Grab the Rivalry and Run With It - By Eric Mitchell

 (Originally published in the July 30, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell Another golden opportunity has been dropped into the lap of Thoroughbred racing.

A real rivalry; not one manufactured by publicists, but an honest, gritty, and scintillating rivalry the likes of which we haven’t seen since Personal Ensign and Winning Colors.

In truth, it is much better than the one between Personal Ensign and Winning Colors because they only raced against one another two times—in the Maskette Stakes (gr. I) and later in an unforgettable Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), in which Personal Ensign preserved her perfect record by a heart-stopping nose.

Havre de Grace and Blind Luck have now faced each other six times and each race has been a thriller. The running styles of these remarkable 4-year-old fillies only help to build the drama.

A daughter of Saint Liam—Easter Bunnette, by Carson City, Havre de Grace stalks the leaders and waits to pounce. Blind Luck, a daughter of Pollard’s Vision—Lucky One, by Best of Luck, drops to the back of the pack before kicking into a tremendous passing-gear drive in the stretch that leaves her rivals—and her owners and fans—stunned and dazzled at the wire.

In their first three contests against one another, Blind Luck won the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) by a nose and then the Betfair/TVG Alabama Stakes (gr. I) by a neck. Havre de Grace followed with a neck victory in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes (gr. II). They both competed in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) last year, with Blind Luck finishing second and Havre de Grace third behind Unrivaled Belle.

This year the combatants have gone to battle against each other twice. Havre de Grace, who has won three of four starts in 2011, won the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) by 31⁄4 lengths over her archrival, and Blind Luck, who has won three times and been second three times in six starts, took the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) by a nose. Blind Luck has traveled cross-country from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s California base an unheard of nine times in the last 15 months. By the estimate of The Blood-Horse’s senior correspondent Steve Haskin, Blind Luck has traveled 36,000 miles.

Where are the T-shirts, the buttons, and the signs espousing racing fans’ loyalty to the Blind Luck or Havre de Grace racing camps? We sincerely hope they’re on order so they will be ready to ship the minute another showdown is announced.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has begun cranking up its public-relations machine for a campaign that will be guided by recent hire Stephen Panus, the NTRA’s new vice president of communications, according to Keith Chamblin, the organization’s senior vice president.

“It is on Stephen’s shortlist of projects between now and the Breeders’ Cup,” Chamblin said. “We are working with The Jockey Club through NTRA Communications to do a tale of the tape for both fillies on the website and compile other data and statistics that will be promoted to mainstream media. Outside of the Triple Crown, we have never seen a rivalry like this. We need to enjoy it while we have it and exploit it for the marketing while we have it.”

Breeders’ Cup has devoted a new section on its website entirely to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), which could be fortuitous should Havre de Grace and Blind Luck opt for the $5 million Classic instead of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. We don’t see too many challengers out there that would scare these two off from the main event, Nov. 5. Should they choose to stay in the Ladies’ Classic, it may be the more compelling race, so here’s hoping Breeders’ Cup finds the space to promote it heavily between now and November, particularly now that we’ve lost one of the dudes to injury. First Dude has been retired because of a strained tendon he suffered in a tremendous victory over Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I).

These unique stories and tremendous clashes between racing titans don’t come along often enough. Let’s rally 
the sports world and build the next contests between

Blind Luck and Havre de Grace into what they will be—historic, have-to-be-there, roaring, adrenaline-pumped battle royales.

Racing never needed this more than now.

20 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Giddyup

Excellent blog Eric. The industry got a real boost from Zenyatta last year but as you stated, to keep that momentum going they need to make the most of opportunities that come along. You have to wonder why this great rivalry was kept under the radar for so long.

26 Jul 2011 2:10 PM
Ida Lee

Havre and Blind Luck are true treasures for the sport. Indeed, take advantage...especially now when we keep losing so many of our superstars to injuries (the talented Awesome Maria, my beloved Paddy O'Prado and the beautiful and talented First Dude, to name a few).  

26 Jul 2011 3:40 PM
tford097

Picked up a "Grace" T shirt at Delaware Park on 7/16 sponsored by Fox Hill Farms - was

fundraiser for horse rescue. So they are out there - didn't see any for Blind Luck. Had hats and buttons too!

26 Jul 2011 3:42 PM
Patti D.

This is a tremendous rivalry and I hope the word gets out there so more fans will follow these 2 amazing fillies.  I'm hoping Saratoga will run the Personal Ensign on Travers day for the chance to showcase them to a national audience (and so I can see them run in person, since I have my Travers day tickets already).  But you can be sure I will stay for the Sunday races just to see them duel in the stretch again!!

26 Jul 2011 4:38 PM
Fox_Hill_Farm

Thank you for that article, Eric.

Regarding buttons, we have them, and have been giving them out at Grace's last three races.  We'll be happy to send any fans of Grace a free button.  We consider it an honor to be so fortunate to own her and we're delighted to be able to share her with her fans.

To get a free button, please visit our website at rockportharbor.com.  We have information on the front page about how to get a free button.

