Larry Jones has been fortunate enough to train some very talented fillies—Eight Belles, Island Sand, Proud Spell, and Wildcat Bettie B are among them. But according to Jones, Havre de Grace might not just be the most talented, she could be the best horse—male or female—he’s ever had in his barn.
“It’s very possible that she is the best,” Jones said. “Hard Spun was very special and had he been born in a different year I think he would have been even more of a star. And Eight Belles was special too. Who knows what she could have been. But this mare, she might be better than any of them. We won’t know until it’s finished, but we’re looking forward to seeing where she takes us.”
Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, Havre de Grace’s next stop will be in the $150,000 Obeah Stakes (gr. III) June 11 at Delaware Park where she will face four challengers. The 1 1/8-mile test is the local prep for the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (gr. II) on July 16. The 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam drew post 3 and will be ridden by Gabriel Saez. Along with Sweet N Sour Nina, she will carry top weight of 123 pounds.
Havre de Grace has been superb in both of her starts this year, defeating champion Blind Luck by 3 1/4 lengths in the March 19 Azeri (gr. III) and stopping Switch by three-quarters of a length in the April 15 Apple Blossom (gr. I)—both at Oaklawn Park.
Jones said Havre de Grace has thrived since being moved to Delaware Park. She has turned in three works there, including an impressive five-furlong move on June 6 when she was clocked in :57 4/5—the best of 17 that morning.
“For her last work, I told Gab (Saez) to work her a little (harder),” Jones said. “After it was over, he came back and said ‘I don’t think she went quick enough’. I said, ‘Trust me, she did’. I knew she did because I was galloping a horse on the track at the same time and I could see how well she was moving. Sure enough, she went :57 and four. And a couple of trainers were telling were they thought she went even quicker than that. But she does it so easily, it’s hard to tell.
“I definitely think she likes it here better than Oaklawn. She’s doing great. We have a couple of races under her belt and she should be fresh.”
Jones said the Delaware Handicap and the Breeders’ Cup are the only two spots he has picked out for the bay filly right now. In between, anything is possible—even a race or two against males.
“It’s always one race at a time, but we’re not going to sit on her and candy-coat her season. We’re going to race her,” Jones said. “We’re going to shoot for the stars and who knows, maybe even give her a chance at Horse of the Year. If that means tackling the boys at some point this summer, that is a possibility too. There are not that many high-dollar filly races out there. She already has her grade I, so if someone offers us money to show up, we have that option. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but we have big hopes for her.”
Havre de Grace, who was bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman, has never been off the board in 10 starts, with five wins. She has earned $1,263,172.
While Jones has high hopes for Havre de Grace, he also knows she will have to be at her best in the short but strong Obeah. Tiz Miz Sue is a four-time winner at Delaware Park including the Winter Melody Stakes on May 14; Sarah's Song won a pair of optional claiming races at Oaklawn by a combined 19 lengths before finishing second in the Winter Melody; Sweet N Sour Nina is a seven-time winner and was runner-up in a pair of stakes this year; and Repreive is a three-time winner in New York this year.
“We know we can’t take it easy against these horses; there are some nice fillies in here,” Jones said. “We’re looking for her to move forward and get a good test for the Delaware Handicap.”
$150,000 Obeah Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:51 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Sarah's Song (KY), V Lebron, 119, M Robertson
2. Tiz Miz Sue (KY), J Rocco Jr., 121, S Hobby
3. Havre de Grace (KY), G Saez, 123, J L Jones
4. Repreive (KY), No rider 119, B N Levine
5. Sweet N Sour Nina (FL), R Napravnik, 123 P R Walder