Blind Luck has won five graded races from seven starts this year, including classics such as the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama. But on Saturday, the nation's top 3-year-old filly could be facing the toughest fight of her fairy-tale season when she gives 10 pounds to budding rival Havre de Grace in the Grade 2, $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa.
The Cotillion, for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, is one of the meet's defining races. It also serves as the third match-up between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. So far, Blind Luck has used her locomotive-like kick to run down Havre de Grace twice, first by a nose in the slop in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks on July 10, and then by a neck in the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 21.
"How she finds the wire no matter what just blows me away," Tony Dutrow, who trains Havre de Grace, said of Blind Luck. "No matter what, her nose ends up where it's supposed to be. It's a bit frustrating, but you just have to say, 'Wow, what a filly!' "
There is a price for the success, however, and Blind Luck will pay it per the conditions of the Cotillion. As a Grade 1 winner at a mile or more in 2010 she will tote 124 pounds on Saturday to the 114 to be carried by each of her four rivals. It's a burden Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Blind Luck, was well aware of when the Cotillion was targeted as Blind Luck's last stop before the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
"Weight is always a concern, and of course it's a big concern with a great filly like Havre de Grace," Hollendorfer said. "We wanted to take the chance anyway, because we thought timing-wise this is an ideal prep for our horse. Most of the other options were running in New York in the Beldame against older, which presents a problem also, and running against Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret and I didn't think that would be an outstanding move on my part."
Hollendorfer has made all the right calls with Blind Luck, who opened her season in February with a win in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita. She would go on to win the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill, the Delaware Oaks, and the Alabama at Saratoga. For her first start at Parx, Blind Luck will break from the rail under Joel Rosario, and figures to once again be making her case in the late stages.
"She's just a special horse, she has a special way of doing things, and we're not trying to change it," said Hollendorfer.
Havre de Grace's stock has risen exponentially since she won a first-level allowance at Parx in May. She made her graded debut two starts later in the Delaware Oaks and hooked Blind Luck and finished second while toting six less pounds. But last out the two met at equal weights, and Havre de Grace was just edged by Blind Luck to earn a career-high Beyer Figure of 100.
"Our filly came into this season with only two races in her 2-year-old year and she's steadily gotten better in her four starts as a 3-year-old," Dutrow said. "I am wondering if Havre de Grace still has development and improvement in her. I'm hoping for that, and time will tell. But that's what our camp is hoping, that we have not yet seen the best of our filly, and we are hoping that our filly can turn the tables Blind Luck."
Dutrow said he feels Havre de Grace is training into the Cotillion as well as she was for both the Delaware Oaks and the Alabama.
"I think it's obvious what is on our side is the 10 pounds," he said. "Not only does Blind Luck have to carry 124 pounds, but she has to give 10 pounds to Havre de Grace and that has to be in our favor."
Havre de Grace, who has tactical speed, will be ridden by Jeremy Rose.
Bonnie Blue Flag, who is cross-entered in the Grade 1 Beldame at one turn Saturday at Belmont, was looking like a strong possibility for the Cotillion. Trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday morning said he was leaning toward running in suburban Philadelphia.
"I've been wanting to run her two turns," he said. "I think she's a better fit in Philly. We're high on her. She's training extremely well."
-- additional reporting by Dave Grening