor sportsmen:  Jones and Porter.  Not classy at all!

They have left a very bad impression:   whiners.

They should have saluted BL,  a truly great competitor, and left....

Class is displayed when going gets tough....HDG was noble.  Her people were not.

18 Jul 2011 10:43 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, fantastic blog! AMEN to everything you said about how handicaps should be a thing of the past. I read the article and read many of the comments and thought to myself "What is the point of handicaps anyway?" I think they are blatantly unfair and the weight assignments, arbitrary. I totally agree with Gomez that 2 pounds could have made a difference. Heck, I didn't like it when Zenyatta was pounded with heavy weights. I always thought she would meet her Waterloo under an excessive weight assignment. Didn't happen, which tells you just how amazing she was. But again, you are an absolute genius at telling a story.  Thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the bit about Bobby Frankeland the 1 pound. I really miss him. He was such a great character and horseman.

18 Jul 2011 10:48 PM
Paula Higgins

Oh, meant to add it was one of the best races I have ever seen and those two girls are something special.

18 Jul 2011 10:48 PM

We'll never know for sure if the two pounds made a difference, but this is a rivalry for the ages regardless. Steve, thanks for this wonderful insightful piece.

19 Jul 2011 12:23 AM

I am a big Blind Luck fan and have loved her since her 2 year old season. Larry Jones should show some class in defeat. I honestly believe Blind Luck is once in a lifetime filly who has such a big heart to will herself to victory. Even without the 2 pound advantage she would have gotten her head in front again. Blind Luck is a class act.

19 Jul 2011 2:10 AM

To the victors go the spoils, but in horse racing, also the weight.

Porter and Jones are now experiencing what Hollendorfer dealt with last year.  When you have the horse that is supposedly tops of its division and you choose to run under handicap conditions, you are going to have to give weight.  As Steve mentioned, Blind Luck was giving Havre de Grace weight(total of 16 lbs) in 2 of their 4 meeting last year; had it not been for weight(namely the 10 lbs Havre de Grace received in her only win over Blind Luck last year), Blind Luck might have swept the 4 meetings last year and entered the Del Cap with a 4-1 series lead.

The fact that the majority of handicappers and the betting public made Havre de Grace the favorite even knowing she was carrying the extra 2 lbs suggests that the 2 lbs spread was warranted in the first place.  Havre de Grace was the consensus #1 older female going into the Del Cap, and was the #1 overall horse for some prominent writers.  

While it is true that outside of the rivaly Blind Luck has accomplished far more than Havre de Grace(6 gr.1 wins to 1), this year Blind Luck was only 2 for 5 while Havre de Grace was 3 for 3, and Havre had easily handled Blind Luck under equal weights in their only meeting this year.  And though Blind Luck had won her last 2 races, both impressive efforts, most still didn't think those races were nearly as fast as Havre de Grace's wins earlier this year.  Finally, if 2 lbs is what it took to get Hollendorfer on board, frankly he and his filly deserve it because they have been the ones going out of their way to make all these big races and to make this rivalry with Havre de Grace happen.  But like I said, the spread was warranted for racing, not emotional, reasons.

As with Steve, I salute Mr. Porter and Mr. Jones for running despite their reservations about the weight.  As a fan who treasured the showdown in Delaware, I appreciate the sportsmanship they displayed in order to make round 6 of the rivaly occur.  But maybe now they can fully relate to all the sacrifices Team Blind Luck has made for these meetings to take place: shipping cross-country and giving away 6 lbs(Del Oaks), shipping cross-country right back(Alabama), shipping cross-country while conceding 10 lbs(Cotillion), and then shipping to Oaklawn(where I believe Havre was being based in the spring), and finally to Havre's summer base of Delaware.  In every meeting except the Breeder's Cup, Team Blind Luck made at least one sacrifice and passed up other alternatives(there's a gr.1 at Del Mar in a few weeks) to make the races that have now become the best rivalry in the sport.

19 Jul 2011 2:23 AM

Personally, I think the rivalry scorecard is where it should be, Blind Luck-4, Havre de Grace-2.

If Havre de Grace fans want to count the Del Cap as a win for their filly(by saying that she would have won at equal weights), go ahead, but you have to give back the Cotillion.

I really think Blind Luck fans are more justified, when looking at the impact of weight on the rivalry, to say that the series should be 5-1 in favor of Blind Luck(Blind Luck would have still won the Del Cap at even weights and would have won the Cotillion had she not spotted 10 lbs) than the Havre de Grace fans are in claiming it should be 3-3(Havre would have won the Cotillion without the 10 lbs and would have won the Del Cap had she not conceded those 2 lbs).

19 Jul 2011 2:42 AM
John C

Let me get this straight - Havre de Grace runs a great race (hardly losing by a couple of millimeters; a result that would have gone the other way about half the time if it weren't for random chance or "blind luck"!) in what will go down as an all time historic race in this sport, yet Rick Porter says in retrospect that he should not have run his horse???

That is one of the lowest class, most unsportsman-like, sour grapes reactions that I have heard in some time. People like Porter don't deserve such a fine filly.

Owners like him are the reason that we are cheated out of witnessing greatness time and time again in this formerly amazing sport.

19 Jul 2011 5:21 AM
Pedigree Ann

Field sizes in major stakes have fallen as real handicaps have become a thing of the past. Will we ever have the awesome experience of seeing Forego, under 134, run down a quality 3yo in Honest Pleasure to win in the final strides? Of seeing Ack Ack concede 10+ lbs. to the field and gallop away from them? These are the great ones who set the standard, not the ones who only run at wfa.

Until racing secretaries start giving real handicap weights, we will be 'entertained' by short and/or shallow fields in which a good horse beats a few outclassed animals and builds a hollow reputation.

19 Jul 2011 5:48 AM

Steve,  for some odd reason I feel like Jones is going to dodge a meeting up with Blind Luck for a while unless Hollendorfer goes looking for it.   I think HDG next race won't have BL in it or near it.    Probably the next couple of races.   I think Jones is looking for less than 1 1/4 and Hollendorfer is looking for 1 1/4 distance races.  JMO

19 Jul 2011 6:33 AM

Alex'sBigFan- Lead bars are added to the saddle pad.

Looks to me like the track handicapper done a magnificent  job with Blind Luck & Grace.  How aften do they get it that right?!  

19 Jul 2011 7:31 AM

Jones and Porter need to stop whining.Blind Luck won fair and square.2pounds? Give me a break.

19 Jul 2011 8:25 AM
Ms Easy Goer

Go Blind Luck! First, I was disappointed in the trainer change of Havre De Grace as much as I like Larry Jones. Then, Blind Luck gave weight-up to 10 lbs- to Grace and so what? Blind Luck is just plain BETTER right now. Two lbs- really? Get over it. Hindsight is always 20-20.

