By Irish Jack Ireland
The town of Havre de Grace, Md. is small, quaint and a very nice place to live.
If thre 4-year old racing filly, who is named after the town, has anything to do with it, Havre de Grace (the town) might become known to the entire thoroughbred racing world and national media by the first weekend in November.
Have de Grace, owned by Wilmington native Rick Porter and his Fox Hill Farm stable, is currently considered the top race horse in the country with the Breeders Cup Championships looming just two weeks away.
On Nov. 5, there would be little doubt she would most likely wrap up Horse of the Year honors with a victory over the males horses in the prestigious BC Classic at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
There are plenty of reasons, several of them local, to be excited about this powerful filly, but the words of Larry Jones, her trainer, might tell it best.
“I seriously think this is the closest I’ve ever been to the perfect race horse,”said Jones. “I thought Secretariat was that when he retired. If she (Have de Grace) has a flaw anywhere, anyhow, I haven’t found it.”
Havre de Grace was locally stabled in the Jones barn at DelPark for the last several months before he shipped her recently to Lexington (Ky.) to begin final Breeders Cup training preparations.
Her regular jockey is Ramon Domoinguez, no stranger to Delaware Park and it’s racing fans. Before becoming the dominant jockey on the Nrew York circuit, the popular Dominguez held that role at DelPark for five consecutive years. Domnguez, with the soft hands and the low-key demeanor, is a great fit for this exciting filly. And, Dominguez is clearly one of the “Real Nice Guys”, in the thoroughbred industry today.
Last year Dominguez wasn’t her regular rider, but Have de Grace had a good coming out 3-yar old campaign. Only problem was she just couldn’t seem to beat arch-rival Blind Luck in a couple major graded stakes for 3-year old fillies.
Blind Luck rallied just epough to nip her at the wire in the Grade II Delaware Oaks in 2010 at DelPark. The same scenario played out in the Grade I Alabama in August of 2010 at Saratog (N.Y.).
Porter and Jones have to be commended for the path they have taken with the filly sensation in 2011. Her one loss wasto Blind Luck by a whisker in the Grade II Delaware Handicap in July at DelPark. ASs disappointing as that was to lose like that fpor the second straight year omn her home track, Porter and Jones didn’t waver.
That setback didn’t deter them. It probably made them more determined about the right course of races for her.
Have de Grace bounced back to beat the boys in the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga. This fall she posted an impressive win in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park (N.Y.).
Have de Grace is trying to become the first horse stabled at DelPark to win the Eclipse Award as National Horse of the Year since Hall of Famer Spectacular Bid did it in 1980.
If Have de Grace can beat some very good older males on Nov. 5 in the Classic, she would be the first locally-based filly or mare to ever win the Eclipse as Horse of the Year.
Have de Grace is also trying to follow in the footsteps of filly Rachel Alexandra and the mare Zenyatta to take the top honor for a a horse in thoroughbredd racing for 2011.
Porter and Jones together have turned out some locally based horses that have made made a big name on the national level.
Those included the likes of Hard Spun and the late filly champion Eight Belles.
Porter has never shied away from putting out the money to purchase talented horse to run in the Triple Crown, other major states around the country and the Breeders Cup.
It’s time for him to be rewarded after undergoing some bad racing luck and real sadness with some of his top horses. Jones will have this filly at the top of her game when she steps into the starting gate at Churchill for the biggest race of her career.
I’m stepping up right now to say Havre de Grace will bring home the bacon and show those boys a thing or two on Nov. 5.
So even if you don’t follow horse racing in the town of Have de Grace, don’t miss the chance to be part of this excitement with a racehorse that doesn’t know the meaning of giving in or not trying her best to win. Jump on the bandwagon, it’s been a greayt run so far and will get only better. In a world today fillied with so much disappointment, anger and sadness, be part of a wonderful story and a neat little Maryland town that is a part of it.
As the saying gos, ‘Show me the money.’ My money is on Have de Grace all the way. Watch out – big boys.
EXTRA: EXTRA – Check in next week when I highglight two more local horses headed for the Breeders Cup in Gace Hall, trained by Anthony Dutrow anbd Union Rags, conditioned at Fair Hill (Md.) Training Center by Michael Matz.
By Irish Jack Ireland