Dec 23rd 2011 12:11 pm |
I am slowly emerging from my post Breeders’ Cup haze and beginning to plan things for Colin’s Ghost in 2012. But, before I do that, I have been thinking back on 2011. Overall, it was a bit of a letdown after two years with Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. However, there is one moment that stands out in a big way from the past year in racing.
As race fans, its a prerequisite that you have thick skin and the ability to deal with disappointment. The fragility of thoroughbreds can lead to tragedy in the worst case and, at its most mundane, missed opportunities for greatness.
Early this past summer all signs began pointing to a rematch of the 2010 Delaware Oaks and a continuation of racing’s most intriguing rivalry in the Delaware Handicap. My skepticism about it actually happening remained in place until I stood in the middle of the Delaware Park paddock and watched as Havre de Grace and Blind Luck were led into the walking ring. Sometimes, the universe gives us racing fans a break.
It’s easy to forget where Blind Luck and Havre de Grace stood six months ago. After a sub-par three-year-old classic season and the lack of a standout older male, the two fillies were arguably the best two thoroughbreds in training.
By the time of the 2011 Delaware Handicap, the two had already met five times with Blind Luck finishing ahead of Havre de Grace in three of those races. No story in racing was as exciting as the Blind Luck-Havre de Grace rivalry. Two years of not seeing Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta meet on the track, made an impending sixth meeting between the two rivals in the 2011 Delaware Handicap all the more satisfying
Last year, when the two met for the first time in the Delaware Oaks, the hard-charging Blind Luck caught the relative unknown Havre de Grace on a dreary, rainy day in July. That race was Havre de Grace’s coming out party. When the two returned to Delaware Park as four-year-olds, Havre de Grace had muscled her way to the top of the Thoroughbred rankings alongside her rival. She beat Blind Luck in their first match of the year at Oaklawn Park. When the Del Cap rolled around, both stood at the top of their game, as evenly matched as two great thoroughbreds could be.
As I wrote back in July, the 2011 Del Cap was a “deservedly hyped race that lived up to all the hype.” In a race satisfyingly similar to their performance in the Oaks the previous year, Blind Luck wore down Havre de Grace in deep stretch and beat her again on the Delaware oval. The Delaware Handicap was the last time that Blind Luck and Havre de Grace would meet. It’s fitting that it finished where it all started, in as thrilling a race as you’ll ever see.
Of the many races I have seen at Delaware Park in my lifetime, the 2010 Oaks and the 2011 Del Cap will be tough to match. For a track with a long history of high class filly and mare racing, it might have witnessed its greatest moments in 2010 and 2011 courtesy of Blind Luck and Harve de Grace.
One more time, here is the Colin’s Ghost 2011 Race of the Year:
Happy Holidays and Good Luck in the New Year! See you in 2012…