Fillies will be in running
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A filly and a mare could crash the male-dominated second day of the season-ending world championships, with Havre de Grace and Goldikova strong contenders in their Breeders’ Cup races against the boys.
Havre de Grace will face 11 males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic tonight at Churchill Downs. The filly was listed at 3-1 on the morning line behind 5-2 favorite Uncle Mo.
Just before the Classic, 7-5 favorite Goldikova will go for a record fourth consecutive victory in the $2 million Mile on the turf, the European star’s final race before retirement.
“If she were to pull that off, I think you just bronze her and put her in the infield,’’ said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who doesn’t have a horse in the Mile. “You don’t give her a trophy.’’
A victory would put Havre de Grace in strong position to be the third consecutive filly to win Horse of the Year, an honor claimed by Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Havre de Grace was named by owner Rick Porter for the Maryland city and former racetrack located between Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore. The name means harbor of grace or mercy in French.
“Around here, we just call her Gracie,’’ trainer Larry Jones said.
She was third in last year’s Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs under a different trainer in the worst finish of her career. She is 5 of 6 this year, including a win against the boys in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Sept. 3, beating Classic contender Flat Out by 1 1/4 lengths.
Her only loss this year was to Blind Luck by a nose in the Delaware Handicap in July.
“We think she’s the best she’s been all year,’’ Jones said.
Besides Uncle Mo, some of Havre de Grace’s biggest challengers are Flat Out, European import So You Think, Game On Dude, and Stay Thirsty.
Havre de Grace will be running 1 1/4 miles for the third time in her career, having finished second twice at the distance to Blind Luck, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly. She drew post 10, with Uncle Mo among the horses outside her.
The race is at the same track where Jones’s filly Eight Belles finished second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, then broke her ankles as she was pulled up past the finish line and had to be destroyed, horrifying the crowd. Her death had critics calling for fillies to stick to racing against their own gender.
But with the success of Rachel Alexandra, who beat the boys in the 2009 Preakness, and Zenyatta, who became the first female to win the Classic later that year, the controversy has passed.