In previous blogs, I wrote about the jumbled and messy nature of many of the racing divisions. Whether resulting from early retirements to our best horses, injuries to key players, or the overall lack of depth in racing this year, with nearly six months in the books we have not solved a whole heck of a lot so far.
Fortunately, we have the older females help generate excitement. Without them, who knows where we would be. In what has to be termed a down year of 3-year-olds and male handicap horses, the fillies and mares appear to be our best/deepest division. In Havre de Grace, Blind Luck, and Awesome Maria, we have three justifiable superstars, and the first two have a legitimate rivalry, something rarely seen these days.
Havre de Grace did not beat much in the Obeah on June 11, but still earned a 97 Beyer and stayed perfect in three starts this year. For my money, she is the best horse in the country right now. Larry Jones thinks so too. She will go in the lucrative Delaware Handicap next and if successful will likely try males this summer at Saratoga. That could be fun.
Blind Luck was awesome in the Vanity Handicap, closing into slow fractions to notch her sixth grade I win. This filly in incredible and the way Jerry Hollendorfer campaigns her is great for the sport. He is willing to ship her anywhere and everywhere to take on the best, and she may be headed to the Delaware Handicap next to face Havre de Grace for the sixth time. Either way, we are likely to see her at Saratoga this summer.
Awesome Maria claimed her first grade I win in the Ogden Phipps to remain undefeated in four starts this year. She will be pointed to the Ruffian next month at Saratoga, where she might run into one or both of the aforementioned rivals.
All three of these fillies are special in their own way. Awesome Maria probably doesn't want to go much further than 1 1/8 miles, but at that distance is as tough as anyone; Blind Luck can sometimes be compromised by pace with her closing style, but has remarkably hit the board in all 20 career starts and will run over hot glass if asked; and Havre de Grace doesn't seem to have any weaknesses right now. Let's hope all three of them stay healthy and give us an exciting second half.
The loss of Unrivaled Belle is about the only downer in this division. Losing the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner in that manner is very disappointing. Fortunately, horses such as Switch and Sassy Image give the division some depth beyond the top three.
Here is a quick top 3 ranking as I see it in other divisions:
Pool Play's 36-1 upset in the Stephen Foster only added to the confusion.
1. Twirling Candy--By default. We won't know how good he is until the Breeders' Cup
2. First Dude--Baffert got his confidence back. Watch out.
3. Mission Impazible--Ran great in defeat.
Injuries have decimated this division.
1. Coil--A reach, I know, but I've made my feelings known.
2. Shackleford--Will be very tough in 1 1/8-mile races.
3. Astrology--I'm really reaching now but with Animal Kingdom out I need someone.
R Heat Lightning's injury was a big blow.
1. Royal Delta--Dealing with a minor injury but should be Ok for Saratoga; she has a world of ability.
2. Plum Pretty--Oaks was awesome. How good is she? We will find out this summer; illness will keep her out of Mother Goose.
3. Joyful Victory--Didn't get the right trip in Oaks. She is better than that and will get a chance to prove it in Mother Goose.
The loss of Paddy O'Prado was devastating.
1. Sidney's Candy--I know he might be pointed to Whitney but I still think turf is his best surface. If he stays on dirt, I have no idea who to put No. 1.
2. Gio Ponti--I really do think he's lost a bit.
3. Courageous Cat--His comeback was very good; Has a chance to have a special second half.
Division got off to a slow start, but it's heating up.
1. Big Drama--Will be back for Saratoga after freshening. Breeders' Cup is at at CD again. The question is, will he be the same?
2. Apriority--I know he's not even a stakes winner yet but he's run some big races in defeat and should have more to offer.
3. Noble's Promise--Finally found his niche. Ready for a big second half.