Fox Hill Farms’ Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones have made an about-face change with their reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Instead of shipping the mare to Oaklawn Park for her season debut in the $150,000 Azeri (gr. III) on March 17, they have decided to keep her at Fair Grounds for the New Orleans Ladies Stakes on the same day.
The change of heart was based on two things. First, there was a mix-up in the weight assignment that Havre de Grace would carry in the New Orleans Ladies. Because of an error in how the race was originally written and reported by Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots to Equibase, according to Porter, it was assumed that the Saint Liam mare would have to carry 122 pounds in the New Orleans Ladies, which was more than he and Jones wanted her to tote. But as it turns out, she will only have to carry 117 pounds.
Porter also asked Fair Grounds to put up an extra $50,000 in purse money, and they agreed. The 1 1/16-mile race, originally carded as a $100,000 event, will now run for a $150,000. With the logistics worked out, Porter said Havre de Grace would stay in New Orleans, where she has been training since early February.
“I feel bad but things got screwed up with the weights,” Porter said. “Once they realized they posted the wrong conditions on Equibase, I asked them to put the extra $50,000 up and they agreed. It’s a done deal. Larry didn’t want to ship her for her first race anyway.
“It would be nice to run her in a graded race, but the first race doesn’t really make any difference. It’s where we go from here that matters. We’re just trying to get a race in her and Larry said he doesn’t want to haul her over there and run her on different surface for her first race. He said he’d rather ship Joyful Victory over there; she likes that track.”
Joyful Victory, who won the Feb. 11 Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds and was a two-time graded winner at Oaklawn last year, will now go to the Azeri instead.
Porter said he feels bad for Oaklawn Park that Havre de Grace won’t be running there for the Azeri, but he said she almost certainly will run at the Arkansas track in April for either the $500,000 Apple Blossom (gr. I) or $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).