This is a continuing series of previews examining the contenders for the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Nov. 5th (post time 7:00pm Easter; TV: ESPN).
Filly Havre de Grace is seeking to become the second filly to win the Breeders' Cup Classic (Zenyatta - 2009) and the third straight filly to be named Horse of the Year (Rachel Alexandra - 2009, Zenyatta - 2010).
Horse: Havre de Grace
Trainer: Larry Jones
Morning Line Odds: 3/1 (2nd choice)
Larry Jones has started three horses at the Breeders' Cup in his career - Hard Spun (2007 Classic), Proud Spell (2007 Juvenile Fillies), and Ruby Reception (2002 Juvenile Fillies). He's yet to record a win.
Career Record (Str-1st-2nd-3rd): 14-8-4-2
Career Earnings: $2,196,175
Pedigree: Sired by Saint Liam out of a Carson City mare (Easter Bunnette)
Saint Liam won the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic, along with the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, and Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. He was named Champion Older Horse and Horse of the Year in 2005.
Key Stakes Wins: Grade 1 Beldame Invitational (Belmont Park), Grade 1 Woodward Stakes (Saratoga), Grade 1 Apple Blossom (Oaklawn Park), Grade 3 Obeah Stakes (Delaware Park), Grade 3 Azeri (Oaklawn Park)
Havre de Grace finished 3rd in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic under former trainer Anthony Dutrow.
Overview: The choice on the morning line for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic is filly Havre de Grace, one of the leading candidates for the title of 2011 Horse of the Year. She's won three Grade 1 races in 2011, along with two Grade 3s, and is a nose defeat to rival Blind Luck away from a perfect record this year.
The biggest asset that Havre de Grace possesses is the ability to sit near the early pace and settling in to a good stride as she races down the backstretch. She doesn't possess an explosive turn of foot leaving the gate, but she has that "high cruising speed" that can be ever so devastating on the race track. She's also a tremendously game horse; Havre de Grace will battle hard all the way to the wire each and every time she sets foot on the track.
If you are looking for any weak spots in the armor, the only thing that stands out is the fact that Havre de Grace's worst race in the last two years came over the Churchill Downs main track. She also found herself farther back in the early stages in that race than she normally does. Havre de Grace was drawn widest of all 11 fillies and mares in that race, forcing her to race wide throughout much of the contest. With a long run into the first turn in this year's Classic, she should be able to secure a better running position than she did last year.
Havre de Grace has never won at the Classic distance of a mile and a quarter, but in her two tries at that distance she's lost to Blind Luck by a nose and a neck in each of those races. Blink Luck won't be running at the Breeders' Cup this year, removing from the Classic equation the only horse to recently beat Havre de Grace.
The signature win for Havre de Grace in 2001 was her defeat of the boys in the Woodward Stakes, only the second time a filly has won the race in it's history (Rachel Alexandra - 2009). In that race, Havre de Grace sat close to an honest pace in the early stages, powered to the lead at the top of the stretch, and held off the closing Flat Out at the wire by a length and a quarter. She ran the final furlong in a solid 12.87 seconds over a Saratoga main track that was tiring during most of the meet. Flat Out was the only other horse in the Woodward field to run the final furlong in less than 13 seconds, clocking a race-best 12.75 over the final 1/8th of a mile.
Havre de Grace came out of the Woodward in good order and dominated an over-matched field in the Grade 1 Beldame in the mud at Belmont Park on Oct. 1st.
Video replay of Woodward Stakes