Go back to July of 2011, Havre De Grace was giving two pounds to Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap. She lost that race. Now in an attempt to complete a personal vendetta against the Racing Secretary of both tracks, Pat Pope, Rick Porter has "cowardly" decided to duck Plum Pretty due to giving 6 lbs to a filly that has not made a start in 2012.
This is what is ruining horse racing, Zenyatta's people did similar by only facing the best available in 3 of 20 races, Rachel Alexandra's owner did the same in 2010 when she was struggling to find form, and now the reigning Horse of the Year Havre De Grace will take a pass on a Grade 1 Apple Blossom to run in a less impressionable Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill and then will likely follow that up with a run in the O'beah at Del Park to get ready to run in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap.
True fans of horse racing know that greatness as defined in this game is winning Grade 1 races and winning at 10 furlongs and carrying weight, which is something that Havre De Grace has yet to do in 2012. For her career she is 0-3 at 10 furlongs and has only 3 Grade 1 wins to her credit, where as at the same time Blind Luck had 6 Grade 1 wins mid season her 4 year old season.
I glanced at the rockport harbor.com site and I noticed one poster stated that "Thanx to Pat Pope Havre De Grace will not be running in the Apple Blossom.", I also saw where Rick Porter stated at Blood Horse that he wants a letter of explanation giving reason why she got the 6 lbs from HDG, to my memory this is not how horse racing works, people don't make statements like this and racing secretaries don't send letters explaining why they weighted horses a certain way.
From what I understand Bobby Frankel was one that certainly gave indication that weights would be reason to scratch a horse out of a race, and did so to always get the biggest advantage possible in that regard. It would seem to me though that Frankel most likely did this in a very classy way, giving indication in a subtle way that if the weights were right he would not run. I don't believe I recall Frankel feeling the need to send sound bytes to Bloodhorse.com and DRF about the weights, and then the owner feeling the need to do the same. This my friends is in my opinion "Classless" with a capital "C", its an embarrassment to great horses of the past who were asked like Curlin to tote 128 and Zenyatta 129 numerous times.
But make no mistake, Charles Cella was not about to be held hostage with the same Bush League tactics that Rick Porter used in asking Fair Grounds to increase the purse of their meaningless New Orleans Ladies race a month ago. Mr. Cella had no issue calling out Jess Jackson when he ducked Zenyatta back in 2010, whatever the reason, and he will likely tell everyone that the same holds true for the weights that Pat Pope released for the Apple Blossom. Pat Pope has a job to do and that's the bring the horses down the stretch and get them as close together at the finish line as he can, in a Handicap Race. He did that back in 2011 with BL and HDG at Delaware, and likely did Bob Baffert an injustice by only giving the filly who has yet to make a start in 2012 6 lbs. I am sure that Mr. Pope who gained a great deal of respect by not bending and changing the way things are done to appease one man.
In my estimation the weights for the Apple Blossom should have looked like this:
Awesome Maria 124
Plum Pretty 118
Its Tricky 119
The fact that Porter stated he advised Baffert at a sale that he would not give PP 10 lbs was well, a hint that he didnt want to give her 10 lbs, never mention of 6 lbs, so what was Pat Pope to do, was he to call Charles Cella and ask his thoughts on making them co-high-weights. This a filly with all of 1 Grade 1 win, and coming off a 5 month layoff. The naive nature of this situation is something that can and most likely will turn a number of people against the Fox Hill Farm connections. Larry Jones and Rick Porter both have been uncharacteristically vocal about weights since the loss in the Del Cap. At the time if the 2 lbs were unfair it would have been a good business decision to scratch out of the Grade 2, because a number of people agreed the weights were slightly unfair due to their records. There is no need to attempt 9 months later to complete your vendetta against Pat Pope and another track, and lose your fan-base and your charge the chance of adding a black type Grade 1 victory to her resume.
Going forward, let me say Kudos to Oaklawn Park and Charles Cella and Pat Pope, they stayed consistent to the meaning of championship racing, and stayed loyal to the sanctity of the game, no one horse, and no one egotistical owner or trainer is bigger than the game and or bigger than the track and a very significant race like the Apple Blossom. Oaklawn Park was not going to be taken hostage by the connections of Fox Hill Farm, and so they can now take their ball and their filly and go play else where. What will need to be recalled though, is that Pat Pope is the Racing Secretary still at Delaware Park, its my hope that for this 10 furlong affair, that Havre De Grace is weighted 8-10 lbs more than her foes, and then allow Rick Porter to make decisions. Run your filly or Run and Hide, there are plenty more New Orleans Ladies and O'beah stakes out there for you to run HDG in..
It is my hope that Royal Delta is fit and ready to run against HDG in the middle distance races the rest of the summer, and I look forward to Awesome Maria showing up at the same tracks that HDG does also, to give Porter an indication as to what it will be like to carry weight against the likes of other multiple Grade 1 winners, not the Absentminded's and Tiz Miss Sue's of the world, and see what its like to have to earn these Grade 1 wins, or there is the Zenyatta route, ship her out west and take down the weakest races he can find out there.
Either way, let me end by saying, either race your horse or allow the filly to retire. HOY is all but out of the window for Havre De Grace this year, too much negative media and the wrong type of publicity. It would seem that thoughts and perception of the connections of this filly have changed for the worst at this time, due to the way that she is being campaigned and the constant media blitz by her connections. And none of this has been or is positive.
This is a travesty and I hope that we will not have to hear about weights all year long. I personally feel embarrassed to have been a fan of FHF, with this amazing about face in the way in which they handle themselves.
GO Royal Delta