Havre De Grace Takes Her Shot
Havre de Grace takes shot against boys in Woodward
Rachel Alexandra paved the way two years ago becoming the first female winner in the illustrious history of the Woodward S. (G1), and on Saturday at Saratoga HAVRE DE GRACE (Saint Liam) will attempt to make her own bit of history in the 1 1/8-mile test, which has attracted seven older males in addition to Fox Hill Farm's star filly.
In addition to a lucrative purse of $750,000, the Woodward is likely to have implications for a couple Eclipse Award categories. If Havre de Grace were to win, she would own a key victory in the race for champion older female honors, where her main competition is arch-rival Blind Luck (Pollard's Vision), who has yet to -- and most likely will not -- take on males this season. A victory would also put Havre de Grace in the discussion for Horse of the Year, a title Rachel Alexandra won after her gutsy Woodward triumph in 2009.
Havre de Grace lost three of four meetings with Blind Luck last season, one a narrow neck defeat in the Alabama S. (G1) over the Saratoga course. She gained a bit revenge in her seasonal debut in the March 19 Azeri S. (G3) at Oaklawn, beating her rival by 3 1/4 lengths at level weights. After victories in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) and Obeah S. (G3), Havre de Grace yielded to Blind Luck by a nose in the July 16 Delaware H. (G2) while conceding two pounds.
Standing in Havre de Grace's way are a group of boys that have shown flashes of brilliance at one time or another this season, though rarely on a consistent basis. The leader among those entered in the Woodward, FLAT OUT (Flatter), will vie for favoritism after a dynamite score in the Suburban H. (G2) two back and a strong second to Tizway (Tiznow) in the Whitney H. (G1) four weeks ago. The Scooter Dickey-trained five-year-old could enhance his chances for champion older male honors with a win, and a potential re-match with Tizway in either the October 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and/or November 5 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) is on the horizon.
Among the upset hopefuls in the Woodward are Donn H. (G1) winner GIANT OAK (Giant's Causeway), a distant third in the Whitney; New Orleans H. (G2) victor MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled's Song), runner-up by a neck in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) two back but only sixth in the Whitney; and the multiple Grade 3 winner RULE (Roman Ruler), last seen taking the August 4 Birdstone S. The latter two are conditioned by Todd Pletcher.
Trainer Phil Gleaves sent out Wise Times to win the 1986 Travers S. (G1), and a quarter-century later he will saddle MAMBO MEISTER (King Cugat) for the Woodward. The multiple Grade 3 winner has been beating up on his Calder peers of late, winning the Mecke S. by four lengths and the Primal S. by 11. ICE BOX (Pulpit), last year's Florida Derby (G1) hero and Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up, showed surprising speed in his allowance comeback on July 29 following a layoff of nearly 11 months. Though he weakened to third, it was his first on-the-board placing in five starts since the Kentucky Derby. The Woodward field is rounded out by CONVOCATION (Pulpit), the multiple allowance winner who ran fourth to Quality Road in last year's Woodward.
Sidney's Candy set a soft pace and was not seriously challenged in the Fourstardave (Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)
The $250,000 Forego S. (G1) at seven furlongs is one of three stakes on the undercard. The likely favorite is SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]), the former California mainstay who was a facile 1 1/4-length winner of the grassy Fourstardave H. (G2) in his debut for Todd Pletcher. When previously conditioned by John Sadler, the chestnut had displayed versatility winning graded stakes on dirt, turf and synthetic, the most prominent being the 2010 Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Forego will serve as Sidney's Candy's stepping-stone toward a probable run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
JERSEY TOWN (Speightstown) figures to improve off a second in the July 31 Teddy Drone S. at Monmouth, his first outing since upsetting the Cigar Mile H. (G1) last November for Barclay Tagg. Another veteran with back class, multiple Grade 2 winner REGAL RANSOM (Distorted Humor), is winless from five starts since taking a Saratoga allowance a year ago, though he came up frustratingly short by a nose in the Alysheba S. (G3) two starts back.
The top three finishers from the opening day James Marvin S. -- JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil), HAMAZING DESTINY (Salt Lake) and ESCROW KID (City Place) -- are back at it, though Hamazing Destiny squeezed in an interim start in the August 7 Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) and finished sixth. James Marvin fifth-placer AIKENITE (Yes It's True) was in strong form earlier this year when taking the Churchill Downs S. (G2) and Commonwealth S. (G2) in consecutive outings.
The Forego field is rounded out by longshots GOLDDIGEER'S BOY (Jump Start), who's been making short work of his opposition on the Pennsylvania circuit, most recently in the Donald LeVine Memorial H., and the Pletcher-trained RULE BY NIGHT (Malibu Moon), who finished up the track in the Teddy Drone last time.
The $300,000 Personal Ensign S. (G1) for fillies and mares is being brought back from last Sunday's program that was canceled due to the effects of Hurricane Irene. The 1 1/4-mile test, which a month ago had the potential to attract both Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, lacks the star power of the two other features. The field of six includes ASK THE MOON (Malibu Moon), the 18-1 upset winner of the Ruffian H. (G1) on July 31; Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) heroine and Ruffian runner-up SUPER ESPRESSO (Medaglia d'Oro); the Ruffian third TIZ MIZ SUE (Tiznow); and the Grade 3-winning Polytrack enthusiast PACHATTACK (Pulpit). Allowance winners ACRONYM (Empire Maker) and PROTESTING (A.P. Indy) complete the field.
The stakes action on a blockbuster final Saturday at the Spa kicks off with the day's opener, the $75,000 Paris Opera S. for fillies and mares at one mile on the inner turf. Restricted to non-winners of a graded stakes on turf this year, the race will hopefully include DELUXE (Storm Cat), who was scratched what would have been her U.S. debut in August 6 De La Rose S. The Juddmonte homebred, a listed stakes winner and Group 1-placed in France, is a daughter of the blue hen Hasili (Ire) (Kahyasi), thus counts as kin the standouts Dansili (GB), Banks Hill (GB), Heat Haze (GB), Intercontinental (GB) , Cacique (Ire) and Champs Elysees (GB). All of the above were sired by Danehill with the exception of Heat Haze, who was sired by Green Desert.
Others of note in the Paris Opera are UNBRIDLED ESSENCE (Essence of Dubai), most recently seventh when defending her title in the July 31 Matchmaker S. (G3); IT'S TEA TIME (Dynaformer), winless in six outings since the Lake Placid S. (G3) at Saratoga last season; and EVADING TEMPLATE (GB) (Dubai Destination), the 2010 Premio Regina Elena (Italian One Thousand Guineas) (Ity-G3) vixen who's run third in both U.S. outings.
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