The rivalry began when the pair met in the Grade II Delaware Oaks last year, with Blind Luck edging out a nose victory over Havre de Grace. Since then, they have met four times at venues across the country, with Havre de Grace winning two and Blind Luck winning one. The only time one did not win while facing each other was in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs last year, when Unrivaled Belle won, Blind Luck finished second and Havre de Grace finished third.
Turned over to trainer J. Larry Jones at the end of her campaign last year, Havre de Grace is unbeaten in three starts this year. In her most recent, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Saint Liam posted a 2¼ -length triumph in the local prep for the Delaware Handicap, the mile-and-an-eighth $150,000 Grade III Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park on June 11. Previously, she won a pair of Oaklawn Park stakes. On March 19, she beat Blind Luck by 3¼ -lengths in the Grade III Azeri Stakes and followed by notching a 3/4-length score in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap on April 15. She has a career record of six wins, three seconds and two thirds from 11 starts, with earnings of $1,371,175.
Havre de Grace's owner Richard Porter would very much like to add the biggest race in his home state to his impressive resume of stake victories.
"It is certainly high on the list and right up there with some of the prestigious races in the country," said Porter. "Obviously being from Delaware and being the biggest race in Delaware, it is high, very high, on my list. We thought a few times we had some nice horses that might win it for us, but for some reason or another they just did not work out the way we had hoped. When I first gave Larry (Jones) the horse, I told him she might be the horse that could win the big one at Delaware. She is obviously one of the nicest looking horses I have ever had. As far as talent and accomplishments, I would put her right up there with Hard Spun. I hope she turns out to be the best horse I have ever had, and I have been fortunate enough to have some nice ones."
The closest Porter has come to winning the Delaware Handicap was with Jostle, who finished fourth as the prohibitive favorite in 2001.
In 2005, Jones brought one horse to Delaware Park and won the Delaware Handicap with Island Sand. The following year, the native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, brought all of his horses to Newark, Delaware, where his relationship with Richard Porter and Fox Hill Farm blossomed. Jones concurs with Porter's assessment of Havre de Grace.
"I even said that before we actually raced her for the first time," said Jones. "I thought she was showing me signs of being a special horse. Hard Spun was a very, very nice horse. Unfortunately, we do not know how good Eight Belles was going to get, but she sure was good. Proud Spell and Kodiak Kowboy both won Eclipse Awards, and they were both special. But I think Havre de Grace is as good or better then anything we have ever had."
But Blind Luck stands in the way. In her most recent, the 4-year-old daughter of Pollard's Vision notched a half-length victory in the Grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 18. Previously, the Kentucky-bred conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer posted a half-length triumph in the Grade II La Troiene at Churchill Downs on May 6. She sports a career record of 11 wins, seven seconds and two thirds from 20 starts, with earnings of $2,829,520.
"This filly usually gives a good effort every time," said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the Delaware Handicap with Hysterical Lady in 2008. "I think Larry Jones has done a remarkable job with Havre de Grace this year But do not forget, there will be more than two horses, so we are not counting anybody out. But hopefully, we can put on a good show for the fans."
Candy DeBartolo's Life At Ten will be returning to defend her title and gives the race a third million-dollar-plus-purse-earning filly or mare, as the 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon has amassed career earnings of $1,184,515 She will also be giving her trainer Todd Pletcher a shot at racing history. A victory by the Kentucky-bred would give Pletcher his record fifth Delaware Handicap victory, which would break the record of legendary local conditioner Henry Clark who won the race with Endine in 1958 and 1959 and Obeah in 1969 and 1970. Pletcher won the filly and mare classic with Life at Ten last year, Unbridled Belle in 2007, Fleet Indian in 2006 and Irving's Baby in 2001.
But Life at Ten will need to find her winning ways from 2010 again to have any chance of upsetting the top two. So far this year, she is winless in three starts with a fourth in her most recent, the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 18.
Besides Endine and Obeah, three other horses have won the Delaware Handicap twice. They are Blessing Angelica (1971 & 1972), Susan’s Girl (1973 & 1975) and Nastique (1988 & 1989).