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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Halfway to Horse of the Year

Havre De Grace wins 2011 Azeri.
Who would have ever thought that we'd see a repeat of 1944-1945 and have two consecutive female Horses of the Year? Hold on to your fedoras, race fans, because we are halfway to a third. It takes a special filly to be named the best of all racing at year end. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta did it, and now we may be seeing another. Havre De Grace is a special filly. She proved that last summer when she jumped from virtual unknown to champion Blind Luck's determined foil. The much more experienced Blind Luck may have gotten the best of her more times than not last year, but in 2011, Havre De Grace looks to be on track to much more than just proving to be the best female horse in the country. In fact, halfway through this racing season, no other horse, of either gender, is even close.

If voting ended today, I don't think many would argue that the Larry Jones trained, Fox Hill owned, daughter of St. Liam has been the best horse to run on American soil. Or on a synthetic or turf surface for that matter. In her three starts so far, Havre De Grace has taken her breakout exploits of 2010 to a whole new level. She began by bashing her rival Blind Luck by more than three lengths in an effortless win in the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March. Next came the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, where she had to run down the classy Switch in a race where the pace set-up favored the Californian filly. Showing no fear, Havre De Grace simply turned on the afterburners down the Oaklawn stretch to reel in Switch before the wire. Yesterday, the afterburners were never needed.

Making her first start of the year at her home summer base, Delaware Park, Havre De Grace wowed the crowd with a stlylish 2 ¼ length victory in the Obeah Stakes. There were no fillies in the Obeah of the class of Blind Luck or Switch, so it was a time for the big filly to put on a show. And a show is exactly what her numerous fans got. Have you ever seen a horse win by 2 ¼ lengths, that you felt could have won by 15. If not, check out the replay of yesterday's feature at Delaware. To say jockey Gabriel Saez never asked Grace for her best is an understatement. Treating a nice filly named Tiz Miz Sue much the same way my two cats treat any mice that venture too close to our home, she cantered home in the epitome of effortlessness. The win raised her lifetime record to 6 wins in 11 starts, while never having finished out of the money. The easy win promises to leave Havre De Grace with plenty in the tank for her next start.

[Should Havre De Grace be ranked higher than her current # spot in the HRN Power Rankings of Active Horses?]

That race will come in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap. The highlight of the Delaware Park race meet will afford Grace with another opportunity to be tested at the classic American distance of 1 ¼ miles. If I said I think anyone has a legitimate shot to beat her in there, I would be lying. In my opinion, she is that good. So good in fact, I don't know of any male horses that would beat her. I believe she will need to take on males at some point to strengthen her Horse of the Year qualifications, but knowing the bold sportsman that her trainer, Jones, is, I would suspect that we will see a Grace vs. the boys match-up sooner than later. My guess is the boys will be in major trouble.

We have never seen three consecutive female Horses of the Year in American racing history. Something tells me I will not be able to say that this time next year. Havre De Grace is a filly on a mission right now, and Horse of the Year is her mission.


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Older Comments about Halfway to Horse of the Year...

That is, indeed, very high praise coming from a respectable trainer! Definitely noted; thanks ruffian75 and JanicePalmer!
Very good point, but let's be completely accurate here. Larry not only said he believes she's the best filly he's ever had, but quite possibly the best horse he's ever trained -- including Hard Spun. That's some high, high praise!
I think it's quite an honor, when Larry Jones says that she is the best filly he's ever been around, when you take into account he trained Eight Belles, Proud Spell, and Island Sand.
The only question with this mare is not if she's good, but how great can she become? If Havre de Grace's effortless masterpiece of a performance in the Obeah is any indication, we are talking scarey good! In my opinion she is already the best this country has to offer and appears to be getting even better! Enjoy the ride everyone -- I do believe we are witnessing greatness!
Was fortunate to see both her wins at OP and ran HUGE to run down Switch that day on that track. She also gives that "regal feel." If she runs the table vs. girls she could conceivably win HOY with male division lacking a star.
If she runs in and wins the Delaware Handicap, the connections will have to consider taking on the boys, but only if the male divisions seem quite lacking. If all of a sudden there comes a monster male of a horse, then they would have to question it, but as of right now, hypothetically speaking, we won't be seeing the best of the three year old colts until late July and/ or August, which is a long way away. Plus, the handicap division still seems to be lacking very consistent horses; I'm not saying they aren't good, but they haven't been as very consistent, in my opinion. The way Havre de Grace ran in the Obeah, though, she relished every bit of the Delaware dirt, her years pricked up and effortlessly cruising throughout pretty much the whole entire race. We sure haven't seen the best of this female, and I hope we do as the year continues because she appears to have the potential of turning out to be a very special one, indeed.
She looked so good in the Obeah, I was enthralled with her winning style!
Yep.. best girl... but needs some wins vs. the boys to claim HOTY. Not knocking her, not saying it wont happen.. just saying she needs a Breeders Cup win and a win against the boys... In my opinion.
So far so good.. But she will have to win vs the boys at least once and win a breeders cup race I would assume.
Not saying she is as good as Rachel or Zenyatta, Steve, but with all due respect, I think all of your excuses for the other horses are a bit silly. Blind Luck beat Unrivaled Belle in her next start, and Switch had a dream trip in the Apple Blossom. Fact is, she has beaten better horses than Twirling Candy has this year, and has been perfect doing it.
People always find excuses to take away from the best. BL was on her third race of the year and Grace was only just debuting. If any horse was off form it should have been Grace, not BL. BL had the surface exuse at Santa Anita, but that was removed when taken to Oaklawn. Even her connections realized how good Grace was and opted to leave town. Switch is an excellent and versatile mare. She is good on synthetics and a monster over dirt and anything between 7f-8.5f. She fired her shot in the Apple Blossom and got beat. As far as I know TC has gotten beaten this year while Grace hasn't. That is unmatched. TC still needs to prove he can be consistent, something this mare is a master of.
If Havre De Grace wins HOTY, it'll be because of the lack of quality horses running this year. Toying with Tiz Miz Sue is hardly something to brag about. She beat Blind Luck when she was off form and Switch when she was rank, wide, and on a foreign track. If she faces any 3 year old males this year it would be embarrassing if she doesn't beat them. In regards to older males, the best in the nation is Twirling Candy. He's displayed both versatility and brilliance that have thus far gone unmatched. Havre De Grace is a nice filly, don't get me wrong, but even if she beats the boys and wins HOTY, she still won't be considered a legend like both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. They, unlike HDG, weren't the beneficiaries of an older male division left in shambles and a pathetic 3 year old crop.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of Directors of The Exceller Fund. Brian also consults for leading contest site Derby Wars, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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