Saratoga's dueling fillies lead big day

Above: Blind Luck, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, won the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. Below: Devil May Care (3), ridden by John Velazquez, won the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont on June 26.
Above: Blind Luck, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, won the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. Below: Devil May Care (3), ridden by John Velazquez, won the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont on June 26. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Their paths have actually crossed before on quite a large stage when both were already established Grade I winners vying for the top spot of their depth-laden division.

In the more than eight months since Devil May Care and Blind Luck first lined up together in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last November, the duo have done nothing but add to their already impressive credentials, scoring two more Grade I wins each while solidifying their claims as the two best of their class.

Those hoping to see how the talented fillies stack up against each other now will get their wish Saturday. And as grand as the stakes were in the first meeting, they are arguably just as high now.

Just as the Haskell Invitational succeeded earlier this month in drawing the top sophomore males together, Saturday's Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga has duplicated that feat for the distaffers as Kentucky Oaks heroine Blind Luck and Glencrest Farm's three-time Grade I winner Devil May Care headline a field of six in the 11/4-mile race.

Though this weekend features no shortage of top racing, including Gio Ponti's attempt to become the only back-to-back winner of the Grade I Arlington Million on Saturday, the Blind Luck versus Devil May Care showdown may carry the most weight down the road, when it comes time to decided divisional honors.

Since that Breeders' Cup Juvenile meeting — where Blind Luck finished third and Devil May Care 11th — the two fillies have taken turns throwing down the gauntlet for supremacy.

While Blind Luck unleashed a memorable rally to capture the Kentucky Oaks — her fourth career Grade I triumph — Devil May Care started a day later in the Kentucky Derby, where she finished a respectable 10th (out of 20) in her first test against the colts.

Devil May Care has since rattled off two stellar wins in the Grade I Mother Goose and Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks while Blind Luck rebounded from a runner-up finish in the Grade II Hollywood Oaks to nip fellow Alabama entrant Havre de Grace in the Grade II Delaware Oaks on July 10.

"You know, I don't think this is to the level that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta were at, but, you know, I think this is a race that the fans want to see," said Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer and co-owner of Blind Luck. "I don't think ... it's a East Coast/West Coast showdown. But I think people will make it into that, and that's OK with me. And it's probably OK with the racing fans, too."

Blind Luck is unbeaten on four dirt tracks: Calder, Oaklawn, Churchill and Delaware Park.

Both fillies have running styles that suit the 11/4-mile distance, but Devil May Care owns the advantage of having a pair of wins over the Saratoga strip, having broken her maiden there last August and romping by 4 lengths in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24.

"We felt this was a special filly from Day One," Glencrest's John Greathouse said. "She had a high cruising speed and gave you a lot of :11 and changes. She has disappointed neither (trainer) Todd Pletcher nor myself."

The Alabama is the clear highlight of the Saratoga weekend lineup, but Arlington Park has a trio of top Grade I turf races Saturday in the Secretariat Stakes, the Beverly D. and the Arlington Million.

Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti won the Million last year en route to earning Eclipse Awards for champion older male and turf male, but then went on a five-race losing skid that had some questioning whether he had lost his best form.

The 5-year-old righted himself last time out in winning the Grade I Man o' War Stakes at Belmont on July 10 and has been installed as the 7-to-5 morning line choice in the field of 10 for the 11/4-mile Million.