26 Jul 2011 4:42 PM
Deltalady

Could not agree more, Eric. What a great rivalry between two really classy fillies, and Blind Luck is almost not to be believed with her strong resume! Steve Haskin says he's not seen anything like her, that she is a throwback to horses of the past with her durability and record. I'm hoping BL and Havre de Grace get it on in the Personal Ensign as well as the Breeders Cup Ladies.  That would be the perfect place for them to settle the score and give the fans another "race for the ages" type event. And, speaking of Zenyatta (lol), the Breeders Cup marketing boys are still using all that she's done for the sport to promote this year's BC events. I know that Zenyatta and her connections are glad that their mare can still give to the sport. And being the only "Classic Queen", she will likely reign for a long time. Be sure to check the number of votes for nominations for the Breeders Cup 2012 Calendar! The lady who has basically been relegated to broodmare obscurity still commands almost 90,000 facebook fans (growing at the rate of about 1,000 per week!), and in just 1 day has garnered nearly 500 votes for the calendar! I think in 2012 we are still likely to be talking about Zenyatta.  She is the "gift that keeps on giving"!    

26 Jul 2011 5:01 PM
slee

tford097 is right - Fox Hill Farms is selling "Grace" shirts, at their web site as well as at the track.

And if you go to Blind Luck's Facebook page, this article is linked and the response is "Questions here about T-shirts/hats/etc. have not fallen on deaf ears...", so they're in the works.  Apparently her hot pink silks are something of a challenge for shirt makers.  I haven't seen the silks in person, but given the neon colored shirts I see around my college campus all the time, I think this can work!

26 Jul 2011 5:53 PM
Brenda from Texas

It's ridiculous that nobody is picking up on this rivalry - what other horse (that is currently racing) has racked up as many frequent flyer miles as Blind Luck - they're not scared to race her on both coasts & on different surfaces - the "duelling divas" need the same kind of publicity that Zenyatta had. Grace is a fantastic filly & I'm always rooting for her when she's NOT racing BL ...  

26 Jul 2011 6:18 PM
Kathmanblu

Where can I buy my Blind Luck shirt? :)

26 Jul 2011 7:26 PM
MRO

I'm a Blind Luck fan & would be happy to purchase merchandise showing my support....especially if the proceeds went to t-bred rescue. This is a REAL rivalry!

26 Jul 2011 8:59 PM
skyfire

Jerry H.'s willingness to ship his filly to race around the country is so awesome -- I wish I could be at Saratoga to cheer him when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.  

Kudos also to Goldikova's connections -- their sporting spirit is what racing needs, and what marketing depts. must use to engage public interest!  Seeing these horses on the track is what is beautiful about racing.

26 Jul 2011 9:14 PM
MsEllie

Hello Eric...thanks for your terrific piece on Havre de Grace and Blind Luck...you are so correct when you say that these incredible rivalries occur so rarely...As a Fox Hill Farm fan for many years, I would like to invite racing fans to  check out Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm website...created in 2004, Mr. Porter was one of the very first owners to create a horse racing site specifically for racing fans, of FHF horses and others...he has created a model for other owners that should be emulated...Winstar and Bradlet Racing are notable others that also engage fans...Through the website...Rick and Victoria Keith keep all of us in the FHF community up to date on their horses, the training, the sales..all of it...whenever I hear that racing doesn't reach out to the average fan, I have to disagree and point out FHF...I invite all HdG fans and others to join our on-line community and follow Grace's career, while enhancing their racing experiences...please check out rockportharbor.com...Eight Belles would want it this way...

26 Jul 2011 10:02 PM
Brenda from Texas

I agree whole heartedly with Deltalady - BL is a throw back to the greats of the past. We almost saw a duel between Rachel & Z, but it just wasn't destined to happen. I will definitely vote for Z to be in the 2012 BC calendar. I hope that the Queen is able to promote racing charities for the rest of her life. I'm a fan that can't wait to read her new facebook post everyday.  

27 Jul 2011 9:14 AM
JJW

Blind Luck's beaten Havre de Grace enough times to prove she's the better of the two.

28 Jul 2011 1:53 AM
Giddyup

I am a huge Blind Luck fan but I disagree with JJW that anything has been proven except both of these fillies are terrific. The finishes have been very close and on any given day either one might prevail. It has been a long time since we have been treated to a rivalry this entertaining and when you have great talent like this competing with everything they got there are no losers.

28 Jul 2011 9:29 AM
TerriV

They are breathtaking to watch and racing needs to get behind them and let outsiders know how exciting this rivalry is.  God bless these fillies and their connections for letting them run.  Zenyatta is a hard act to follow but follow her someone must...  we have to keep the interest growing.  Goldikova is another racing treasure and I hope when she shows up at Louisville she gets all the attention she deserves.  So sorry about First Dude - I remember seeing him up close for the first time in last years Haskell.  He is magnificent - I was really hoping to see him do well.

29 Jul 2011 3:45 PM
LauraJ

My problem is that I can't choose! I love them both. Oh well, that's what exacta boxes are for. Too bad Awesome Maria is out for the rest of the year; she was interesting too. It would be very cool if they both run in the Classic. Either one would have a legitimate chance to win.

29 Jul 2011 8:48 PM
bellesforever

Wonderful article...as a  long time FHF fan I can say that they do care about their fans.It brought me some help when the gallant Eight Belles died.There is very little separating B.L. and Grace..a nose a neck and it is a true honest to goodness rivalry.I love both horses..how can you not?I hope that Bl's crew can get her stuff up and going..I already have my Grace shirt !

01 Aug 2011 10:43 AM
AfleetAlexForever

JJW - im not sure how 3 wins compared to 2 wins is convincing.

02 Aug 2011 1:04 PM
Catbird

Fabulous rivalry -- let's have more of it.  But let's leave the rancor of the Zen/Rachel rivalry at the door.  That was of benefit to no one.  Blind Luck -- Havre de Grace, you can't lose.

03 Aug 2011 3:12 PM

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