Havre de Grace made a decisive case for favoritism in next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), as she annihilated Royal Delta and three others in the $350,000 Beldame Invitational (gr. I) (VIDEO) Oct. 1 at muddy Belmont Park.
The victory earned the 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, but owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones have made it clear that the $5 million BC Classic is their goal.
Havre de Grace won for the fifth time in six starts in 2011, and bagged her third grade I. She was coming off an impressive score in the Sept. 3 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) against males at Saratoga.
The bay filly runs for Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and was bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman. She is out of the Carson City mare Easter Bunnette.
Sent off as the 2-5 favorite under Ramon Dominguez in a short field, Havre de Grace raced in third through the early going as Life At Ten
set the pace and Banker's Buy
was second. Also up close was Royal Delta, the standout 3-year-old filly who was entering off a romp in the Aug. 20 Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga. Life At Ten recorded splits of :23.52, :46.71, and 1:10.69, but Havre de Grace ranged up on the far turn and was poised to take command.
Havre de Grace easily took over from the overmatched leader approaching the quarter-pole and with a few effortless strides opened up a clear lead at the top of the lane. She led by 5 1/2 lengths at the eighth-pole and even though Royal Delta was going well while moving into second, there was never any doubt in the final furlong. Havre de Grace increased her lead with every stride and won while being eased to the wire.
The final time for 1 1/8 miles on the muddy track was 1:49.39. Royal Delta was second under Jose Lezcano, 5 3/4 in front of Satans Quick Chick
. Banker’s Buy was fourth, followed by Life At Ten.
“It was very easy,” Dominguez said. “She was in control the whole time, and turning for home I made sure I had her running.
“She’s a special horse. Being a filly, it’s like she’s the underdog, so to speak. She’s as good as the males, to me. Physically, the way she handled herself and her power, she’s really a racehorse. You never underestimate anybody, but I wouldn’t trade places with anybody, either."
Havre de Grace’s wins this year include the Azeri (gr. III) and Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, the Obeah (gr. III) at Delaware Park, and the Woodward. Her only loss was by a nose to Blind Luck in the July 16 Delaware Handicap (gr. II).
The winner improved to 8-4-2 from 14 starts and earnings of $2,196,175
“I seriously think this is the closest I’ve ever witnessed the perfect racehorse,” Jones said. “I thought Secretariat was that when he retired. If she has a flaw anywhere, anyhow, I haven’t found it.”
“She has the speed to match up with (males in the BC Classic). I’m sure we will see Uncle Mo in there. He was very impressive 30 minutes ago, and it should make it very interesting.”
Havre de Grace paid $2.90, $2.10, and $2.10. Royal Delta returned $2.60 and $2.10 and filled out a $4.50 exacta (5-2). The trifecta (5-2-4) was worth $15.60.