Saying that the weight assignments for the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) were “unfair,” owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones withdrew Horse of the Year Havre de Grace from consideration for the April 13 race at Oaklawn Park.
The defending champion in the Apple Blossom, Havre de Grace will now be pointed toward the La Troienne (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) card.
In explaining the decision behind why he and Jones decided to bypass the Apple Blossom with the 5-year-old daughter of Saint Liam, Porter posted on his Fox Hill Farm website a blog entry that took to task Oaklawn Park racing secretary Pat Pope for the weight disparity between the 123 pounds assigned to Havre de Grace and the weight for others most likely to contest the race.
“We were expecting fair weights when they were released today,” Porter said in his blog entry. “Larry called me and we were flabbergasted at the weights. Plum Pretty was the most unexpected but a lot of them were very unfair.”
Noting that the connections of Havre de Grace have not ducked major competition, Porter said he and Jones would not let the mare’s ability to compete be compromised by the weight assignments for major races.
“We have decided one thing though, we will take on any horse and take our defeats when we get them but we won’t let the racing secretaries decide who is going to win the races,” Porter said. “That is why we took this stand on the Apple Blossom. The weights are unfair and I have asked all the journalists to demand that Pope explain how he came up with the numbers for the weights. He owes it to the fans that were going to pack the house for the Apple Blossom. He just didn’t invent these weights, his duty as racing secretary is to analyze each horse and their races and come up with fair weights. Since he had to do it, he should make it public so we can see his thinking and reasoning. I hope he takes on his responsibility.
“We have decisions to make in running a racing operation and today was one of those tough ones.”