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Horse of the Year Havre de Grace Draws Post 2 for Saturday's $150,000 New Orleans Ladies

Reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace will make her long awaited 2012 debut Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots when she goes to the post as the prohibitive favorite in the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies, becoming the second Horse of the Year in the last three seasonsto use that Crescent City stakes test for older fillies and mares for her return to competition.

Havre de Grace, who has breezed six times at Fair Grounds since February 10 in preparation for her return, has accomplished all those moves impressively, never being asked for much but twice being timed in the fastest work of the morning at the distance.

The 5-year-old bay mare, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and trained by Larry Jones, has been away from competition since finishing fourth against male rivals in the Grade I  Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. She was bumped during the running of the Classic but was only beaten three lengths for the win despite that troubled trip. Earlier last fall she had beaten male rivals in Saratoga’s Grade I Woodward, and her victories against members of her own sex last year included wins in Belmont’s Grade I Beldame and Oaklawn’s Grade I Apple Blossom.

Defending Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, Havre de Grace’s regular rider, will journey to New Orleans for the mount Saturday on Havre de Grace, who has been installed as the 1-5 morning line favorite for the New Orleans Ladies.

Havre de Grace will be facing four rivals, with her most serious challenge expected to come from William and Graydon Patterson’s Juanita, a daughter of Mineshaft who was third in Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Tiffany Lass last time and runner-up in the $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial here before that.

Trained by Mike Maker, Juanita will be ridden by Fair Grounds’ defending rider champion and current leading rider Rosie Napravnik and has been pegged at 5-1 in the early line for the New Orleans Ladies.

Paul and Andrena Van Doren’s Sterling Madame will be the 119-pound high weight in the New Orleans Ladies field and has been slated at 8-1 in Fair Grounds’ richest test of the season for older members of the distaff set. The homebred, conditioned by nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss, will be ridden by James Graham, currently second in Fair Grounds rider standings. The 4-year-old filly is undefeated at Fair Ground this season, winning her two local starts by a total of eight lengths.

A D K Racing’s Distorted Love, a 6-year-old mare trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi who finished fourth in the Tiffany Lass, will be ridden by Richard Eramia and is 12-1 in the morning line, and David and Sarah Schwartz’s Annabel Lee, a supplemented shipper trained by her owner with John Jacinto up is pegged at 30-1.



Reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace drew post position 2 for her 2012 debut in a field of five set for Saturday’s $150,000 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Here’s the complete field in post-position order, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, owner): Sterling Madame (James Graham, Tom Amoss, Paul and Andrena Van Doren); Havre de Grace (Ramon Dominguez, Larry Jones, Fox Hill Farms); Annabel Lee (John Jacinto, David Schwartz, David and Sarah Schwartz); Distorted Love (Richard Eramia, Helen Pitts, A D K Racing); and Juanita (Rosie Napravnik, Mike Maker, William and Graydon Patterson).

Morning line odds will be released Thursday with the rest of Saturday’s card.

Larry Jones, trainer of Havre de Grace, reacted to the post draw by phone: “It works for me. It really didn’t matter to us. As I’ve always said, she’s one of those that I don’t have to worry about things with. She does whatever we need her to do. She doesn’t care. You always worry about being race-ridden, but she really, truly can handle whatever’s thrown at her.”

The New Orleans Ladies is for fillies and mares, 4-year-old and up, at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Havre de Grace was named Horse of the Year for 2011 on the basis of five wins, three of which came in Grade I events. One of those was against top older males in the Woodward at Saratoga. The 5-year-old mare has been working toward this race since arriving at Fair Grounds in early January. She last raced in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing fourth in that $5 million contest.

Sterling Madame has won two consecutive races gate-to-wire over the Fair Grounds main track. The 4-year-old filly has won three of six overall and will face stakes company for the first time.

Juanita finished third in last month’s $75,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes won by Joyful Victory and second in January’s $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial won by Cherokee Queen.

Distorted Love finished fourth in the Tiffany Lass. The 6-year-old mare won twice in allowance company at Churchill Downs last spring.

Florida-based Annabel Lee ships in for the second time this meet, having finished fifth behind Daisy Devine in the opening weekend $75,000 Pago Hop on turf. The 4-year-old filly finished off the board in two subsequent turf starts at Tampa Bay Downs.

Havre de Grace will become just the third reigning Horse of the Year to race at Fair Grounds, joining legends Whirlaway, winner of the 1942 Louisiana Handicap, and Rachel Alexandra, second in the inaugural New Orleans Ladies in 2010.

The New Orleans Ladies will be run as Race 9 at 4:50 p.m. CDT. First post for the 11-race card is 12:40 p.m.