19 Jul 2011 9:29 AM

And next time - hopefully, in the Personal Ensign - the two will be equally weighted, and Steve will not have to take up space in his column recounting the complaints of Havre de Grace's connections over weight assignments. This was the only time Blind Luck ever caught even a slight break on weight assignments. It was a hard go assigning weights for this one with Blind Luck having lost four in a row before being soundly beaten by Havre de Grace in the Azeri at Oaklawn. Then came the turn around in the La Troienne against Unrivalled Belle and against Switch, Miss Match, and St. Trinians in the Vanity. Despite the return to form, Blind Luck had yet to avenge her sound defeat at the hands of Havre de Grace, who now, by consensus, was being described as the leading older filly/mare. The rematch was on her home track, and Blind Luck was again being forced to endure a coast to coast shipping ordeal. So two pounds seems but the slightest and fairest of concessions under the circumstances - despite Gomez's post race comments about the difference it could make at distances of a 1 1/4 and greater - as there was still some question about Blind Luck's consistency and her ability to again best the improving Havre de Grace, having lost soundly in their previous meeting. Furthermore, I believe the racing secretary Pat Pope's statement that Hollendorf had never given him an ultimatum on weight assignments nor had he read so in the DRF. So let's move on. Here's hoping both of these fillies run in the Classic against the males and, oh, if only Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra had stayed on the track another year to contest with these two. What a treat that would have been for the racing public !

19 Jul 2011 10:17 AM
Mary in VT

Well .. it does sound a bit like collusion that Hallendorfer broadcasts to the industry in DRF how much weight advantage it would take to get him to run Blind Luck, and the handicapper assigns his six time Gr. 1 winner that exact weight advantage over a one time Gr. 1 winner. Even though Hollendorfer's filly is coming in off a Gr. 1 victory and her opponent is coming in off a Gr. 3 victory? This falls under things that make you go Hmmmmmmmm.

I think it is improbable that the handicapper did not read DRF and/or that no one alerted him to the relevant comment. Maybe he would have assigned the same weights anyway but we'll never know that so the black hole of controversy will live on just as long as horse lovers remember that thrilling stretch duel.

Based on the above I can't fault Jones or Porter for pointing it out and being real hot about it. It just smells bad. Maybe it is not a provable or chargeable collusion .. but it has the exact same stink to it.

Racing has always had an image problem with mainstream America revolving around dark shadowy figures with a myriad of tricks up their sleeve doing something quasi nefarious to influence the outcome of a race before it is ever run with the inevitable victim of it's greed being the thoroughbred race horse. This will likely be viewed by the next generation of potential racing fans as an example of 2011's version of that shifty scenario.

Personally, I am just not wild about handicap races. Pile pounds on the better horses to put them at a disadvantage so that lessor horses have a chance of beating them? That might be a winning concept with the betting public but it isn't making any inroads with mainstream America who rejects scenarios in which every entrant does not have a fair chance to show what they can do. And no wonder owners prefer to retire their stars young before they can be jeopardized by added weight. The horse doesn't have to break down to be jeopardized by added weight. It just might be the difference between a healthy relatively pain free retirement and pain with every step.

But I digress .. other than this one aspect of this one race, I have enjoyed following the career of both of these fine fillies immensely and so appreciate how both of them have shipped hither and yon taking on all comers. More of that please. Hopefully on even terms with one another. And hopefully at Saratoga. : D

Gosh! What an eye popping race that was. Yowza!

19 Jul 2011 10:19 AM
Fran Loszynski

Oh my Steve, whatever happened to the dirt trail around the "farmhouse racehorse"-the kids whooping it up on the rail-jockeys swatting each other with their hats-and fans not caring what the racehorse looked like. I think we're too streamlined in this sport, it's nice to have the safeguards but gees louise, (a quote from Seabiscuit) "He's a racehorse!" Take the racehorse back to his roots, show a trainer a 1930's film race every now and then. The only drug a racehorse had then was  a carrot before a raee and the only weight that was worried about was on the jockey.

19 Jul 2011 10:23 AM
Aaron McC

I think the idea of doing away with weight assignments is an interesting proposition.  Indeed, why give an unfair advantage to a lesser horse?  But there are several good reasons why weight differentials should continue.  The goal of the weight assignments to equalize the field, but this is only theoretical. The real reasons are economical, I think: to get a larger field, maximizing betting potential and entry fees.  Since many races are written allowing three year olds to enter and race against older more physically mature horses, age would cause some disadvantages.  And then, why would a trainer enter a lesser horse against obviously superior horses unless their horse was given some kind of concession?  Sure weight is no science: some horses carry it better than others, for instance (Blind Luck might have had a disadvantage in weight carrying as a smaller filly than Havre de Grace).  And weight assignments probably made more of a difference in the past when handicap races featured weight spreads of 30 pounds.  But I do think there are good reasons to keep weight assignments, or at least, reasons why its not likely to go away in American racing.

Ive heard some say that European racing does less weight assigning - at least at the upper levels?  Can someone speak to that?  



19 Jul 2011 10:24 AM

Remember the race we never got to see between RA and Zen????  

Blind Luck and Havre De Grace gave us the most thrilling race we've seen this can folks contune to quibble about weights?

I believe, for a mare, the weight matters once they have to take on a classic distance.  It's hard on them.  But HDG trains with Larry Jones on her back.  I should think just getting down to jockey weight would add wings to her style.

Who ever wins, these are 2 of the best horses in the USA today, and I love and admire them both.  Isn't it oddly ironic that the Sport of Kings has been dominated by females for the past few years.

You go, Girls!

19 Jul 2011 11:00 AM

Boy, one (or at least myself) really becomes tired of hearing the whining from trainers who lose a race!  Jones and Porter made their decision...bottom line is NOONE forced them to run...they could have scratched, but, no,they felt that had a chance of winning (and they did!).  However, I was at Delaware Park for this race, just as I have been at Dela. for other races in which HDG participated.  Blind Luck was clearly the BEST horse on Saturday.  Being from the area of Dela. Park, I will honestly say that I do not have a high regard for Larry Jones....his whining has become a bore! He needs to grow-up and face it that sometimes his horses win and sometimes they don't.  GROW UP, LARRY!!!! ooooh..and as an after thought...Friesan Fire was (as usual) a big disappointment on Saturday.  Maybe Larry should stop crying and go to his "hallowed"barn and get busy!

19 Jul 2011 11:24 AM

Steve:Where they might possibly headed for there next race.

Blind Luck and Havre de Grace are likely headed to Saratoga for their next starts, but the two dynamic fillies might not end up in the same race, meaning round 7 in this terrific rivalry may have to wait for the fall.

Havre de Grace, beaten a nose by Blind Luck in Saturday’s $750,000 Delaware Handicap, could make her next start against males in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 3, owner Rick Porter said Monday. The Woodward is run at 1 1/8 miles.

Meanwhile, Blind Luck is likely to make her next start Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 28, trainer and part-owner Jerry Hollendorfer said. The Personal Ensign is run at 1 1/4 miles.

While Porter hasn’t ruled out running Havre de Grace in the Personal Ensign, he said “I don’t think it makes sense money-wise.”

19 Jul 2011 12:15 PM
Mary in VT

Speaking of Rachel Alexandra .. I had a look at her on May 22nd when a friend was able to arrange a 10 minute viewing at Stonestreet. As much as I loved watching her whomp dem boys in the Haskell and the Woodward, it did my heart so much good to see her so peaceful and so content in her new life. She's a very happy horse.

19 Jul 2011 12:28 PM
Linda in Texas

Mary in VT, Fran and Slew. Great points all. And i am totally for no weights on anything and a carrot before a race and no shots of Lasix. So what if a small horse beats a large one. Se la vie.

