There was little drama in the announcement of Fox Hill Farms’ Havre de Grace being named top older female. The 4-year-old daughter of 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam garnered 245 of the 248 first-place votes cast.
Like the last two older female champions—Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta—Havre de Grace scored her most important victory against males. Like Rachel Alexandra, she won Saratoga’s Woodward Stakes (gr. I). She then attempted to emulate Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) victory in 2009, but she could do no better than fourth. And,. like Rachel Alexander and Zenyatta, she was voted Horse of the Year for 2011.
Havre de Grace had spent most of 2010 embroiled in the heated rivalry with her nemesis Blind Luck, with three of their four meetings resulting in photo finishes. Owner Rick Porter then decided to take her from Tony Dutrow and send her to trainer Larry Jones. It didn’t take Jones long to become enamored with Havre de Grace and she showed how much she had improved when she began 2011 by trouncing Blind Luck by 3 1⁄4 lengths in the grade III Azeri Stakes (gr. III) before running down grade I winner Switch to win the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I).
She then easily captured Delaware Park’s Obeah Stakes (gr. III) as a prep for another rematch with Blind Luck. It was the most anticipated race of the year and lived up to its billing, as Blind Luck withstood a furious stretch duel with Havre de Grace to win by a nose.
Havre de Grace moved forward, winning the Woodward by 1 1⁄4 lengths before destroying eventual Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) winner and Eclipse finalist Royal Delta in the Beldame Stakes (gr. I).
For the year she won five of seven starts and earned $1,623,000. Out of the Carson City mare Easter Bunnette, Havre de Grace was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman.
“She is the perfect racehorse in my opinion,” he said. “She has a perfect demeanor, a drop-dead gorgeous body, a heart as big as America, and the ability to win beyond belief. Watching her win the Woodward was the greatest thrill I have had in horse racing, and experiencing the rivalry with Blind Luck was something I will never forget. She gives her all every race.”
Havre de Grace is also a strong contender for the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and if she succeeds, it’ll mark back-to-back-to-back titles for females (with Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Zenyatta last year), a feat never before accomplished.