Updated on 04/25/2012 12:52PM

Horse of the Year Havre de Grace retired with ankle injury

Barbara D. Livingston
Havre de Grace came out of this five-furlong workout Sunday at Churchill Downs with inflammation in an ankle.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, has been retired after being found to have an injury to her right front ankle following a Sunday workout at Churchill Downs, where she had been preparing to make her second start as a 5-year-old in the La Troienne Stakes on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks undercard.

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Rick Porter, whose Fox Hill Farms campaigned Havre de Grace throughout her 16-race career, reported Monday afternoon on the farm website that the injury was not life-threatening but was severe enough that “it is with great disappointment that I have to announce that Havre de Grace has been retired.”

As described on the farm website by Dr. Larry Bramlage of the Rood and Riddle equine hospital in Lexington, Ky., where the mare was sent after heat in her ankle was detected, the injury was to a lateral ligament in the ankle and would take at least a year to fully resolve, “and in her instance this is not acceptable, and so we should probably stop her race career. . . .  She will be fine as a broodmare.” Bramlage further prescribed 60 days of stall rest and hand-walking before the mare is turned out but added she could be bred “at any time if you like.”

Porter said he intends to sell Havre de Grace sometime this year, no later than the November breeding-stock sales.

“I’ve had people call already and try to buy her privately, and I might well end up doing that,” he said. “But if I don’t, I will sell her in November at one of the sales. I’ve got a budget I need to stick to every year, and once in a while I need to cash in. At some point I need to get some of my Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton checks back.”

Porter said he will not have Havre de Grace bred this year because he “doesn’t want her to have to have an April or May foal and put a (prospective) buyer behind the eight-ball. I’ve given a lot of thought to it, and I think we’d be better off not breeding her, and that way the buyer can start off fresh with her.”

Bred in Kentucky by Nancy Dillman, Havre de Grace had the distinction of being the third straight female to be voted Horse of the Year in the United States, following Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Zenyatta in 2010, an unprecedented streak in American racing history.

Named for the small Maryland town where racing was conducted on an unofficial half-mile circuit from 1912 to 1950, Havre de Grace was sired by the late Saint Liam, the 2005 Horse of the Year, and foaled by the dam Easter Bunnette, by Carson City. Her foaling date was May 12, 2007.

Havre de Grace made her first start on Aug. 24, 2009, as a 2-year-old, finishing third in a one-mile maiden race at Delaware Park. She was trained for her first eight races by Tony Dutrow, winning three of those while also finishing second in three stakes, most notably the Grade 1 Alabama by a neck to the filly who would become her archrival, Blind Luck.

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Turned over to Larry Jones following a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in November 2010, Havre de Grace embarked on her championship season of 2011 by easily winning the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March. She then won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn and the Grade 3 Obeah at Delaware before being beaten a nose by Blind Luck when conceding her two pounds in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap.

Porter and Jones then chose to run Havre de Grace against males for the first time in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, and she responded with a 1 1/4-length victory and a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 111. She then easily won the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont before trying males again in her final start of the year, the BC Classic, finishing a creditable fourth. Her overall record of 5-1-1 from seven starts was deemed good enough by Eclipse Award voters to make her a clear-cut choice for Horse of the Year and champion older mare for 2011.

Havre de Grace raced once at 5, winning the New Orleans Ladies on March 17 at Fair Grounds, and she figured as a heavy favorite in her next scheduled start, the Grade 2 La Troienne. Porter and Jones had intended to campaign her all year before the mare incurred the injury Sunday during a five-furlong breeze that was timed in 1:00.40.

In all, Havre de Grace posted 9 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds from her 16 starts, for total earnings of $2,586,175, with more than $1.6 million coming in her championship season. Her Beyer Figures were 100 or better in 10 of her last 11 starts.

Porter, a 71-year-old Delaware car dealer who has owned such standouts as Eight Belles, Hard Spun, Rockport Harbor, and Round Pond, said on the website that “owning ‘Grace’ throughout her career has been the highlight of my time in horse racing. She was a wonderful, wonderful racehorse, and I feel confident she’ll be an equally wonderful broodmare.”