As far as weights "to equalize" the race, pardon me, if the horse doesn't fit the race, sign'm up for another one that does.

19 Jul 2011 1:09 PM
Linda in Texas

Mary in VT, thank you so much for the report on Rachel Alexandra. You made my day, i have been so concerned about her and there has been so little news. That is great.

19 Jul 2011 1:14 PM

Based on Porter's comments about doubbleing the purse in the PE to $600.000, i dont think too many other fillies will want to take them two on seeing how Life At Ten got blown away,it would end up being a match race.What i would suggest is for them to run in the Wood for $750.000 at level weights and then they might get some competition,certainly looks to me like there are not many colts around that could beat em anyway.

19 Jul 2011 1:38 PM
Bill Two

You know, as long as rivalries have existed there has always been some kind of controversy.  When Dr. Fager and Damascus carried on their famous rivalry, Dr. Fager fans {myself included} always got upset when Frank Whiteley entered a rabbit to help soften up the good doctor.  It usually worked.  Didn't seem fair, but if I were Whiteley I would have entered two rabbits to make sure the job got done.  Kelso had a number of rivalries: Gun Bow, Beau Purple among them. Usually the racing secretaries would pile weight on Kelso and that would make a difference when one took into account the weight differential. Made a lot of Kelso fans upset, but you never heard any complaints from Carl Hanford - at least none I can remember.

19 Jul 2011 1:52 PM

OK.  I need to weigh in at this point (having watched Handicaps for about as long as dinosaurs have roamed the Earth),

If you owned a 3YO filly, what would it take for you to run against Rachel Alexandra during her 3YO year?  Would RA not have had a bunch of walkovers, even for major races?

If you owned a sprinter during Ta Wee's year (look her up), would you have bothered to run your sprinter against her if she wasn't carrying 132, 134, 136, 140?

Really, what would it take for someone to run their unproven horse against a Superstar during the Superstar's year if not weight?

I like handicaps.  

I believe that if you have a good horse, you should run your good horse.

And BTW: I like Blind Luck and always have (and have a lot of respect for her connections to run her everywhere).  And I like Havre de Grace too.  

And I LOOOVVVE the fact that these two great mares are running against each other (unlike in previouis years).

But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Handicaps exist for a reason.  Weight for Age doesn't always cut it.

And I am sad that race choices come down to whether "it makes sense money-wise".


19 Jul 2011 2:29 PM
Love IS Blind

I've always respected Larry Jones and, to a lesser extent, Rick Porter. Their belly-aching and sour-grapes comments following their defeat Saturday displayed total lack of sportsmanship and Grace (pun intended). I have a world of respect for their filly, and as far back as the Delaware Oaks last summer, I thought she could be one of the best fillies in the country. So it has proved. Her three wins going into the Del 'Cap were accomplished with condescending ease and thorough dominance. Her victory in the Apple Blossom came at the expense of Switch, a very talented, dual Grade I-winning John Sadler-trained filly. In her Obeah score, the local prep for the Del 'Cap, Havre de Grace thrashed the field without ever getting out of a high gallop. The notion that she was forced to carry high weight and give two pounds to a filly who, despite being a Grade I winner for the third consecutive year, entered the Delaware race with clearly inferior form, is farcical, and connections should be ashamed for making the issue out of it they have. Blind Luck carried 119 pounds to win the La Troienne and was handicapped with 123 for the Vanity, giving Switch, the 3-2 favorite that day, 3 pounds. For the record, when HDG won the Apple Blossom, she was weighted level with Switch. Maybe connections should just concede that, on the day, she was beaten by a better filly or at worst circumstances, and not consign the loss to a meager 2-pound spread in the weights. How about the :57 4/5 breeze Jones put into her a few days prior to the race? Maybe it was that which got the filly all fired up early on, so much so that Dominguez was forced to steer her off heels to stalk from the three path. Maybe Dominguez would do it differently next time and realize there was a champion behind him and start riding the filly in earnest a lot sooner than he did. And maybe she isn't quite as effective as she is going 8 1/2 or 9 furlongs. The HDG team's comments detract from an otherwise epic battle fought out on the racetrack. Oh by the way, Mr. Porter, it looks like you'll get a couple of pounds if you show up for the Personal Ensign. Blind Luck's win over you in the Alabama last year came just in time to get you 2 pounds. One thing I'll guarantee--the Blind Luck camp won't be complaining.

19 Jul 2011 2:48 PM

Mary in VT, Thank you so much for your words regarding Rachel, you lucky girl. Looks like you might get your wish regarding BL and HDL in Saratoga, double lucky.

Wouldn't it be great to see the two of them in the Woodward. This would prevent the race from becoming a match race and would certainly pique my interest to see two, not one, but two top fillies going against the boys. The Woodward with these two fillies in it would be an incredible draw and could set up to be a race for the ages.

mz, thank you for your thoughts on handicapping. You present a good case. Further, totally agree on your last comment.

19 Jul 2011 3:00 PM

mz- I have also watched them for the same amount of time and I like them also.  We seem to be in the minority, though

19 Jul 2011 3:16 PM

They are thrilling to watch!  They are both extraordinarily talented!  They are a super fun rivalry!  And I can't wait to see them run again!  Yea for the fillies!!

19 Jul 2011 3:20 PM
Mary in VT

Linda in Texas, and anyone else needing a Rachel Alexandra fix, email me and I will send you my pictures of her. This was May 22nd mind you, but she looked soooo peaceful and soooo content with her situation. She looks absolutely wonderful pregnant. Her legs are so clean and so sound they look unused. You would never know the miles they traveled or the wonderful things they did. I think her Curlin foal very well could be the iron horse that Jess Jackson dreamed of.

I needed to deliver a dog to the Director of the Headley - Whitney museum in Lexington. As she knows what a fanatic I am for Rachel, she asked me if she could get me in to see her did I want to go. Did I want to go???????? Heck ya. But I never allowed myself a second to even dream that it would happen since that was only one month after the tragic loss of Jess Jackson. You couldn't blame those people if they didn't want to be bothered at such a sad time. And you couldn't blame those people if they just couldn't accommodate one fan who may never get back to Kentucky.

When I delivered the dog I wasn't even going to mention it. It was enough that my friend had such a lovely thought. We were getting the dog nicely settled in when all of a sudden my friend announced that we have an appointment at 3 o'clock. Couldn't believe it then. Still don't believe it now. Hey, maybe I just took some kind of left turn into a horse lover's twilight zone ... but for some reason I do have pictures of Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet on my computer and they are yours if you want them.

What a horse. That's all I can say. What a horse.

Mary in Vermont

19 Jul 2011 3:48 PM

Two pounds made a difference to Hollendorfer. Seems he was correct. He won.

19 Jul 2011 4:02 PM
Mary in VT

mz ~

Your handicapping scenario about what would it take to get a person to race their 3 YO filly against Rachel or any big horse was interesting.

After the winning margins Rachel delivered against her own sex and age in the Oaks and the Mother Goose she was in a such a class by herself that she had to go looking for competition by taking on 3 YO colts and then moved up again to take on older males. When she didn't seem all that interested the following year she was moved down in class from Gr. 1s wasn't she? Am I remembering that right?

Why couldn't your hypothetical 3 YO filly race against comparable fillies instead of Rachel? Or maidens? Or wherever she belongs? And move up the ranks just like Rachel did? So that Rachel doesn't have to be encumbered to accommodate her?

