Versus is a word with many meanings right now in the world of Thoroughbred racing. For one, it is the network on which NBC now places much of its racing coverage and will be airing broadcasts from Saratoga this spring in a much-needed boost to the television presence of the sport. Versus also is a combative word, as in the viability of tracks without additional gaming versus the success of those that do have it. In this vein, I look at versus in the way it was originally intended, as a way to set up a climactic matchup, like a top heavyweight fight or a championship game in any sport. Versus is a word that sometimes gets incorporated into a rivalry like Dallas vs. Pittsburgh in the NFL in the 1970s or Ali vs. Frazier in boxing from the same time frame. Right now, the best rivalry we have in racing is shaping up to take place again this weekend at Delaware Park.
Blind Luck and Havre De Grace is the most outstanding racing rivalry in the business currently and the two ladies are fairly even in their results. Blind Luck has two wins in their five matchups, Havre De Grace has two wins in the five matchups, and one (the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic) was won by the now-retired Unrivaled Belle. However, Blind Luck finished second at Churchill Downs and Havre De Grace ran third. Also keep in mind that one of those prior races was over this racetrack, in the Delaware Oaks won by Blind Luck. It certainly isn't like the two horses aren't coming into this race on the downswing. Havre De Grace is 3 for 3 in 2011, which includes a win the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. Blind Luck's recent record in wins in the La Troienne at Churchill Downs and the Vanity at Hollywood Park.
By the way, another name not to be ignored in the mix is Life At Ten, who has still yet to recover from the whole Breeders' Cup fiasco last fall, when she should have been scratched after not warming up properly and having her rider disclose that information to the national television audience, leaving the only one's apparently unaware of the horse's condition the track veterinarian and the track stewards. Her trainer, Todd Pletcher, thinks Life At Ten might be a go for this race this weekend.
If you think about it, though, as far as the rivalry goes, it is the best of the available bunch right now. Animal Kingdom vs. Shackleford was shot down after Animal Kingdom was injured in the Belmont Stakes and shelved for the rest of the year. Who else do we have, Bob Baffert's Dudes, First Dude vs. Game On Dude after the 1-2 in the Hollywood Gold Cup? How about Gio Ponti vs. anyone they can throw at him on the turf at this point? Face it, the rivalry game in racing isn't much right now. Do we have to harken back to the glory days with Affirmed vs. Alydar and Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer? It might not be that desperate yet, but if Blind Luck vs. Havre De Grace doesn't keep the momentum rolling, it could still get there.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!