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Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Closing on a high note

By Bob Ehalt

The 2011 Saratoga season has been whittled down to just six more days, one of which promises to belong to a rather talented lady.

The dynamic 4-year-old filly Havre de Grace is scheduled to take a brief respite from her epic rivalry with Blind Luck to tackle the boys this farewell weekend at the Spa in a setting Rachel Alexandra made famous in 2009 -- the Woodward Stakes.

Two years after Rachel Alexandra used a victory in the Woodward as a final springboard to become Horse of the Year in 2009, Havre de Grace will also try to enhance her championship credentials in her first race against colts.

Unseen in New York since she lost by a neck to Blind Luck in last year’s Alabama, Havre de Grace figures to be favored in Saturday’s Woodward, especially with Whitney and Met Mile winner Tizway skipping the mile and an eighth stakes. Flat Out, who was second in the Whitney, heads the list of prospective challengers, which also includes Mission Impazible, Rule, Giant Oak, Convocation, and Ice Box.

It’s a solid bunch of colts, yet none of them have been able to match the speed and consistency Havre de Grace has put on display for more than a year now, and how Havre de Grace matches up with them will be very telling indeed.

She and Blind Luck have electrified the sport with six classic confrontations, and Saturday’s race should put in focus just how good one and -- by association -- the other are. Are they simply entertaining ladies? Or are they the best two horses in the nation, period?

The Woodward should help answer that question, and put in motion the story lines for the Breeders’ Cup.

A filly or mare has been named Horse of the Year in each of the last two years, and after Saturday we should have a better idea about the chances of a hat trick.

As a going away present to fans, two other Grade 1 stakes will be contested on Saturday’s card.

The versatile Sidney’s Candy will give dirt another try after an impressive grass win earlier in the meet. He heads the seven-furlong, $250,000 Forego, which will also feature Aikenite, Escrow Kid, Golddigger’s Boy, Jackson Bend, Jersey Town and Regal Ransom.

As a result of Sunday’s cancellation due to weather, the $300,000 Personal Ensign was moved to Saturday. There was a field of six scheduled to run last Sunday, and all of them -- Acronym, Ask the Moon, Pachattack, Protesting, Super Espresso and Tiz Miz Sue -- are expected to re-enter Wednesday when the race will be drawn for the second time.

The meet, and, for all intents and purposes, summer, end Monday.