02/03/2012 3:51PM

Fair Grounds: Havre de Grace gently galloping toward 2012 debut

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Barbara D. Livingston
The New Orleans Ladies Classic and the New Orleans Handicap are among the possibilities for Havre de Grace's first start of 2012.

Everything is swell in the world of the 2011 Horse of the Year. Havre de Grace has settled comfortably into her winter quarters on the Fair Grounds backstretch and has been taking steady steps toward her 2012 debut, trainer Larry Jones said earlier this week.

Havre de Grace, the third straight female Horse of the Year, arrived at Fair Grounds on Jan. 5 after getting a post-Breeders’ Cup break at the Vinery farm in Florida. Havre de Grace had been engaged in moderate farm exercise before rejoining Jones’s stable, and she has experienced no hiccups since resuming steady racetrack training a few days after her New Orleans arrival.

“We got up to a mile and quarter in her gallop today,” Jones said Wednesday. “That’s the longest that we’ve gone so far. In a few days we’ll be up to a mile and a half, what we normally do.”

Jones said Havre de Grace still was “a couple weeks” away from her first timed workouts, but that the 5-year-old mare had been allowed to run at a tempo faster than a normal gallop through the Fair Grounds home stretch on a couple occasions.

“I think she’ll move along quick from here,” Jones said.

Initially, Havre de Grace’s connections mentioned the New Orleans Ladies Stakes on March 17 as a possible comeback spot for Havre de Grace, but another more compelling possibility is the New Orleans Handicap on April 1.

Meanwhile, Jones has another horse in the same division, Joyful Victory, pointed to the Tiffany Lass, a $75,000 dirt-route stakes on Feb. 11. Joyful Victory returned from a long layoff to finish second on Jan. 11 in a Fair Grounds allowance race, her first start on turf, and should improve upon a return to the main track.

Jones also said that his pair of 3-year-old stakes winners from Jan. 21, Believe You Can and Mr. Bowling, had taken their races well, and remained on course to start again on Feb. 25. The filly Believe You Can is headed to the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, while Mr. Bowling will run in the Risen Star Stakes.