Havre de Grace made big news earlier in the week when the connections of the Horse of the Year decided to bypass the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I). But even without her presence the race attracted just five, led by Plum Pretty, who will make her season debut.
Last year’s Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner, Peachtre Stable’s Plum Pretty will carry top weight of 117 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares on the main track. Post time is scheduled for 6:04 CDT at Oaklawn Park.
Fair or not, in recent years the Apple Blossom has been known more for which horses did not show up in the race than those that have. In 2010, the race was supposed to be a showdown between then reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but the connections of Rachel Alexandra decided to bypass it in the weeks leading up to the race.
This year, Havre de Grace’s owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones thought their horse was unfairly assigned 123 pounds, and as a result opted to pass on running.
Without racing through the first 3 1/2 months of the year, Plum Pretty assumes the role of favorite.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'oro was last seen when finishing a tiring fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) last November at Churchill Downs. In 2011, she won the Kentucky Oaks and the Cotillion (gr. II) at Parx Racing, and was also graded stakes-placed three times.
Plum Pretty has trained up to the Apple Blossom at Santa Anita Park, her final breeze coming April 9 when clocking four furlongs in :48. Rafael Bejarano will have the mount on the bay filly, who will break from post 5.
Absinthe Minded and Tiz Miz Sue will be meeting for the fourth consecutive time at Oaklawn. Brilan Farm’s Absinthe Minded defeated Cresran’s Tiz Miz Sue in both the Jan. 21 Pippin and Feb. 18 Bayakoa Stakes, while Tiz Miz Sue turned the tables in the their latest meeting, the March 17 Azeri (gr. III).
Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Absinthe Minded was third to Havre de Grace in last year’s Apple Blossom. The 5-year-old daughter of Quiet American is 6-5-3 from 29 starts and still seeks her first graded stakes victory. Terry Thompson has the mount.
Tiz Miz Sue, trained by Steve Hobby, collected her first graded win in the Azeri when scoring by three lengths at 8-1, breaking an eight-race losing streak at Oaklawn. Joe Rocco Jr. will be in the irons once again on the daughter of Tiznow .
Joe Martin trainee Holy Heavens has a pair of wins at Oaklawn, including the Martha Washington Stakes last year and a six-furlong optional claimer two starts back. Last out, the Holy Bull filly was fourth in a two-turn allowance race. She was 13th in last year’s Kentucky Oaks.
Twelve Twenty Two ships in from Sunland Park, where she has posted three consecutive victories for trainer Henry Dominguez. The most recent one came in the listed Harry Henson Handicap on March 25, where she romped by more than 12 lengths. The Kafwain filly finished seventh in last summer’s Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in her lone graded stakes try.