Making her first start for trainer Larry Jones, Havre de Grace had no problem downing her bitter rival Blind Luck, as she took over approaching the quarter-pole and streaked home a convincing 3 1/4-length winner in the $150,000 Azeri Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) March 19 at Oaklawn Park.
It was the first meeting of the year between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, but the fifth time that the fillies have met since last summer. Havre de Grace evened the score at two apiece with her win in the 1 1/16-mile Azeri, which was her 4-year-old debut.
Fox Hill Farm owns Havre de Grace, a daughter of Saint Liam—Easter Bunnette, by Carson City. She was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman.
With Ramon Dominguez riding Havre de Grace for the first time, the bay filly raced in fourth through the early going while Absinthe Minded set the pace. Absinthe Minded and Calvin Borel took the field of seven through splits of :23.64 and :47.51 while Shotgun Gulch and Tidal Pool raced behind her. Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly from 2010, was about 10 lengths back while trailing the field in her normal position.
Havre de Grace made her winning move midway on the final turn and took over approaching the quarter-pole. She carried a 2 1/2–length advantage to the eighth-pole and was never seriously challenged in the final furlong. Blind Luck came with her patented late move under Garrett Gomez, but it was way too late to catch the winner, who hit the wire in 1:42.02 on the fast dirt.
Blind Luck settled for second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Absinthe Minded.
“She did everything we expected her to," Jones said. "She had trained very well. It was awesome. I wasn’t planning on going out and equaling the stakes record, but that was a bonus that she did it fast. She’s an incredible mare. We knew the other day when she pulled away from Payton d’Oro in the work the other day that she was something special because Payton is no slouch.”
Racing for Tony Dutrow as a 3-year-old, Havre de Grace finished second to Blind Luck in both the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) and Alabama (gr. I), but turned the tables on her rival when defeating her in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II) last fall at Philadelphia Park. Blind Luck was second and Havre de Grace third when they met in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) in November at Churchill Downs.
Overall, Havre de Grace improved to 4-3-2 from nine starts and has now earned $963,175. She could return for the grade I Apple Blossom next month.
Of Blind Luck's effort trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said: "I didn’t expect the pace to back up if they gave them an easy lead. She ran well.”
Sent off as the second choice, Havre de Grace paid $5,20, $2.60, and $2.20. The exacta (4-7) returned $10.20 and the trifecta (4-7-6) was worth $25.30 for $1.
Tidal Pool was fourth, followed by Shotgun Gulch, Kimber Lily, and Spacy Tracy.