By Lenny Shulman
For the last nine months—or was it eons—the racing world has been fixated over a match-up that, like world peace, an edible fruitcake, or a Triple Crown winner, has remained tantalizingly out of reach.
Gladly, the time has come to forego our dreams and desires concerning the two fabulous females. After all, a watched pot never boils. And besides, we have on our plates this summer a feast of potential encounters the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent memory.
This past weekend provided us with fine appetizers. Up at Saratoga in the Diana Stakes (gr. IT), we saw the tussle among 2008 champion turf female Forever Together, multiple grade I winner Proviso, 2008 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies winner Maram, and graded winners Phola and Shared Account.
A day later Monmouth Park welcomed in August with the IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I), kicking in racing’s second season for 3-year-olds with a scrap featuring Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) victor Super Saver, Preakness (gr. I) conqueror (and Haskell best) Lookin At Lucky, respective runner-ups Ice Box and First Dude, and the up-and-coming Trappe Shot. That’s a field you’d be proud to see parade to your starting gate.
Saratoga strikes back Aug. 7 with the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), where the two best older colts in the country will join the fray. Quality Road has done nothing wrong since throwing a fit at the Breeders’ Cup last year. The millionaire is undefeated and barely tested in three races this year. Now along comes Blame, however, to scrap it out with Quality Road. Also a millionaire, and 1 1/4 lengths (second to Regal Ransom in the Super Derby, gr. II) away from riding a seven-race win streak into the Whitney, Blame is running with history on his saddle. His co-owner, Claiborne Farm, is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2010, and you wonder if the racing gods might be looking down favorably on the famous orange silks.
While we’re in the older horse division, let’s not forget Rail Trip has relocated to the East Coast barn of Rick Dutrow, and will be laying in the mineral waters for Quality Road and Blame in the Sept. 4 Woodward Stakes (gr. I), making it three millionaires, if all go.
Turning to the fillies, how about the looming clash of Devil May Care and Blind Luck in the Aug. 21 Alabama Stakes (gr. I)? Devil May Care, winner of the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at 2, ran against the boys in the Kentucky Derby, where she split the field. Since then, she has blown apart the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I) with ease. She’ll need to remain at the top of her game for the upcoming bout with Blind Luck, whose nose victories in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Delaware Oaks (gr. II) indicate a worthy warrior. She’s got four grade Is in her column already.
Looking ahead to the Sept. 4 Forego Stakes (gr. I), the often-brilliant multiple grade I winner Vineyard Haven is scheduled to line up against another talented 4-year-old, Musket Man, who was a good second behind Quality Road last out in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). Vineyard Haven has returned from the witness protection program in Dubai to take last year’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. I) and the listed James Marvin Stakes on Saratoga’s opening day July 23.
Two-year-old prospects Boys At Tosconova, Kantharos, and Maybesomaybenot figure to meet at Saratoga, while out West at old Del Mar, Bob Baffert’s parade of juveniles, featuring Smash, will be taking on all comers.
Which brings us to the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes (gr. I), where the Haskell graduates will likely face off with A Little Warm, and whoever else emerges from the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). Then we have the following day’s Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) for the cougars. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra has that one on her dance card, according to the latest missive from owner Jess Jackson’s vineyard Vatican, as does Life At Ten, who is merely a perfect four-for-four this season under Todd Pletcher’s tutelage.
Oh, and if Zenyatta passes on Del Mar this season, she might just head to the Personal Ensign as well. The great thing is, we needn’t pine for her and Rachel to meet this time around in order to enjoy a hellacious season of great match-ups.