Yes, agree about Blind Luck. I liked her when she first came out and the talking heads on television were not impressed because of her tail carriage. She sure changed their tune. And I have liked every step that Havre de Grace has taken too.

We really can't complain because the connections of these horses have given us quite a ride already. Of course this last race really whipped us into a fever sooooooooo... we want more. : D

19 Jul 2011 4:16 PM

I find the whining particularly off-putting. The race was fantastic. To cast a shadow on the best race of 2011 is shameful. In car racing whining will get you shunned. Racers appreciate a Borel style disagreement (breeders cup) but not cry-baby begging or whining. Two great fillies one great trainer / owner!

19 Jul 2011 5:26 PM

I do not understand why it is ok for one trainer to threaten to take away one of best potential match ups in 2011 because of 1lb, yet when the other trainer gets upset over what is an unfair dealing, since HDG and BL would have most likely been weighted equally w/o Hollendorfer's feet stomping, he gets called unsportsmen like.

People, Blind Luck was back in form and it was clear her Azeri was not the best she could give. She had just beaten the '10 BCLC winner over a track she LOVED and beat both St. T and Switch (a horse that HDG also beat.) Both had one grade one coming into the Del Cap and both were in top form.

Another thing, for those who like to say Grace was racing at her home track, remember that in their only meeting at DP that BL was the winner. Remember that at 10f, BL was supposed to have the advantage.

Also remember that Switch, the one horse that both defeated this year was at equal weights with HDG in the AB, where HDG beat her by only a couple lengths. Switch carried three more and beat her by half a length. Based on those weights and how much each horse beat Switch by, the conclusion would be that if BL were at equal weights she probably would have won by around 2 lengths as well. This again shows that BL and HDG should have race equally in the Del Cap.

19 Jul 2011 5:50 PM

Mary in VT: What I meant was what if I had a really good filly and I thought she deserved to run in a Grade 1 race, I might re-consider if I found out that Rachel had been entered in the same race unless I believed that my filly could get a break (of course, this scenario depends upon the timing in the year and the experience of my filly vs. Rachel's experience-- but you get my gist).

It used to be that a handicapper would scale his (it was always a "He" then) weights according to some version of his idea about the class of the horses in the race.  That's why Forego always carried tons -- everybody knew he had class and when you were running your (won a stakes but not a major one) horse against Forego, you wanted to believe your horse had a chance to win.  How could you win unless you did something like start 10 or 15 seconds before Forego?

Of course that is a silly example but I still believe that good handicapping (and not some of the silly stuff that appears nowadays -- sheesh! 120 as highweight in a Grade 1???) makes it exciting.  After all, Spectacular Bid's walkover was neat but not really a fun race to watch.

19 Jul 2011 6:13 PM
Steve Haskin

DeadHeatDebates, finally a voice of reason. What gets me about the people who complain about Porter and Jones "whining" is the fact that they spew out these words freely as racing fans, not giving the slightest thought to what they would be feeling if they owned or trained Havre de Grace. Hollendorfer threatened to not run IF he DIDNT get the weight he liked. Porter and Jones GOT the weight they DIDNT like, yet ran anyway. Yes, they were upset after the race, but probably more so at themselves for going against their better judgment. So many people seem incapable of putting themselves in other people's shoes.

19 Jul 2011 6:38 PM
Mike Relva


Excuse me BL beat Grace in her back yard,think that makes it about even regarding the two pound issue.

19 Jul 2011 6:52 PM
Mike Relva


BTW you didn't answer the question I asked couple weeks back regarding the horse "you own". What's the name?

19 Jul 2011 6:55 PM
Bob from Boston

"The weight thing?  Sounds rather silly to me.  Where, exactly do they put the 2 lbs.?  The horse weighs what it weighs, the jockey weighs whatever he is so do they add a 2 lb. weight in the saddle or where?  It has to be in the equipment somewhere."  Alex'sBigFan 18 Jul 2011 9:12 PM

I am a horseman.  They put cheese whiz in the jockey.  Not many laymen know this.

19 Jul 2011 7:50 PM
Carlos in Cali

I will safely say LJones & Co. will no longer be talking about how great a filly HDG is and how they'll run against the boys in the BCClassic because she's the best horse in the country.

Silence is golden...

And this sport will humble you,rather quickly.

19 Jul 2011 8:01 PM

@ Love is Blind:  great post.  We saw two awesome race mares.  Hope they meet again on the track;  I think the best horse won last Sat.  

Actions speak louder than words or two pounds.  Blind Luck is on top of her game.  Good luck to refreshing if they settle it on the track.

19 Jul 2011 8:22 PM

Steve, HdG was fairly weighted; her connections thought she has the best horse and they started her because they thought they would win, and they complained when they realized they hadn't. That is poor sportsmanship.  They should have accepted the result with good grace, and they didn't.

19 Jul 2011 8:36 PM

I'm glad someone thinks that their behavior is fine. I won't condone it.  When I was in sports, my dad taught me that you are a humble winner and a gracious loser.  He said that is what is called sportsmanship.  But people aren't held to certain standards anymore.  And for the record, I also do not agree with trainers threatening not to run if they don't get the weights they want.  But Hollendorder graciously accepted defeat last year when Blind Luck gave HDG 10 lbs.  But everyone has their opinion.  I feel they should let the track handicapper do his job, and if they don't like the weights then don't run as far as I'm concerned.  There are many other races to run in.  Blind Luck's constant shipping is a handicap for her already.  Eventually it has to take it's toll.  That is my opinion.  Others have a different one.

DeadHeatDebates- on a previous blog, weren't you arguing that HDG's race against Switch was more impressive to you?  What changed your mind to make you feel they should have been at equal weights?  Not arguing, just wondering why the "switch" in opinion.

mz- that is correct.  The job of the handicapper was to try to get the horses to finish together.  Many horses enhanced their greatness by winning and losing while giving tons of weight away.  It defined them as something special, even in a loss if the weight spread was great enough.  I miss the great handicaps, but then we don't really have the quality of horse like they had back then.  But that is just another of my opinions.  I guess I'm full of them tonight.  

19 Jul 2011 8:43 PM
Paula Higgins

mz I understand your point about who would want to run against Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra without a weight advantage. As Aaron said, some of it is economics. But it is a flawed system nevertheless. I would either run my horse because I thought he/she had a chance to win or at least be in the money. All horses can lose no matter how great they are, the majority of the time. Stuff happens. There is always a chance for a less talented horse to get lucky.

19 Jul 2011 8:57 PM
Steve Haskin

I dont condone their behavior, but I can understand where it came from. Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment, especially when youre upset not only with someone else but with yourself.

19 Jul 2011 9:02 PM
John C

I'll tell you what I'd feel if I owned or trained Havre de Grace: pride and exhilaration. Pride that she ran a great race and lost by only inches while bearing a slightly heavier burden, and exhilaration that my horse was involved in one of the best spectacles of 2011, an otherwise lackluster year in the US.

I'd also be proud that I had the guts to take a chance, as most owners do whenever they let distinguished,very good racehorses race instead of rushing them to the breeding shed.

I would also drown my sorrow on the $150,000 pile of cash that my filly just earned me, and would hope that there were as many thrilling races ahead.

It's called sportsmanship.

19 Jul 2011 9:14 PM
John from Seattle


I'm sorry, but nobody held a gun to Mr. Jones and Mr. Porter's head to race Havre de Grace in the Delaware Handicap.  Nobody did.

They made a decision and they must live with it.

Perhaps they should of backed out.

All this shows is that Mr. Hollendorfer is a better poker player than Mr. Jones.

With regards to weight assignments didn't John Shirreffs mention on a couple of occasions that he was waiting on the weight assigned to Zenyatta before he committed her to a race.

This positioning happens.

19 Jul 2011 9:22 PM
John from Seattle

Finally, forget about the Personal Ensign or Woodward.  Have Havre de Grace travel west of Louisville just once and both meet in the million dollar Pacific Classic at a mile and a quarter.  They would have 45,000 plus at Del Mar and the purse might  even be increased.

19 Jul 2011 9:26 PM

I understand why HDG's connections would be upset, but it's the racing secretary that should be held responsible and not Jerry Hollendorfer. Who could blame a guy who was bringing his filly across the country to run against a filly who trounced him 2 starts back at equal weights and was now being regarded as the best horse in the country, male or female. I'm no expert on what the racing secretary bases his/her weight assignments on, but I do think recent form is tremendously important. Comparing their entire careers side by side doesn't make a lot of sense to me because a horse's form changes. Though I don't think either party is to blame, I do think HDG's connections shouldn't have run if they were that concerned about the weight assignments. Had Blind Luck won by 3, I doubt anyone would have made a big deal out of this. But it was a nose, though I don't think it would have made a difference had they been weighted equally. I just hope that this little debacle is forgotten because frankly, I don't see it as being all that important. I wonder if Mack Miller was upset when he had to carry 5 lbs more than the reigning Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Secretariat. Or Big Spruce's trainer Victor Nickerson when he had to carry 9 lbs more than the living legend. I'm sure AFTER the Woodward, Allen Jerkens was just fine with the extra 7 lbs Prove Out had to carry. I am aware that those were older horses, but come on, he's Secretariat!

19 Jul 2011 9:49 PM

Steve, you're right.  I fully understand their being upset too as stated before.  I give credit to both owners for running and giving us a thriller.  I have to say in defense of Mr. Porter and Larry Jones, these are the very same guys who not long ago had their hearts ripped out of them with the death of Eight Belles.  Since then Mr. Porter and Fox Hill Farm have saved and rescued 25 horses through the Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue and raised thousands of dollars in charity for the research of injuries. They were probably just upset with themselves, but their hearts are in the right place in animal care and welfare.  Remember, Larry Jones had to go it alone in defense of running Eight Belles in the Derby that year, all by himself, to the media and he excelled.   I'm no expert in this weight thing but I am thankful for two fillies like this to be racing now and against each other at that.  Apparently two pounds could possibly make a difference and this leaves us with yet another issue in racing that needs addressing and more scrutinizing by the proper authorities.  

But at least in the wake of all the 3yr. old male injuries and inconsistent performances, we are blessed with these 2 fillies.  I'm very thankful as a fan for that.

19 Jul 2011 9:51 PM

Great comment Steve H. about thinking about what we say and how we would feel if it was our horse when leaving a negative post.

IMO All the connections of these 2 fine racehorses have been good for racing, and have given us a great experience.  Havre de Grace is from her sire's only crop to race, and we lost Buddy's Saint.  Great to see the Halo line continue on the track.  Blind Luck came from nowhere and is a hard-knocking tough little filly.  We are lucky to be seeing the competition at this level.

Other things:  China is racing in September if I recall correctly.  They'll probably buy horses from Australia, maybe Japan--I'm not sure about Japan's export policy, but there's a good chance many of our horses will be bought up while the price is low and exported.  You think we have a horse shortage at the tracks now............

Happy! Happy to have RA & Z the last couple years and now Blind Luck and Havre de Grace.  I wish their owners and trainers all the best.

19 Jul 2011 9:53 PM

Bob from Boston,

The jockeys sit on such a tiny postage stamp of a saddle so I was just wondering where the lead bars went since I have never really seen them added firsthand since I'm not a trainer or horsewoman. I was asking a serious question so I don't see the need for the sarcastic response.  Ironic isn't it that we arcaicly add lead weights to the horses' saddles and yet the jockeys are battling eating disorders and bulemia to lose weight.  

19 Jul 2011 10:38 PM

Mike, really? I would never give you the opportunity. You are an angry little man. Get a grip.

20 Jul 2011 8:59 AM
Love IS Blind

If Blind Luck hadn't shown up, the weight spread to the next highest weighted starter would have been even greater. Guess Team HDG would really have not run then.

20 Jul 2011 9:02 AM
Smoking Baby

 Alex'sBigFan....Back in the day they had a leather saddle pad with pockets for the lead.  The lead was in these approximately 3 x 6 inch pads about a quarter inch thick.  The would add as much lead as needed to bring the weight up to whatever the impost was.  Today they are MUCH nicer saddle pads that I haven't seen up close so I can't tell you much about those.  I do know that it's a saddle pad and not the saddle itself that they put the weight in.  I hope this helps.

20 Jul 2011 9:56 AM
Smoking Baby

 I've often wondered if I had a nice horse who I'd want to train for me.  The answer has always been Nick Zito (dude's a ROCK STAR) or Larry Jones.  I think to be fair we need to remember that Larry Jones is a horseman, not a polititian with the advantage of a team telling him exactly what to say and how to say it so the fewest people are bothered.  So he said something uncool in the heat of the moment.  I'm giving the man a pass.  He's still one cool cat in my opinion.

20 Jul 2011 10:12 AM

Alex...I believe they might be added to the saddle cloth which has adaptive pockets for weights.  Didn't a horse drop one in a big race last year, and get DQ'd.

It seems to me, when racing secretaries want to seriously handicap (physically disable) a horse, they really add weight to that horse...and even champions will eventually succumb.  Even the great Phar Lap had his limits.  (though not many).  It's a way to even out entrants' chances.  Handicapping has been with us for so long, we tend to forget it's actual meaning.  A handicap is a disability, and the more a horse wins, the greater his disadvantage will be next out.  Just how much weight did Zen carry?  129?...Shirreff's wouldn't allow her to run if they tried any more takes its toll on the horse.

I think we should learn to ignore owners' and trainers' remarks spoken in the heat of the moment after a race.  How many weeks after the Ky. Derby was the media still dissecting Irwin's one sentence?  I consider Hollendorfer to be a great horseman and a sportsman.  I believe Jones is an excellent trainer.  Must we spend so much time condemning one or the other because of how they feel?

Right now, I'd say, the proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare loom much larger in my focus than a few sour grapes eaten by a trainer, after a race.

Dr. D: Thanks for the rarely fail to bring a smile.

20 Jul 2011 10:29 AM

Put me in the camp that thinks 2 pounds made no difference.  How much does Larry Jones weigh?  I suspect it's close to 200 pounds and yet he regularly gallops all his horses.  Clearly, he does not think carrying extra weight is a bad thing.  Havre de Grace should find racing refreshing due to the lighter load.  

