The Brock Talk

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Add Options to Havre de Grace Arsenal In Horse of the Year Race

Thanks to Havre de Grace (photo right) and her win over males in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Saturday, we finally have a front runner for Horse of the Year.

With the Breeders’ Cup coming in 60 days or so, there are plenty of races left, especially since Havre de Grace can return to her division of fillies and mares with little else to prove. But without much doubt the Larry Jones-trained filly has jumped a big hurdle and now has a choice of paths no that she has done so.

If Havre de Grace were a colt or gelding, she would be left choosing between the two grade I races on each coast considered to be the main prep races for the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Those would be the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita, both to be run Oct. 1.

Left for 3-year-old males with championship aspirations are three grade II derbies in the Super (Sept. 10 at Louisiana Downs), Pennsylvania (Sept. 24 at Parx Racing) and Indiana (Oct. 1 at Hoosier Park). Those are still options for the Coils, Shacklefords and Uncle Mos of the 2011 racing world but obviously not Havre de Grace.

But because Havre de Grace is a female – and a 4-year-old filly who has now defeated a grade 1 bunch of boys on the main track and around two turns to boot – she has additional options.

Jones has said Havre de Grace can handle 10 furlongs, but he feels she excels more at nine furlongs. Since Havre de Grace has already defeated males in Woodward, the 1-1/8 mile (9 fur.) Ladies Classic seems the most likely final race of the year. The Classic is 1-1/4 miles (10 fur.)

But what to do between now and then?

The first option for Jones and Havre de Grace is to do nothing and take her current credentials into the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

Why? Her resume now includes four wins, in five graded races this year. She has won the grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, the Woodward and two grade 3 stakes in the Azeri, also at Oaklawn; and the Obeah at Delaware Park. Her only loss this year was to Blind Luck, an arch rival she defeated in the Azeri in the grade 2 but lost to by a nose in the Delaware Handicap (gr. 2) last race. So that score is even at one apiece this year. The championships between those two will likely be decided during the Breeders’ Cup, one way or the other, so there is little gained by either before going to Churchill Downs in terms of points or credentials.

It may be all up to timing however.

Why Not? Although Havre de Grace has four wins after four career vacations of 30 days or more, trainer Jones was not happy with her performance in the Obeah this year coming off of a two-month break. The Ladies Classic and Classic are 63 and 64 days after the Woodward respectively. Doubtful Jones wants to try that two-month break again before what may be the biggest race of the St. Liam daughter's career.

The second option would be to run in the grade 1 Beldame against fillies and mares at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, the same day as the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Why? Quite frankly, Havre de Grace will need the race. Although it has been 1999 since Beautiful Pleasure last used the Beldame winner’s circle as a spring board to winning the Ladies Classic (formally the Breeders’ Cup Distaff until 2008 when the name was changed to the current moniker), the $350,000 Beldame is the most logical prep race for East Coast fillies and mares. And Havre de Grace is stabled at nearby Delaware Park. Not that travel bothers Havre de Grace; she has won in four different states. It is more of a question of why when one does not have too.

Why Not? Although trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is considering the Beldame for Blind Luck, far be it from Larry Jones to back down from her – especially on a pseudo home court as Blind Luck is stabled on the West Coast and Havre de Grace in Delaware.

In the end, however, Hollendorfer will probably opt to run Blind Luck in the Lady's Secret instead of the Beldame, for the very reason Havre de Grace will not be seriously considering the Santa Anita trip from Delaware.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup would also be an option, but Jones told the NYRA press team recently that 1-1/4 miles is not the best distance for Havre de Grace. The Beldame is at 9 furlongs, a Havre de Grace favorite. Plus, with the Woodward feather in Havre de Grace's cap, there would be little to gain by her defeating males again.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup may be easier than the Beldame should Blind Luck come east, but then again, it may very well may not be easier, regardless of who is in the Beldame.

One of the few things that stand in the way of either Blind Luck or Havre de Grace being named Horse of the Year, is an older horse such as Pacific Classic winner Acclamation or Whitney winner Tizway finishing the year by winning their respective prep race and then the Classic.

That may not be enough to stop the female that wins the Beldame and Ladies Classic, or Lady's Secret and Ladies Classic; be it Havre de Grace or Blind Luck.

Yes, Havre de Grace has taken a lead in the race for the Horse of the Year. And yes, there is still plenty of racing left in these final 60 days or so before the Breeders’ Cup. But whatever path that lay ahead for Havre de Grace, she made each a little easier by adding the Woodward to her arsenal.

No comments: