August 20, 2010
The problem with sophomore fillies is that they are of the female persuasion.
Even though three-year-olds are often regarded as the sport’s elite division, sadly the same celebrity extend beyond the “Derby horses.” As a division, they labor in obscurity, necessitating great accomplishments just to get noticed.
There obviously have been some great fillies whose exploits in their three-year-old campaigns earned them berths in the Hall of Fame. Twilight Tear, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Ta Wee and Lady’s Secret easily leap to mind.
The most famous of these probably was Ruffian, but probably more for her ill fated match with Foolish Pleasure than her sweep of the filly triple crown.
(Mr. Hirsch always insisted on lower case when referencing winner of the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks).
If it weren’t for the capital t, capital c, Triple Crown races, general sports fans might never have heard of Winning Colors or Genuine Risk or Rags to Riches, or Rachel Alexandra for that matter.
The Alabama, once regarded as the fourth leg of the filly triple crown, will be renewed for the 130th time Saturday, making it a serious fixture.
Three times since 1999 the Alabama winner has been named three-year-old filly champion: Silverbulletday, Farda Amiga in 2002 and, in a memorable 2008 renewal, Proud Spell.
If a fourth champion since ‘99 doesn’t emerge from Saturday’s 10 furlongs, you probably have a scoop. When this session ends, it could be that Alabama 130 will be recalled as the Race of the Meet.
Blind Luck is a terrific filly. She’s won eighth of 12 lifetime starts and never has finished out of the money. Among the victories were the Oak Leaf and Hollywood Starlet at 2, and the Las Vergennes and prestigious Kentucky Oaks this year, Grade 1s all.
The well named daughter of Pollard’s Vision and Lucky One ran for a claiming price in her debut. The $11,000 yearling could have been claimed for $40,000 as the original connections took a little the best of it, the filly romping by 13-¼ lengths.
Privately purchased and moved to the Jerry Hollendorfer barn in California, she’s never looked back since: She couldn’t look back; most of the time she trailed the field. Her style was a perfect synthetic-track fit.
After winning two Grade 1 wins at 2, the new connections went looking for hills to climb. They won Oaklawn Park’s G2 Fantasy and the Delaware Oaks, wrapped around an exciting final-jump Kentucky Oaks score, the second of three career nose victories.
But Devil May Care is no Grade 1 slouch. She won the Frizette in only her second start at 2, and the Mother Goose and CCA Oaks this year, the latter over this track most recently.
So not only does she have a recent win over the track but showed a preference for Saratoga that day by winning her second start here without defeat. She comes up to the Alabama perfectly off graduating distances and has mile and a quarter experience.
Devil May Care has another edge on her rival, albeit a subtle one. On the Equiform performance figure scale, both Blind Luck and Harve de Grace own better figures but Devil May Care the better developmental pattern.
For Harve de Grace, it was a lifetime best effort by a wide margin but in five career starts never has taken a backward step, somewhat mitigating the huge double top. Plus she’s had six weeks recovery time.
Blind Luck ran as fast as her Delaware race before when winning the Fantasy, then regressed but still won the Oaks. If that pattern repeats, she could be in trouble here as her main rival projects to move forward.
But there’s no compromising on the class scale, and Blind Luck is all that. She will be ridden for the third time by Joel Rosario, 2-for-2 on the Hollendorfer filly.
While the two favorites should dominate, the Alabama is more than a two-horse race. Acting Happy will love the added distance; Connie and Michael was very game behind Devil May Care, and Harve de Grace, from the white hot Anthony Dutrow shed, never has done a thing wrong developmentally.
Winning the Alabama is unlikely to make either of the favorites household names by Saturday night, but the connections of a couple of older mares will be very interested in what happens at Saratoga on Saturday.
A victory on the first Saturday in November? Now that would make either filly a true overnight sensation.