Updated on 02/23/2012 2:47PM

Havre de Grace will start 2012 season in Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn

Tom Keyser
Havre de Grace will make her 2012 debut in Oaklawn Park's Azeri Stakes.

NEW ORLEANS – Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, will make her first start of the new year in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 17, owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones said Wednesday.

Porter released the news on the website of his Fox Hill Farm.

Havre de Grace also had been under consideration for the $100,000 New Orleans Ladies Handicap here at Fair Grounds the same day. Jones, who is here at Fair Grounds where Havre de Grace has been training in recent weeks, said the conditions of the race – the Azeri being a stakes, the New Orleans Ladies a handicap – made the Azeri a more sensible starting point.

“Any horse that’s won a Grade 1 or a Grade 2 has to pack topweight in the race here,” Jones said. “Up there, it’s allowance conditions, so Havre de Grace would only pack two more pounds than she packed in the same race last year.”

Porter and Jones still have Joyful Victory for the New Orleans Ladies.

“It could still change if something happens to one horse or the other, but in order to keep them separated for now it looks like that’s what will be going on,” Jones said. “I’m not going to instantly give somebody 10 or 11 pounds just because we have a champion mare and they might have a horse that won nice allowance races. I’m not going to do that. There’s too many other opportunities, and we need to be picky about where we go.”

Havre de Grace began her 2011 campaign in the Azeri and was an easy winner over Blind Luck. She subsequently won the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn, too.

Ramon Dominguez, the regular rider for Havre de Grace, will have the mount in the Azeri. Robby Albarado will ride Joyful Victory, Porter said.

Havre de Grace has not raced since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so the Azeri will be her first start in a little more than four months.