Havre de Grace (left) goes by Switch to take the Apple Blossom at at Oaklawn.

Havre de Grace (left) goes by Switch to take the Apple Blossom at at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography

Havre de Grace Picks Off Apple Blossom

Favorite Havre de Grace wins the grade I Apple Blossom by 3/4-length over Switch.

Havre de Grace captured her second graded stakes in as many starts this year and took her first grade I in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park April 15 (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam out of Easter Bunnette, by Carson City, collared the leaders a sixteenth of a mile from the wire to win driving by three-quarters of a length. Havre de Grace is owned Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman.

Switch finished second and Absinthe Minded finished third. The final time was 1:42.19.

“We’re just glad she ran to her ability and to the way she had been training,” said trainer Larry Jones. “She’s a top quality filly and when we got her in the barn we quickly realized that she might be something special, and I’m glad she’s living up to what we feel she can be. This race is special because it’s the first big showdown for the best fillies and mares.”

Jones said the number one goal from here on out is getting to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs in November. While he didn’t identify her next start, Jones said he and Porter were not going to “gut her” by running every month and said the Delaware Handicap (gr. II) was on their radar.

“We are going to treat her like the champion we think she can be,” Jones said. “You can’t sew it up in April, but we feel we certain we have the leader and the horse ready to be the champion.”

Absinthe Minded, trained by D. Wayne Lukas and owned by Briland Farm, set the pace early and took the five-horse field through reasonable fractions of :23.90, :47.92, and 1:11.99. The daughter of Quiet American was tracked by multipe grade I winner Switch, who is also by Quiet American. Havre de Grace and jockey Ramon Dominquez were content to sit in third throughout most of the race. Going through the final turn, Havre de Grace got as far back as 5 1/2 lengths from the leaders.

“Coming up to the three-eighths pole they got away from me a little more than I was expecting, but I didn’t panic because I know how good she is,” said Dominguez. “My filly accelerated great down the stretch and she made an amazing run. There is no telling how good this filly really is. It was very exciting.”

John Sadler, the trainer of Switch, said he thought the filly owned by C R K Stable ran a courageous race.

“She was pushed a little bit on the first turn, but she settled pretty nice,” he said. “She was able to catch (Absinthe Minded), but she just couldn’t hold off the winner. I’m happy with her effort. Maybe next time we will get a couple pounds from her.” Switch and Havre de Grace were the high weights carrying 119 pounds, while Miss Match and Belle Watling carried 116 and Absinthe Minded carried 114 pounds.

“She ran well today and tried hard, the other horse was just too much horse today,” said Switch’s rider Joel Rosario. “She got beat today, but I’m proud of her effort. We were just second best today.”

Havre de Grace was purchased by agent Tom McGreevy for Porter as a Keeneland September yearling in 2008 for $380,000. She was consigned by Mill Ridge Sales, as agent. The filly has now won five times and placed five times in 10 starts and has total career earnings of $1,263,175. The Apple Blossom was her third graded stakes win.

As the 1-2 favorite, Havre de Grace paid $3, $2.20, and $2.10. Switch, the second choice, paid $3 and $2.10. Absinthe Minded paid $2.60. A $2 exacta paid a paltry $5.40 and the $2 trifecta paid $14.20. Miss Match finished fourth and Belle Watling finished fifth.