01/09/2012 4:56PM

Fair Grounds: Havre de Grace could return against boys in New Orleans Handicap

Tom Keyser
Havre de Grace could make her first start of 2012 in the New Orleans Handicap.

Havre de Grace, who is likely to be named 2011’s Horse of the Year later this month, has settled into her new home at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and began galloping under trainer Larry Jones this past weekend.

And Jones revealed Monday that he and owner Rick Porter might have a loftier comeback race in mind for Havre de Grace than the $100,000 New Orleans Ladies on March 17, mentioned as a possible launching pad for the mare’s 2012 campaign when she arrived at Fair Grounds last week.

“We’re considering that race, but we’ve also kind of looked at a race a couple weeks later called the New Orleans Handicap,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of options with her. She’ll tell us which way to go.”

The $400,000 New Orleans Handicap will be contested on April 1 this year. Havre de Grace beat males once before when she won the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

Havre de Grace was sent to Vinery farm near Ocala, Fla., after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and arrived back in Jones’s barn early Thursday. Tired from her travels, Havre de Grace had a couple easy days before Jones started up with daily gallops.

“I’ve been on her now,” Jones said Monday. “We’ve gone to the track. They didn’t do a lot with her down there. They had her on an aqua-tread, which is good for her legs more than her fitness. They put her under tack, but basically that was to put her mind on going back to work. I ’loped her about five-eighths of a mile. You could tell that was enough for now. Everything’s good. You can tell she hasn’t been stretching her body out, but it’s going to be there. When she came in this year, she looked a heck of a lot better than when she came in last year.”

That’s a somewhat frightening proposition: Havre de Grace won the Azeri Stakes and Apple Blossom at Oaklawn in quick succession to start her 2011 season.