Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sweet Road Alabama


August 21, 2010

Dear Diary,

A funny thing happened on the way to an Alabama showdown, a Whitney broke out.

Save for one thing: The drama was very short lived.

Like the Whitney, the Alabama was a rider’s race. When that happens you get Grade 1 fractions such as :49.45 and 1:14.81, good if, you know, you were going a mile and a half on the grass.

But that’s OK because as slow as it was, Johnny Velazquez, after his sixth win on the program, wrestled Devil May Care back a bit, just as he had done while winning the Coaching Club Oaks here a month ago.

Only this time, the pace was slower and she was settled back in fifth. Any thoughts of a tactical advantage disappeared right there. The only horse behind the favorite was Blind Luck, in her customary spot in back of the pack.

But the slow pace had the four-time Grade 1 winner, two this year, had her close enough to the leaders and in a comfortable rhythm. As it turned out, the slow pace was good for her and bad for Devil May Care.

Just like the slow pace was good for Blame, not so much for Whitney favorite Quality Road.

His tactical advantage gone, there was one option left for Velazquez: Make a big brush to the lead, open ground, putting enough daylight between himself and the protem divisional leader.

But that brush was abbreviated and when he didn’t rush past the promising, late developer Harve de Grace at headstretch, the battle everyone hope to see never materialized.

“She didn’t fire,” was Todd Pletcher’s cryptic quote, and really there was nothing else to say, although Velazquez tried: “I got her out nearing the quarter-pole, but she didn’t come up with anything. Nothing at all. I was very surprised.”

No more so than the crowd that made the CCAO winner their 3-4 favorite.

Jerry Hollendorfer it may turn out might ride Blind Luck all the way across the street and into the Hall of Fame one day. He man dominated Northern California for decades, took his skills to SoCal and made a virtually seamless transition. He was a very gracious winner.

“It seems like we have the best 3-year-old filly, right now. I hate to make those kinds of assessments” he said in he winners’ circle. “We’ll see what she can do the rest of the year. She did all the work, and I just get to train her. I give Blind Luck all the credit. We’ve had a very consistent filly all year long.”

Indeed, Blind Luck is very, very good, clearly the division’s best. But it’s Hollendorfer who maps out the course and he seems to hit all the high notes.

Hollendorfer targeted two races this year, the two most prestigious Grade 1s run on dirt for three-year-olds in this country, and he won both the Kentucky Oaks and Betfair TVG Alabama.

The margin a victory was a neck, which is practically a romp for this filly that’s won three important fixtures, including the Oaks, by a nose.

It was an amazing performance by the lightly raced Harve de Grace who did much of the dirt work then forced Blind Luck to dig down for all she had.

Said jockey Jeremy Rose: “[Harve de Grace] gave me everything she had. She laid it on track and just got beat. She ran every step, and she ran down the lane as hard as she could. She's an amazing filly. We just got beat by a filly that's really amazing too.”

As for the favorite, it’s unlikely you’ll see her return on four weeks rest again as she clearly seemed to regress off her Oaks score. And maybe, too, she’s a high-cruising grinder and not a turn-of-foot brusher. We shall see.

Meanwhile, if Eclipse Award voting were tomorrow, it would be but a formality: Blind Luck in a landslide. But if Devil May Care were to win another Grade 1 and equal the score at the Breeders’ Cup, then it could be a toss-up for the championship.

If it shakes out that way, it’s unlikely Hollendorfer would take a passive approach and watch from the sidelines. “There’s nothing for her on the West Coast.

“I wouldn’t want to try grass with her until next year. We’d like six or seven weeks between races. So we’ll just have to travel again.”

Written by John Pricci

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