If Blind Luck and Havre de Grace both weigh 1,000 pounds, then 2 pounds is .002% of their regular weight.  For me at my regular weight, that would be 4 oz.  That's about the weight of my cell phone and my inhaler, which I had to carry on my morning walk today due to oppressive heat and humidity in Kentucky.  The weight did not slow me down but the weather definitely did.

Which brings me to the next excuse for Blind Luck, if she needed one.  Shipping from California to Delaware was more than just a long plane ride.  It was also delivery into a totally different climate.  Horses who don't train in high humidity cannot possibly find it to be an advantage when they have to deal with it in a race.  

Blind Luck had every excuse to lose except the 2 pounds, which is suddenly the hot topic.  I don't buy it.

20 Jul 2011 10:46 AM
Don from PA/DE

Thanks for a wonder overview Steve. On a very personal note I was at DP for this great race and although I totally glorify both BL and HDG, HDG was my emotional favorite for she is the local horse and local connections, BUT I went down to the racetrack railing as all came onto to track for post parade and BL saw me with her blinkers and gave me such a look I found myself raising my thumb like go get em girl, she blinked and right then I knew she would win the race and she did, great race,two champs, they are special, this happened to me one other time a few years back when Burning Roma was running on Father's Day and he looked at me in paddock and I told him and Wilson the jockey, OK, track record for one mile...and he tied it! Don

20 Jul 2011 11:07 AM
Linda in Texas

Saratoga Springs in the summer, heaven on earth with horses. What more would a person want. As Jackie Gleason might say, 'how sweet it is.'

How lucky many will be to witness the wonderful horses running to gain entry into the ultimate Breeder's Cup Races as November draws closer. And the winners who will forever go down in the record books with their life changing performances.

While in Saratoga don't miss going to Hattie's right down town. Bestest Fried Chicken and Cajun Faire you could ever expect that far North! Last time i was there it had just snowed and Hattie's was not open, two drawing cards to visit even on a cold, dreary quiet and snowy day in December. The Spa and Hattie's none better.

As we drove past the racetrack i pictured the barns filled with handsome faces, could almost hear the announcer and for sure the cheering crowds. Saratoga Springs Race Track is an original and quite special. If you have never been there, do yourself a favor and go, relish the treat it is.

I think Saratoga Springs is the perfect place for Havre de Grace and Blind Luck to show their talents. I do not favor one over the other, i respect all horses who race as i do their owners, their trainers, their hot walkers, their groomers, the pilots of the air vans that get them safely to the race on time and especially the horses who run their hearts out for the fans. Lucky fans.

And safe journey's to all always.

20 Jul 2011 11:15 AM

Steve:  I think the BOTTOM LINE is: IF ONE CAN'T HANDLE THE HEAT...STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN !!!!  and NOW: A demand for a purse to be doubled ????....give us a break!!

20 Jul 2011 11:20 AM
Linda in Texas

Bob from Boston, you know mention was made that in a race one horse gave up 10 pounds to another. Knowing how heavy a 5 pound bag of sugar is, i cannot imagine the fairness of 2 of those hanging off a saddle, much less 2 5 pound bars of metal inserted in that tiny saddle.

i guess i am like Alex'sBigFan, just seems unreal for any horse to have to carry 10 pounds extra.

Not being a mathematician, it would be interesting to know how the equation is decided upon to determine how much weight is given or taken.

20 Jul 2011 11:22 AM
Mike Relva


Predictable as usual,think we both know why you declined.

20 Jul 2011 12:30 PM

It is interesting to me how many people are so against handicaps.  Is it because they are a thing of the past?  Do you know how many legends enhanced their reputations in handicaps, whether they won or lost?  Giving 15-20 lbs to a rival and losing did not tarnish any horses reputation in the least.  It only enhanced it and then the horse only had to give away 14-19 lbs the next race.  Shoemaker used to time Forego's run so he didn't win by much to try to fool the handicappers.  It didn't work of course.  I also read that Man O War's connections were contacted by the handicappers of the time because they wanted to inform them as to how much weight he would have to carry as a 4 yr old.  His connections decided it was too much, so they retired him.  I'm sure Mr Haskin could tell us if that was true or not, but it sounds plausable considering he carried 130 lbs five times as a two year old.  Anyway, I miss the days when great horses gave away more and more weight to further enhance their reputations.  I am a dying breed, I guess.

20 Jul 2011 2:06 PM
Mary in VT

Slew wrote:

... more takes its toll on the horse...


Considering that horse racing has a black eye with the public who knows that many used up race horses are shipped over the borders for slaughter, and many more retire only fit enough to be pasture pets, and some can only do walk/trot type trail stuff, and just a few retire with out any physical limitations at all, and

Considering that this industry's fan base is shrinking further every year, tracks are closing, and the horses are expensive to buy, keep in training, and vet when needed, etc., etc.,

Why do we want to take any more "toll" on the horses than is absolutely necessary?  

Maybe the handicap with added weight concept served it's purpose at one time but surely we could devise something better now. Just to toss an idea out there, why couldn't you handicap the better horses with actual fractions of a second right out of the starting gate with programmable gate doors that release their occupant according to whatever time handicap they were assigned? Yes there would be some re-gate-schooling for horses running in that type of race, but so what? If it were my investment that would seem like a small price to pay for my horse's legs taking less of a pounding.

And there are probably other ways to equalize entrants if equalizing entrants is the goal for some categories of races. Just trying to think outside the box.

20 Jul 2011 2:12 PM
Smoking Baby

 Footlick.  Loved your 2:06 post and I tend to agree.  I basically got ripped into on another blog last spring for having the audacity to suggest Quality Road should've carried more than 124 pounds in the Met Mile.  And this after the blog basically proclaimed him a superhorse.  I too miss the days when a horse like Forego could lose a close one to Quiet Little Table yet lost nothing in defeat.

20 Jul 2011 3:46 PM

Regarding weight differentials……………..I believe that this is correct:  If both Blind Luck and Havre De Grace both enter the Personal Ensign and run according to the allowance conditions of the race as it was last year except push the dates in those conditions to the same period one year later, than Blind Luck would have to carry 122 pounds and Havre de Grace might possibly get in with as little as 116 lbs.  Oddly she would get this concession since she had not run in a G2 race in 2011.  And yet, if this race was a handicap how would they be rated?  I’m sure there wouldn’t be a 6 lb. differential.

20 Jul 2011 4:20 PM
Bob from Boston


I didn't mean to offend you.  I was simply using you as a straight woman for my cheese whiz joke.  There is something about shooting cheese out of a can that always cracks me up.  As Jackie Gleason would say, "hummana, hummana, hummana."  I hope we can be friends and go for walks on the beach and skip stones occasionally, with only the moon illuminating our tosses.  That way, I can cheat about how many skips my stones get compare to yours.  We could also bet on who will get the most skips.  Since you're a woman, your stones will have to be 2 pounds heavier than mine.  Ted from LA will videotape the whole thing.  

20 Jul 2011 4:31 PM

I wrote a blog on why I thought HDG would win. It was in that I wrote that HDG's win over BL impressed me more due to certain reasons. However, as a racing secretary, you have to consider the weights and factors that went into the race, NOT what you think.

As I said, the Azeri was said not to be a true image of Blind Luck. Since she came back to win two graded stakes against solid horses after that I would agree, however, since one cannot be sure you would go to the weights each carried against the one horse that they both faced and beat.


