10/05/2011 10:59AM

Havre de Grace will train for Breeders' Cup Classic on Keeneland's Polytrack

Michael Amoruso
Havre de Grace will do her pre-Breeders' Cup preparations on the Polytrack at Keeneland, a formula that has worked well for other horses planning on running on Churchill Downs's dirt main track.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After winning the Beldame Stakes in New York on Saturday, Havre de Grace returned to trainer Larry Jones’s barn at Delaware Park on Sunday, and by Monday she had been sent here, to Keeneland, where she will do most of her serious training leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

At first blush, the decision to bring Havre de Grace here might sound curious, but it is a recipe that has worked well for Jones in the past, and more recently for winners of the highest-profile races in the land. They largely trained at Keeneland on Polytrack for races on dirt at Churchill Downs.

It was here where Hard Spun did most of his preparation for Jones in the final weeks leading up to the 2007 Kentucky Derby, in which he finished second to Street Sense. Last year, after Blame won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, trainer Al Stall Jr. brought Blame to Keeneland to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which he became the only horse to beat Zenyatta. And this spring, Animal Kingdom trained at Keeneland for Graham Motion before a final drill at Churchill prior to his victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Neither Hard Spun, Blame, nor Animal Kingdom raced at Keeneland during those weeks, and Havre de Grace won’t, either. So while much of the focus at Keeneland over the next three weeks rightly will be on the terrific racing, beginning Friday, Keeneland has proven to be a track relied upon by horsemen on which to train for races 72 miles west of here at Churchill Downs.

“That’s why I’m doing it, because of Blame,” Jones, tongue firmly planted in cheek, said Wednesday morning by phone from Delaware Park. “Blame Blame, don’t blame me. Seriously, we wanted to get her down there to get used to the Kentucky weather, and hopefully to get a good track to train on. It seems like everywhere we’ve gone this year, there’s been rain. At this time of year, you never know what the situation is going to be up here.”

That’s not a concern at Keeneland. The Polytrack surface allows for training during wet weather, and needs so little maintenance that there’s not even a renovation break during training hours.

“We did the same thing with Hard Spun, and it worked out pretty well,” Jones said. “Instead of going turf to dirt, we’re going Polytrack to dirt.”

Havre de Grace spent just one night at Delaware, “to grab supper and rest,” Jones said. She came here with a score of Jones-trained horses on Monday. Jones is still at Delaware because he has runners there through Saturday, but he will be here early next week. In the meantime, his runners here are being overseen by his right-hand man, Corey York, who is groom, foreman, assistant trainer, and hot walker, depending on what’s needed around the barn.

Jones took over as the trainer of Havre de Grace earlier this year, and immediately thought highly of her. Her recent victories in the Beldame, and against males in the Woodward, have put her in position to be named Horse of the Year.

“I had run against her a couple of times with No Such Word, so I knew how good she was,” he said. “But the first time I went over her, I went over her like I would a yearling I was going to buy. I had never seen one like her. She’s something else.”

MORE: Trainer Larry Jones discussing Havre de Grace's BC Classic bid »