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Breeders' Cup 2017

Havre de Grace vs. Royal Delta in Beldame

After losing by a nose to her arch rival Blind Luck in a Delaware Handicap that riveted the racing world, Havre de Grace arrived at Saratoga Race Course this summer a full-fledged superstar.

Ambitiously matched against a field of talented male runners, Havre de Grace duplicated a feat performed two years ago by the great Rachel Alexandra, driving powerfully through the lane to win the Grade 1 Woodward.

With an eye on Horse of the Year honors, Havre de Grace now arrives at Belmont Park this Saturday to take on TVG Alabama winner Royal Delta, 2010 Beldame winner Life At Ten and two other stakes winners in the 72nd running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Beldame for fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

The 1 1/8-mile dirt race is a "Win and You're In" prelude to the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on November 4 at Churchill Downs. Part of Belmont's "Super Saturday" card, the Beldame will be broadcast on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. along with the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap.

Havre de Grace, a 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam who has won seven of 13 lifetime starts and more than $1.9 million, is the 3-5 favorite on the morning line. She has never raced at Belmont Park, but trainer Larry Jones is confident she will perform well racing around one turn on the giant oval.

"I don't think it's going to be a factor to her," said Jones, who has worked Havre de Grace twice since her victory September 3 in the Woodward. "I thought I would never ever run into what I would consider the perfect horse. We have had horses with a lot of speed and a lot of courage . . . but this horse is the first time I've had what I've thought was the total horse. This horse is a perfect specimen of a horse. She has a large heart, super large nostrils. She can tack weight. She confirmed what we always thought, that she is an outstanding animal."

Jones said owner Rick Porter plans to campaign Havre de Grace next year, but right now they are looking for a performance in the Beldame to give them confidence to enter her against males once again in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"We were trying to let her take us there," Jones said. "We felt she was going to need to run against the boys once [to gain consideration for Horse of the Year honors]. It wasn't so much the Breeders' Cup Classic we were looking for... Then, after the Woodward, it started looking like the Breeders' Cup Classic was a very real possibility.

"We want her to go on out and run a very good race [in the Beldame]. We feel like we need to win it if we're going into the Classic. We don't need to win it by 10 [lengths] or set a big mark for her. We need to get a lighter prep and not a 110 percent effort from her."

Jones said Royal Delta "could make us run hard for it," and that likely is an understatement. The regally bred daughter of Empire Maker, out of the multiple graded stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, enters the Beldame off a devastating 5 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 TVG Alabama on August 20 at Saratoga. In that race, she defeated the brilliant It's Tricky to establish herself as the top 3-year-old filly in the country.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott considered keeping Royal Delta with 3-year-olds in the Cotillion at Philadelphia Park or shipping to the Spinster at Keeneland, but the Beldame, in the end, appeared ideal.

"She's here, she trains well here, and she broke her maiden very impressively here, so we're going to try it," assistant trainer Leana Willaford said of the 9-5 morning-line second choice in the Beldame. "We'll let her break and place herself naturally. You don't want to get in a wrestling match with her; that's the key."

Both Havre de Grace and Royal Delta like to race close up within five lengths of the pacesetter, and they will have a dangerous target in the veteran Life At Ten, who continues her quest to regain the form that propelled her to victory in five of seven starts last year, including two Grade 1 races.

In her most recent start, Life At Ten, 8-1, made the pace early in the Delaware Handicap before giving way to Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, and she wound up third, 18 ½ lengths behind. For the Beldame, trainer Todd Pletcher will outfit the 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon with blinkers.

"She's a mare that's had success at Belmont before," Pletcher said. "We freshened her up after the Del Cap. She's looked and trained as well as she ever has, and why she hasn't performed as well as she has in the past, we're not sure. Sometimes older horses just tail off and don't run quite as well. I don't know if it's residual hangover from the Breeders' Cup or what it is. I know we don't have a horse that looks better in the barn."

Pletcher expressed nothing but admiration for Havre de Grace.

"I've been a big fan all along," he said. "She's obviously very, very talented. Anytime a filly steps out to beat colts is very special, and she will be very difficult to beat on Saturday."

Also in the Beldame is Satans Quick Chick, a late-running daughter of Sky Mesa coming off a second-place finish in the Sightseek at Saratoga. A Grade 2 winner of $401,890, Satans Quick Chick, 12-1, ran one of her best races this year in her only start at Belmont, a narrow defeat in the Sky Beauty on July 1.

Completing the field is Banker's Buy, 20-1, a 5-year-old mare trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito. A daughter of Distorted Humor, Banker's Buy has placed first or second in seven of nine lifetime starts at Belmont Park, including a 2 ¾-length victory in the Miss South Shore Stakes on July 17, closing day of the track's spring/summer meet.

The field for the Grade 1, $350,000 Beldame Invitational:








Life At Ten (KY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Royal Delta (KY)

J Lezcano


W I Mott



Banker's Buy (NY)

C S Nakatani


N P Zito



Satans Quick Chick (KY)

E S Prado


J Odintz



Havre de Grace (KY)

R A Dominguez


J L Jones






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Older Comments about Havre de Grace vs. Royal Delta in Beldame...

I kind of wish Life at Ten's connections would give her some easier races.....Really surprised she's carrying the same weight as HdG and that she's conceding weight to Royal Delta! How is this possible? As much as I know Havre de Grace is likely to dominate this race, I think I would cry tears of pure joy if somehow Life At Ten were to win it.

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