Smile Politely

Will Grace prevail over the boys?

Rachel became the only one to do it in 2009. Now, Havre de Grace wants in on that record. This Saturday, the spectacular filly will take on the boys in the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga and try to become only the second filly ever to win the race. 

Havre de GraceEarlier this year, Havre de Grace was looking like the stand-out for Horse of the Year honors, but her old foe Blind Luck came back to put the pressure on that goal by handing her her first defeat this year in the Grade II Delaware Handicap. Now, Havre de Grace will try to trump Blind Luck in this campaign by winning a non-restricted Grade I race at the Graveyard of Champions. A win in the Woodward would give Havre de Grace supporters an argument for why she should be more highly considered than Blind Luck, who has yet to face males on the track.

Havre de Grace is already a Grade I winner this year. The 4-year-old filly got up just in time to overpower Grade I winner Switch in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn this spring. This race was the second in Havre de Grace’s three race win-streak that began with a victory over Blind Luck in the Grade III Azeri, and was snapped by her rival four months later. Havre de Grace looked untouchable in the race following the Apple Blossom, the Grade III Obeah at Delaware Park, where she won by 2 ¼ lengths after only a couple taps on the shoulder by jockey Gabriel Saez. In the now-legendary showdown with Blind Luck in the Del Cap, Havre de Grace fought back the length of the stretch against her rival and was only ground down by the most determined of noses.

A salty field of foes have lined up to test the filly in the Woodward, including Grade I winner Giant Oak. All but one of her foes are graded stakes winners, as well: Flat Out, Mission Impazible, Rule, Mambo Meister, and Ice Box. Giant Oak may be the lone Grade I challenger for Havre de Grace, but he is one of those unpredictable horses who may or may not show up on any given day; he has not won since his victory in the Grade I Donn Handicap five starts ago, and ran third last time out to Tizway and Flat Out in the Grade I Whitney. Flat Out’s claim to fame is a victory in the Grade II Suburban Handicap at Belmont, which came before his runner-up to Tizway in the Whitney. (It should here be noted that Tizway is one of the lead contenders for Horse of the Year honors, so in his absence, perhaps one of these horses will shine?) Those who have run well over Saratoga’s main track tend to have an advantage, so it’s worth taking a look at Rule, who won the Birdstone Stakes here last time out. Convocation is the only horse in the field with two wins at Saratoga, but both of those came in Allowance/Optional Claiming races. One thing to note is that in Convocation’s most recent race, which was one of those AOC going 1 1/8th-miles at Saratoga, he defeated a couple of nicer horses, including Ice Box, who his entering the Woodward off that third-place finish.

With the Horse of the Year picture still blurry this deep in the season, the door is wide-open for Havre de Grace to come bursting through. This game filly has never run worse than third in her life, and looks like the most impressive horse entering the Woodward. However, she must still pass this test of facing non-restricted company to be truly considered one of the best horses in the nation. That being said, none of her competitors in this field have a legitimate bid for Horse of the Year yet, so even if Grace does prevail over the boys, she will still have to face her old rival Blind Luck at least one more time this year. Nevertheless, if Havre de Grace does win the Woodward, she will put herself in elite company in the history books, right next to Rachel Alexandra [the Great]. You couldn’t ask for more honorable company than that.

The Grade I Woodward will be broadcast live from Saratoga on Versus. Coverage begins at 5:00pm ET with post time scheduled for approximately 5:45pm ET.

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