The champ is back … almost. Signaling that she is very
much ready for her appointment in next week's New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, Havre de
Grace looked fantastic working three-quarters of a mile this morning. Alongside her multiple stakes
winning stablemate, Joyful Victory, she was timed in 1:11 2/5 at the New Orleans oval, with regular exercise rider Jen Brasser aboard. Watching the video of the work, (below) it appears that Havre de Grace is not only ready for her seasonal debut in twelve days, but that she looks very much like the same sensational mare who became the third consecutive female to be named America's Horse of the Year.
The trainer of both mares, Larry Jones, galloped about 100 yards ahead of
the workmates before the real running started and watched the action from his
“With her fitness level, we’re there,” Jones said.
“We’re where we want to be.”
It was easy to see why Jones feels so good about the Fox Hills Farm star. On the inside of Joyful Victory, Havre de Grace easily sped through splits of :11 1/5, :23, :35 and :46 3/5. As the pair came down the stretch, the champion edged ahead and crossed the finish line a neck in front in
:58 2/5. She then worked an eighth past the wire to register the six furlong bullet, while never seeming to turn a hair. Joyful Victory was officially timed for the five furlongs while galloping out three-quarters in 1:12 1/5.
“It was good for both horses,” Jones said afterward.
“It’s kind of like letting Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen go out and play
one-on-one; it just helps them both to get better.”
I think I know which one Jones would be comparing to Jordan.
The extra furlong for the champ was designed to give her just a little bit extra foundation in advance of her first start in more than four months.
“Havre de Grace is so fooling, when she’s really
rolling along the riders think they’re not going fast enough,” Jones said. “Jen
came back and said she felt like she was just galloping. So we put Joyful
Victory out there kind of like a pace car because we know that Joyful Victory
is plenty fast. Havre de Grace will get a little more aggressive with another
horse there. Jen thought she did the 58 and 2 for the five-eighths easier than
she had done the 59 the week before but it’s because the adrenaline’s pumping
and she’s on the bit a little more.”
last seen, Havre de Grace ran a competitve, but slightly disappointing
fourth against the males in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Today's was her fifth timed work since returning to training in early
February. Jones plans to get in one more breeze before the New
Orleans Ladies, most likely Monday.
Meanwhile, Robby Albarado was in the irons on Joyful Victory this morning, who also looked good, if not slightly overmatched, and will avoid her star stablemate by heading to Oaklawn Park for the March 17 Azeri Stakes.
Seems like a good plan, assuming we see the same Havre de Grace this year. Bringing
back champion females off a winter off is not always a simple task, as sometimes they tend to lose a little focus and interest in racing, and
simply are not as good as they were they the year(s) before. Zenyatta
and Goldikova were wonderful exceptions to this phenomena, and after
seeing Havre de Grace glide around the track this morning, I have every
hope that she will be as good (or better) than ever.
Courtesy: Churchill Downs Simulcast Productions