While this coming weekend showcases a total of 6 graded stakes races, the big two getting all of the attention will feature only the lovely……..fillies and mares. Let’s face it, ladies might not get all the attention they deserve sometimes, but when they do, it can be hard to take your eyes off of them. Horse racing proved it over the last couple of years with the grandest female champion of all time: Zenyatta. Her dazzling career along with her style and method of racing last until hitting the top of the stretch capped some of the most thrilling races we’ve ever seen. With her career coming to end at the Breeders Cup Classic last November, she has been missed in 2011. But there are a number of fillies and mares that are contending to replace her. After finishing 19-1 with over $7 Million in lifetime earnings and over 85,000 Facebook fans, that is a very tall order because let alone being the greatest mare of all time, Zenyatta put herself into the conversation of best horses of all time.
Lets take a look at our fillies are mares in action this weekend. On the east coast it will be the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap and out west it is the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.
Running since the inaugural meet at Delaware Park in 1937, the “Del Cap” has become the pinnacle feature race of the meet. The 2011 edition brings excitement to the table, featuring two of the leading females in the sport, 4-year-old fillies Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. With résumé potential for the Outstanding Older Female Eclipse Award and automatic qualification for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic via the “Win and Your’re In” program, you can be sure this is going to be another battle worth watching.
Now that last years Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle has retired, the two fillies that finished 2nd and 3rd look ready to win it in 2011. Before we get there though, this rivalry should have another a chapter or two. Dating back to last July, they have faced off a total of 5 times with Blind Luck finishing ahead in 3 of those meetings. While Blind Luck may have the upper hand in that statistic, Havre de Grace has it in the what have you done for me lately category. After outdueling Blind Luck in the G3 Azeri at Oaklawn this past March, she came back to score in the G1 Apple Blossom and the G3 Obeah. Trained by Larry Jones, winner of this race in ’05, Havre de Grace is your Morning Line favorite.
Although Blind Luck is the 2nd choice in this race, Jockey Garret Gomez and Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer still have a lot of skin in this game. After winning the Kentucky Oaks last May, this filly has yet to miss the board. Having won 5 of her last 11 which included 2 2nd place finishes to her arch rival, she has a healthy chance of winning again on Saturday. Looking to the steal the spot light in this 5 horse field are “the other three”, Life At Ten, Thundering Emilia, and Love’s Blush. Since her infamous and forgettable performance in last years BC Ladies Classic, Life At Ten has yet to find or regain the form that led her to the winners circle in this race last year.
Grade 2 $750,000 Delaware Handicap – Fillies & Mares, 3 yr olds & up, 1 1/4 Mile, Dirt PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds 1. Life At Ten D. Cohen T. Pletcher 5-1 2. Thundering Emilia J. Pimentel M. Matz 20-1 3. Havre de Grace R. Dominguez J. Jones 4-5 4. Love’s Blush T. Dunkleberger R. Jenkins 20-1 5. Blind Luck J. Hollendorfer G. Gomez 7-5
Picks: Blind Luck strikes back, edges out Havre de Grace near the wire
Let’s head out west and to the turf for this weekends only Grade 1 Stakes. The morning line favorite in this race is the story of a young but late blossoming filly that has no doubt finally reached her form. After a rocky start, finishing no better than 3rd in her first three MSW’s, Bizzy Caroline turned the corner after breaking her maiden at Keeneland in April. Since then she went on to win an Allowance before reaching the stakes contender level by winning the G3 Regret at Churchill Downs in June. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Bizzy Caroline makes her first ever trip to the West Coast and will have Rafael Bejarano in the irons for the first time.
Even at 2-1 however, she isn’t a clear-cut morning line favorite according to the odds makers. Right behind her at 5-2 and 3-1 are a couple of other Graded Stakes winners in Star Billing and Cambina. Having raced only in California, they hold a definite advantage over the favorite since their last two races were over the turf at Hollywood Park. Those, the G3 Senorita and the G2 Honeymoon, Star Billing got the edge both times, finishing 1st and 2nd. Trained by Jon Shirrefs, Star Billing welcomes Joel Rosario aboard for the first time. In those 2 races, Cambina finished 3rd both times. With Garret Gomez in Delaware, Martin Garcia will take the reins in hopes of returning the filly to the winners circle for the first time since Gomez did it in the G2 Providenica at Santa Anita on April 9th.
Rounding out the contenders is Nereid at 4-1. Also trained by John Shirrefs, Nereid enters her first Graded Stakes and only her 4th lifetime race. Ridden only by Joe Talamo, he returns for what could be her 3rd win in a row. At 10-1 and filling the remaining 2 spots in the starting gate is Entrustment and Love Theway Youare.
Grade 1 $250,000 American Oaks Stakes – Fillies, 3 yr olds, 1 1/4 Mile, Turf PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds 1. Entrustment A. Quinonez P. Gallagher 10-1 2. Love Theway Youare V. Espinoza M. Cho 10-1 3. Nereid J. Talamo J. Shirrefs 4-1 4. Cambina (IRE) M. Garcia J. Bonde 3-1 5. Star Billing J. Rosario J. Shirrefs 5-2 6. Bizzy Caroline R. Bejarano J. Hollendorfer 2-1
Picks: Cambina returns to the winners circle. Trifecta 2-4-5
It should be a very interesting and exciting weekend of racing for some of America’s top Fillies and Mares. With the automatic Breeders Cup qualifier race in play, one lucky lady will set the stage for the Ladies Breeders Cup Classic in November by establishing herself as the early favorite. Good luck, ladies.
Written by: Little Brink