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.