03/13/2012 1:08PM

Fair Grounds: Havre de Grace scaring away New Orleans Ladies rivals

Barbara D. Livingston
Havre de Grace is likely to face a small field in Saturday's New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds.

Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, completed the heavy lifting for her 2012 debut with a five-furlong workout in 59.60 seconds on Monday morning at Fair Grounds. It remains to be seen what sort of opposition can be rustled up to take her on Saturday in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes.

Entries for the New Orleans Ladies will be taken Wednesday, and there will not be a surplus of them. Ten horses were nominated to the New Orleans Ladies, and none of the best of them will line up to challenge a champion. The New Orleans Ladies was created two years ago as a spot for reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra to make her seasonal debut, and the race’s allowance conditions create a situation where lesser runners with a recent win carry more weight than a top-class horse like Havre de Grace returning from a winter break. The presence of a multiple Grade 1 winner in this year’s field means the race’s purse will be $150,000, rather than $100,000, and $2,500 will be paid to any starter, but the New Orleans Ladies remains an ungraded race that includes an 800-pound gorilla.

“If you’re going to run against really good horses, you might as well run in a graded stakes,” said trainer Carl Bowman, speaking Tuesday morning from Oaklawn Park, where he shipped Fair Grounds-based Ravi’s Song for the Grade 3 Azeri Stakes on Saturday.

Joyful Victory, Havre de Grace’s stablemate and another New Orleans Ladies nominee, also will race in the Azeri. Daisy Devine, one of the best older females in New Orleans, is bypassing the Ladies for the Bayou Handicap on turf later this month.

Oaklawn-based Tiz Miz Sue is highly unlikely to ship in, leaving as possible entrants Distorted Love, Juanita, Secrets Kept, Seeking Sheba, and Sterling Madame.

Whoever lines up in the starting gate will, by trainer Larry Jones’s estimation, be meeting a champion eager and ready to get back to business.

“Mentally, she’s right where we want her,” Jones said after Monday’s work. “She’s controllable, and we know she’s fast. She’s ready to go.”