Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011 Apple Blossom Champion - Havre De Grace

Turning for home, things hadnt panned out as the connections of Fox Hill Farm had quite expected. Pacesetter Absinthe Minded doddled through timid fractions of 23.90 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.92 for the half-mile, and 1:11.99 for six furlongs. Havre de Grace began to advance approaching the final turn, moved to third in the upper stretch, then put in a determined bid to catch Switch, who had taken the lead an eighth of a mile from home. The fillies finished fast, with Havre de Grace, who was ridden by Ramon Dominguez, covering the mile and a sixteenth in a strong 1:42.19. The fury of her finishing kick can be summed up in one word, "Amazing" closing her final 1/16th of a mile in under 6 seconds as stated by Larry Jones during the winners circle presentation, even Jones himself was surprised and amazing by his fillies' ability to run down dual Grade 1 winner Switch, Havre de Grace closed with a fury—sprinting the last 1/16 in 5.94 seconds. "The first part was a little slower that I thought maybe it would be," said Larry Jones, who trains Havre de Grace for Fox Hill Farm. "The only concern I had was maybe they weren't going fast enough with the lengths she had to make up. "She had to make up four on Switch and that's something you don't like to give away. She's not an easy horse to run down. I watched Zenyatta almost not run her down last year. But she responded and went well and Ramon said she galloped out real well." The win was a significant one for Havre de Grace, who had placed in a handful of Grade 1 races last year. The year-end goal for her is a return trip to the Breeders' Cup, said Jones. Last year, she ran third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. In her first start since that race, Havre de Grace won last month's Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn with a Beyer Figure of 105. Jones said one other probable objective for Havre de Grace is the Delaware Handicap, but that the filly would dictate if they were to target that race after such an impressive performance at the Hot Springs, Ar oval today.. She has now won 5 of 10 starts and $1,263,175. Prior ito the Apple Blossom, her biggest win had come in the Grade 2 Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Parx Racing, when she edged eventual champion Blind Luck. Havre de Grace staked her place atop the older female division a division stocked full of highly regarded fillies and mares, including Blind Luck, Switch, Unrivaled Belle and Life at Ten. The matchups that are likely for the duration of the year should make for some interesting showdowns. Oaklawn's Racing Festival of the South The racing festival of the south ends tomorrow at Oaklawn Park with the running of the 75th Arkansas Derby the marquee race of the Oaklawn meet. The Factor is expected to be a major factor on the final day of Oaklawn Park’s 49-day live season. The Factor was installed as the 7-5 program favorite Wednesday morning for Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles. Probable post time for the 75th Arkansas Derby, the 11th of 12 live races, is 5:58 p.m. Racing will begin at noon Saturday, with the infield scheduled to be open. The Factor, a gray speedster based in Southern California with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, is scheduled to break from post 3 under Martin Garcia and carry equal top weight of 122 pounds underallowance conditions of the Arkansas Derby. All nonstakes winners will carry 118 pounds. As expected, 13 horses were entered Wednesday. The Factor, who arrived Tuesday morning on a flight originating from southern California, will try to become the eighth program favorite since 2000 to win the Arkansas Derby. The race should set up to be quite speedy on the front end with the Todd Pletcher Rabbit, Dance City breaking from the 9 post, Said Todd Pletcher: “He’s kind of a free-running horse with natural speed and we’ll let him place himself forwardly,” said the horse’s trainer, Todd Pletcher. “We don’t plan to let The Factor walk the dog.” In other words for those that dont get what Pletcher is saying, Dance City will be the rabbit that goes with the Factor to keep him honest on the front end to set things up for Brethren and the other closers that will be coming. This will be a stern test for the Factor to see if he can carry that speed under pressure 9 furlongs against legitimate competition. With the loss of Uncle Mo in the Wood a win by the Factor would assure Baffert of Morning Line favortism going forward to the Kentucky Derby.


Brian Appleton said...

I'm very excited about Havre de Grace this year, she's really blossomed this year into a powerful older filly. I also love the fact that Larry Jones trains her, that's a guy that's a true sportsman and never ducks competition no matter how tough!
It would be nice to see Blind Luck get back to winning form soon so these two can renew their rivalry. I hear she might be headed for the La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Oaks day.

Anonymous said...

Double Standards? When talking about Havre de Grace you include Switch as one of the upper bracket horses, when Zenyatta and Switch come into play Switch becomes laughable.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... Wonder what the author thinks of an article where I beleive one of Havre De Grace's connections states that she could be a "Zenyatta?" Rachel Alexandra was not referenced but Zenyatta.