Thank You. I have not understood why it is ok for Hollendorfer to refuse to run if he did not get what he wanted, yet when the owner/trainer of the opposing team were apprehensive and still ran, they get slammed for basically kicking themselves in the butts. We all would be if we thought the 2lbs was the difference.

20 Jul 2011 6:12 PM

Mary: keep in mind I also said it was the trainers who chose whether or not to run with the assigned weights.  Since Jockeys weigh about 110, Zen was usually carrying an extra 20 pounds, but she was a big girl.  Par Lap had to run with 140, as did Kelso and other past champions.

Jones knows HDG will be allowed weight as a female against the boys in the Woodward, but all weights in the Personal Ensign will be 123...even.  (Not all races are handicaps.)  But the prize of the Woodward is much larger than the PE...why?  I agree with Larry Jones that the purse for the PE should be much larger. I have few doubts that the PE purse will be upped just for the opportunity of seeing these great ladies compete against each other again.  Didn't J. Jackson make even more extravagant demands at Monmouth last year to have RA run?

I really don't have a problem with handicap races except that the criteria for weight assignment is often much too vague, though it's loosely based on the most recent win and the Beyer numbers.

A lot of race horses retire early other than to stud.  They go on to 2nd careers as jumpers, dressage specialists, lead ponies, etc.  Some end up in the movies!  It's not all gloom and doom, and a lot of good-hearted people are out there working to ensure that our race horses find their greener pastures while they're young enough to enjoy it.

20 Jul 2011 6:39 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  I agree-forget the lead weights and let the poor jockey keep his lunch.


   I didn't see anything post race so I am not talking about anyone specific but how you feel about something and how you express your feelings about something are two different matters.

Linda In Texas

  Yes, safe journey to all, always the number one priority. "I'm so glad our girl Havre came home safe, and she sure put up a great fight, didn't she. I'm proud of her, and I believe she was top weight to boot too if I'm not mistaken. Zowee."

20 Jul 2011 7:44 PM
Bob from Boston

I would give up my season pass to Canterbury Downs to be at the Del Mar opener today.  What a crowd.  Please tune in to ABC tonight.  They are doing an exorcism on Dr. Drunkinbum.  Must see TV.

20 Jul 2011 7:46 PM
Mary in VT

Yes, I think Jackson got the purses upped for Rachel several times. Maybe Curlin too? Can't remember. I don't care about that because it doesn't effect how the race is run and the money could have been won by somebody else. Don't forget, he needed to draw horses to run against her so he didn't waste her on another walk over.

Hollendorfer letting the racing world know what weight assignment he would ship for may very well have effected the weight assignment his horse ultimately received since they were exactly the same weight. We'll never know.

When it comes time for Eclipse awards to be voted on I hope the Del Cap has an asterisk by it in the minds of all the voters causing them to go "Oh yeah. That thrilling stretch duel that BL won by an eyelash but in which Hollendorfer may have had some pre-race effect on her weight assignment. Should I give that race full credit or not? Hmmmmmmm"

I don't have a favorite among these two fillies. Enjoy them both enormously. I just want it all fair and square and may the best horse win with no bs handed out anywhere along the line. Too much to ask? : D

20 Jul 2011 8:14 PM
Linda in Texas

ABF, i knew Bob from Boston or is it Ted for LA was not being sarcastic. I have learned over the past year he has a very dry sense of between the lines humor. And frankly i love it. But then i had a dentist who knew i hated my appointments and he an ex Navy doc would walk into the room with a giant pacifier around his neck in case he needed to shut me up while he was trying to drill holes into my head for implants.

I would love to comment here on the skipping stones remark, but as a woman, perhaps i will leave that one alone and wait for the Ted from LA video! :)L :)O :)L

And do you suppose that the term "get the lead out" was invented because of 2 5 pound bars of metal being placed in a saddle of a race horse?  Just a thought to ponder.

20 Jul 2011 8:22 PM

Smoking Baby- I know the feeling.  That impost was a total gift.  I also got blasted because I called him a miler.....

20 Jul 2011 8:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Poundcake anyone?

20 Jul 2011 9:37 PM

Bob from Boston,

Ok, buddy, no problem.  I guess I'm a little younger than some and needed some explaining about the iron bars.  Thanks to those for the explanations in the saddle pads. You'll win the stone toss for sure!

A lot of very interesting and educational thoughts here on the weight concept and handicapping.  Before this blog, I was always mindful of the weights but always took it for granted as something out of our control that exists and so be it.  But this has got me thinking, why do they have to cross the line together, why does the better horse have to be penalized at all?  I can understand the economical theory of trying to get deeper fields but how is it fair to the horse that gets the extra weight on it, especially if it is in excess of 10 lbs., 20 lbs. sounds absurd.  I don't see it fair to the animals.

And given the apparent weakness in the breed or whatever is causing all these injuries I should think they could devise some other method

of handicapping other than weights.

It just seems like an antiquated practice that needs revamping.  A horse wins 2 Grade I's, gets a high Beyer figure, and look out buddy in his next race he gets lead in the saddle, bizarre reward for a job well done!

20 Jul 2011 9:57 PM
Mike Relva


Whether you give the race"full credit" it really doesn't matter.

20 Jul 2011 10:41 PM
Mike Relva


So,you don't consider the fact BL shipped to run in Grace's back yard a factor to consider? Right.

20 Jul 2011 10:43 PM
calico cat

Dr D.- You are priceless! Thank you for injecting some humor into this discussion. Poundcake I'll go for, but hold the grapefruit...

20 Jul 2011 11:16 PM

actually should have said that non-impost....

20 Jul 2011 11:38 PM

I loved the race and am so glad all the connections decided to run. back in the fabled glory days you just ran your race and were gracious in winning and losing. BTW I picked Blind Luck (her whole story is and awesome throwback to true racehorses) HDG is a good filly but BL will be a legend.

21 Jul 2011 8:05 AM
Mary in VT

Mike Relva ~

I am not aware of ANY actual track handicappers assigning weight based on one horse ships 648 miles and another horse ships 1147 miles and two others shipped in but have been there aclimating for several weeks and it is home track to another. Neither have you.

Some horses ship well. Some ship ok. Some fret and lose weight. Etc. My guess is that Blind Luck ships beautifully. She doesn't want to be smacked with a whip but it appears that she will ship every week if you want her to. I hope that trait is genetic, and dominant, and she breeds on. Call it the "real trooper" gene.

21 Jul 2011 10:33 AM
Bill Two

Alex's Big Fan: All racing secretaries when weighting handicaps are trying to "bring them all together at the wire".  The ideal is not frequently realized, but one example of this is the 1944 Carter Handicap where there was triple dead heat for win. The racing secretary was the legendary John Blanks Campbell {considered the gold standard by which racing secretaries are measured}. Personally, I think handicap races are an anachronism which really don't lend themselves to today's thoroughbreds who are not as tough as their forefathers. Witness the exploits of Kelso, TaWee, Forego, etc.  Those horses carried a lot of weight and raced more frequently than horses do today. There is only one race today that approaches the handicaps of yesteryear and that is the Fall Highweight for sprinters held in the fall in New York.

21 Jul 2011 12:26 PM

FOOTLICK you are not a dying breed. There is still a few of us who knows what a great thoroughbred should be.

Today, what we have are mostly these frail, no stamina, fake routers.

They market horses like Quality Road and even Rachel Alexandra as great when in reality they are just so-so.

I like to see these horses run against Forego carrying the same weight at 12 furlongs.

The industry is just hyping horses today when their class just keeps going down and down.

21 Jul 2011 12:45 PM
Mike Relva


My point is there's too much being made of the two lb weight,mostly by the individuals who thought Grace would beat BL.

21 Jul 2011 12:46 PM
calico cat

Bad news today, Pool Play and Awesome Maria are both injured and MAY not race again. It all depends on how they recover and what the owners decide. With Pool Play, I can understand, he's 6 yrs old, but I would love to see Awesome Maria race again, if she makes a complete recovery. But she is 4yrs old and out for the year. Will they be able to bring her back to top form when she is 5?

This has been a terrible year with so many serious injuries. :( We better appreciate the Energizer Bunnies we DO have. Let's hope they are not asked for more than they can safely give.  

21 Jul 2011 3:38 PM

Hey! Why should Handicaps be anachronisms?  Cut out medications, bring back 1 1/2 mile races, bring back true handicap-setters, AND LET'S HAVE FUN IN RACING.

And BTW, let's make it NECESSARY for good horses to run against other good horses before they can be considered for HOY, champtions, etc.

(Am I an old fart? Of course I am.  But I remember Forego and Kelso and Shuvee and Gallant Bloom and Native Diver and even Damascus and Dr. Fager and.......I will now stop.  Sigh! for yesteryear)

21 Jul 2011 3:56 PM

Sorry Gun Bow!  Forgot GunBow!

21 Jul 2011 3:57 PM

Had the situation been the exact reverse and BL had been the loser by a whisker her connections and fans would be making the same stink.

21 Jul 2011 4:47 PM

Here is an example of how seriously weight concessions are taken in the UK.

"Silvestre de Sousa suffered a jolt in his quest to win the jockeys' championship when suspended four days at Epsom on Thursday evening.

De Sousa was banned after failing to draw the correct weight by more than 1lb when finishing third aboard Ryan Style in the five-furlong handicap".

21 Jul 2011 5:23 PM

LINDA: I'm guessing you're just too much of a lady to pounce on Bob's remark.  I'm not.  He simply said you have bigger stones than he does?  You go, Linda.

Dr. D:  I just prefer when someone is open and honest.  What I don't like is the media dissecting and rehashing every word in a single sentence for 2 weeks after.  Some people are tactful; some are blunt.

You, however, are a treasure...still luv ya!

Face it everyone...this race would not have been the race of the year if these mares were not so evenly matched.  Does 2 pounds make a difference?  I think it depends on the distance a horse has to carry that extra weight.  But I don't believe the impact is as great for 2 lbs. as it is for 10lbs, but in this was a matter of inches, and both were so far ahead of the field.  No way does this race deserve an asterisk except to denote it was almost a dead heat.  

21 Jul 2011 7:07 PM

mz- the list would go on and on.  Maybe I should move to Australia.  They still believe in handicap races.

21 Jul 2011 7:16 PM
Linda in Texas

I watched Pool Play and loved his strong win in his last race. Beside my notes on June 21 i wrote he was 36 to 1 and not heavily mentioned pre race. Those are the horses i admire. A shame for sure.

As for Awesome Maria, Zookeeper you know i am crushed. She is beautiful and so talented and had won her last 4 races and she is Gray. If she had to suffer the injury, to be honest, i would rather it happen the way it did rather than racing in The Ruffian at Saratoga. That would have been too much to handle for me as i watched Ruffian and prayed for her til they put her down and ceased all interest in Horse Racing for many many years. Just as many others have said on the blogs.

I love the Maria's Mon offspring.

Hope no more injuries for a while. Two is two too many.

21 Jul 2011 7:52 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  I love that BC took the lead with medications. Less medications will lead to less injuries in the long run. Like Steve Haskin said- we're more likely to see a Triple Crown winner again with less medications and no raceday meds also. I also think we're going to have happier horses. Who wants to be on Lasix? They'll still get meds for healing and aches and pains but they won't have to race on them. It's more risky to race on meds and the overuse of meds breaks down the body. No offense to us  broken down old warriors but the thoroughbreds are often broken down old warriors by age three because of the chronic overuse of meds. It seems to me that better times are ahead in racing. We thought after the third Triple Crown in the 70's that we'd be seeing them all the time. Well, they're going to be coming back baby once they're off of those damn meds for awhile. It will be an adjustment but it will work.

21 Jul 2011 7:57 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   How true. Honesty is the best policy and leave the kid alone.

22 Jul 2011 9:29 AM

I commented earlier and admitted that I am a novice, willing to learn. I must say that the people who check in at Steve's blog are some of the most knowledgeable and for the most part courteous in discussing a subject such as this one tinged with controversy. I have read and re-read most of the comments, and have added to my knowledge base from so many of you. So, thank you, Steve, for always presenting any issue from a perspective and depth not found in most forums, and for attracting fans who add to the discussion, who have something of value to say.

22 Jul 2011 11:56 AM
Mike Relva


Your points are valid regarding the med issue. Bravo.

22 Jul 2011 12:23 PM
Linda in Texas

Bumster, the NRHA just voted to also limit the meds and fines if not adhered to.

And Bo Derek wasn't on the board that did it. That is impressive to me. As Ms. Derek cannot possibly sit on every committee to be a voice for the equine population.

Thank You Ms. Derek and all who follow her way of thinking. The others in due time will follow once the fan base picks up and the purses quit decreasing.

Hail Saratoga, today starts their season of racing unless it is too hot to race.

I am off to the races 2,000 miles away.  

22 Jul 2011 12:55 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mike Relva

   Thank you. I'm not surprised that you agree as you do seem to really care about and love the horses. Bravo to the CHRB who lowered the bute threshold despite "Horsemen" objections. I'm not sure the term "horsemen" is appropriate. How about "winatallcostsmen?"  Dr. Arthur quote that I love-"This action will do more to lower the fatality rate than anything else the board could have done. The horse won this time."

22 Jul 2011 2:16 PM
Bob from Boston


If you're going to be that far I strongly suggest binoculars.

22 Jul 2011 2:49 PM
Linda in Texas

:) yipper, wish i had a drone encircling the track! I ordered one and it must have gotten sidelined!  Instead i have to rely on HRTV on my computer.

Just watched Jackson Bend win the James Morgan, super for him, i had hoped he would win and now it looks like he is a sprinter for sure. Congrats Nick Zito. Never ever ever give up. And you don't.

That was exciting.

22 Jul 2011 5:10 PM
Linda in Texas

OOPS, pardon me, i wrote The James Morgan, it was The James Marvin that Jackson Bend won nicely.

I know a James Morgan. But he does not have a race at Saratoga named after him. Heck he doesn't even have his name on his rural mailbox!

22 Jul 2011 7:34 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, here is where i made my oops, i mis typed Morgan for Marvin. I know them both. But The Saratoga Race is named The James Marvin.

And Jackson Bend won it.

Thank you Steve.

22 Jul 2011 7:47 PM
Mike Relva


Visited The Tin Man while in CA last week. He's doing well.

22 Jul 2011 10:18 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mike Relva

  Fantastic. Thanks. Good job.

23 Jul 2011 11:03 AM

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