Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, set to make her 2012 debut in the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots March 17, drew post position 2 and will face four opponents.
“It works for me," said trainer Larry Jones, discussing the post position by phone following the draw. "It really didn’t matter to us. As I’ve always said, she’s one of those that I don’t have to worry about things with. She does whatever we need her to do. She doesn’t care. You always worry about being race-ridden, but she really, truly can handle whatever’s thrown at her.”
The New Orleans Ladies, on St. Patrick's Day, will be run as race 9 at 4:50 p.m. CDT.
Havre de Grace, who races for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, will be making her first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 5. It will also be her initial race at Fair Grounds. Havre de Grace earned Horse of the Year honors with three grade I victories among five wins in her seven-race 2011 campaign.
The 5-year-old daughter of Saint Liam has been working steadily at Fair Grounds for her return since early February. In her most recent drill, Havre de Grace breezed five furlongs in :59 3/5. She will carry a light 117 pounds in the New Orleans Ladies.
Morning line odds for the 1 1/16-mile New Orleans Ladies will be released March 15. Havre de Grace, winner of the Beldame Invitational, the Woodward Stakes against males, and the the Apple Blossom Handicap (all gr. I) last year, will be a prohibitive favorite. Her most accomplished rival in the compact field is the front-running Juanita, who won the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) last October.
Havre de Grace would become the third reigning Horse of the Year to start at Fair Grounds, following Whirlaway, winner of the 1942 Louisiana Handicap, and Rachel Alexandra, second in the inaugural New Orleans Ladies in 2010.
Ramon Dominguez will fly in for the ride aboard Havre de Grace, whose career mark stands at 8-4-2 in 15 races with earnings of $2,496,175. She has won three of five attempts at the 1 1/16-mile distance with two seconds.
Juanita, making her third start of the year for trainer Mike Maker, got familiar with the Fair Grounds main track when she finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Joyful Victory, Havre de Grace's stablemate, in the 1 1/16-mile Tiffany Lass Stakes Feb. 11. The last win for William and Graydon Patterson's 4-year-old daughter of Mineshaft came in the Indiana Oaks, which the speedy filly won by 4 3/4 lengths at Hoosier Park Oct. 1.
Leading Fair Grounds rider Rosie Napravnik will be aboard Juanita, who drew the far outside post.
Paul and Andrena Van Doren's homebred Sterling Madame has won consecutive races going gate-to-wire over the Fair Grounds main track by a combined eight lengths. The 4-year-old filly has won three of six overall for trainer Tom Amoss and will face stakes company for the first time. James Graham will be gunning from the rail.
Distorted Love, running for trainer Helen Pitts and A D K Racing, finished fourth in the Tiffany Lass. The 6-year-old Distorted Humor mare won twice in allowance company at Churchill Downs last spring but has lost eight straight since then.
David and Sarah Schwartz's Florida-based Annabel Lee ships in for the second time this meet, having finished fifth behind Daisy Devine in the opening weekend's Pago Hop Stakes on turf. The 4-year-old filly finished off the board in two subsequent turf starts at Tampa Bay Downs.
$150,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes (Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight Trainer
1. Sterling Madame (KY), J Graham, 119, T M Amoss
2. Havre de Grace (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, J L Jones
3. Annabel Lee (FL), J Jacinto, 117, K D Schwartz
4. Distorted Love (KY), R E Eramia, 117, H Pitts
5. Juanita (KY), R Napravnik, 117, M J Maker