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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Havre de Grace takes the path of least resistance

The champ is back, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, she returned a winner. The story of what happened in yesterday’s third running of the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies is a short one. The 2011 Horse of the Year announced herself yesterday as ready to make another run at a championship with a facile 4 ½ length victory in her 2012 debut. Sent off as a prohibitive favorite in the field of five, Havre de Grace settled comfortably well off the pace down the backstretch, before effortlessy ranging up to her overmatched competition approaching the stretch. She then took command early in the lane and drew clear with only mild encouragement from rider Ramon Dominguez. Of note, the brilliant mare did cover the 1 1/16 miles over the fast Fair Groundsstrip in 1:42.79, which, despite the ease of victory, still registered as the fastest time at that distance over the New Orleans oval since 2007. As compelling, or not, you found her seasonal debut, I believe the more interesting thing is all the talk surrounding where her connections chose to make her first start of the year.
 
The questions came flying in the past few weeks …
 
How could the reigning Horse of the Year begin defense of her crown in an ungraded stakes race? Coincidentally, it is in the very same race where 2009 HOTY, Rachel Alexandra made her 2010 debut, and was shockingly defeated, albeit in a slightly richer version of the New Orleans Ladies’.
 
Was this choice some sort of backlash against the racing secretary of Oaklawn Park, Pat Pope, who holds the same position at Delaware Park, and made the unpopular decision (with Havre de Grace's owner, Rick Porter, and trainer, Larry Jones) in weight assignments for last summer’s showdown with Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap?
 
Would this somehow signal a pattern in which Havre de Grace will avoid the stronger competition all year before taking her big shot in the Breeders’ Cup a’ la Zenyatta?
 
What's with the paid workout? 
 
My opinion on this matter, and these questions in particular, is ... people need to relax.
 
Granted her connections should not take the path of least resistance on a regular basis, but just take a look at her past performances over the last two years, and you can plainly see that Team Havre de Grace is not one to back away from a challenge. This is the same mare that took on the much more experienced Blind Luck early and often in her three-year-old-season. Last year she again took on her top competitor a couple times, before challenging the big boys in the Woodward and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
 
I recall many champions over the years beginning their seasons in allowance races. Horses like Forego, Seattle Slew, and Genuine Risk did it, and they were not lambasted for doing so. 
 
Havre de Grace started her 2012 season in fine, albeit easy, fashion. I have no problem with it at all. Next month she’ll be in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park where she will take on any and all comers. Let’s enjoy this excellent mare while we have her.

 

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Older Comments about Havre de Grace takes the path of least resistance...

sorry meant have a nice day footlick, I do that a lot, lol.
footlick, thanks for pointing out the difference the age factor plays in horse reaching physical and mental maturity, have a nice day, foolick.
there is a theory that a hard race like that can sour a filly. But I think it was a mixture of both the hard race and the other horses being more mature.
tv.....if that is the case, and it is strictly observational opinion, then, going by the data, how would a "gutted" horse get 2 100+ bsf's in her 4th yr. campaign? being that the data doesn't support the observation, it just is inconsistent to me.
a very good friend and long time reporter for the Sratogan used the world "used up" forRA's last run and he was right there and said: too bad theyused up everthing she had in one season.e
icy.....why is everyone so afraid to admit that ra, in her 4 yr. old season, finally raced against females that were her equal or better, instead of always pulling the "gutted" card?
An opinion and a moot point, but for the record Open Mind ran 11 times as a 3YO and Glorious song faced the starter 33 times between 3-5.
Open MInd never made it to her 4 year old season under D Wayne's great care
Were all of them gutted as 3yos as she was also?
If horses such as Open Mind, Glorious Song, Genuine Risk and even the great Davonna Dale have been critiqued for their late career losses why should any modern animal get special treatment. Did the rules change regarding how the balance of a career is viewed?
@ 1 1/8 mile Rachel could. Please don't bring up her 4yo season where she was a ghost of herself.
BTW...to be politically correct. The horse have nothing to do with what their connection do so shouldn't the title say Harve De Grace connection? Just being a wise guy...ehhehehhe
@travel_vic: I gotcha. :) You've got a valid point--though obviously, as you pointed out, quantity does not necessarily equate to quality.
Most grade ones are equivalent, but it is just that there are many more grade one caliber horses east of the Mississippi and I am from California saying that.
Does anyone honestly think that California Grade 1 races are only equal to East Coast Grade III's? Amazombie, Game on Dude, Creative Cause, and reigning champion Older Male, Acclamation all might have something to say about that!...(the arrogance is staggering, is it not?)
for my all-knowing friend wes 'dubby' i'm turning 31' white. peyton manning has won one of 2 super bowls in much less exciting fashion than zenyatta in 2 bc classics. i don't know of any sports expert who say that peyton is not a superstar. btw, dubby, why don't you ever mention the great cal-bred tiznow, who won 2 straight bc classics, not letting the euro invaders blow his doors off?
Ouch cocoa, and here I thought your humour was quite apparent. I've even complimented you on it elsewhere. And for the record, I like when tvic coughs up the info, however he wants to do it.
@saracoffey: A "poly specialist", by common-sense definition, would definitely not be a horse with multiple Grade 1 wins ON DIRT who lost the Classic ON DIRT by a head-bob. Your true "dirt filly" who was supposed to destroy the Classic field last year and show the Zenyatta fans how a "true dirt mare" wins the Classic never showed; she's ran in two straight Breeders' Cups with every chance to win, and got beat by daylight both times. You're right, Zenyatta and HDG aren't in the same league; a "dirt-track" mare who can't finish within daylight at the Breeders Cup on the most famous dirt track in America is not in the same league as the only horse to win two different Breeders Cup races!
@Age of Reason: Its obvious that you're an rookie. Apparently you 're either blind or just stupid and can't understand my comments so let me put it in layman terms so you can understand.. I never discredit Zenyatta ability as race horse, she was a gifted horse. However, I suggest you stopping listening to others and make your own decision in life. You talk about credibility? Here are facts, Win the Triple crown in a month, set 4 record and 3 still stand, won each in 3 different style. Ran each qtr in the Derby fast than the last. Marlboro Cup (new WORLD record), Man O’War Stakes (new course record), Gotham Stakes (tied track record). Those are my credibility not listening to someone that is probably just trying to be polite. Credibility ly in the facts not potential. Did I mention that he did his as a 3 year old not as a 4 or 5 year old? So please think before you run your mouth.
Broodmare!!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. 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 Managing 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. Brian also serves on the the Board of Directors of ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
  
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra, where he is a professional golf instructor when he is not following the horses.