04/03/2012 1:58PM

Oaklawn Park: Havre de Grace waiting on Apple Blossom weights

Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography
Havre de Grace is being pointed to the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The Horse of the Year is in the house.

Havre de Grace arrived at Oaklawn Park from Fair Grounds on Monday afternoon and is scheduled to breeze here Saturday, trainer Larry Jones said. She is being considered for a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 13, with a final decision on her status to come after the weights for the race are released Saturday.

“We are waiting to see what the weights will be,” said Jones, whose main focus will be the spread in weights.

Havre de Grace, who races for Rick Porter, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez if she runs in the Apple Blossom, Jones said. On Tuesday, the filly spent her first morning at Oaklawn since last season, coming onto the track first after the renovation break on a humid, overcast, 65-degree morning. She backtracked to the wire under exercise rider Robert Cline, then galloped a half-mile, the goal being to just stretch her legs, Jones said. Her work is scheduled to be over five furlongs.

“We’ll go Saturday, if the weather’s halfway fitting,” Jones said. “And she’ll have a walk day Sunday.”

Havre de Grace went 5 for 7 during her Horse of the Year campaign last year, among her wins the Apple Blossom, the Woodward over males at Saratoga, and the Beldame at Belmont Park. She also was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Havre de Grace, 5, made her first start since the Breeders’ Cup on March 17 and handily won the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies at her winter base of Fair Grounds. The stakes came over 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Apple Blossom, and she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

From a historical prospective regarding Apple Blossom weights, Azeri, the Horse of the Year in 2002, kicked off her 2003 campaign in the race and was weighted at 123 pounds. She was coming off a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and in her prior start in a handicap had carried 127 pounds. Azeri won the Apple Blossom by a head over Take Charge Lady, who carried 118.

Azeri’s first Apple Blossom win came in 2002, at the age of 4, under 117 pounds. She came into the race off a win in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. Her third Apple Blossom win came in 2004, under 123 pounds. Havre de Grace registered the first Grade 1 win of her career in last year’s Apple Blossom, scoring by three-quarters of a length over Grade 1 winner Switch. Both toted 119.

Entries for the Apple Blossom will be taken next Tuesday. The handicap is part of the Racing Festival of the South, when Oaklawn groups a number of major stakes over the final week of its meet. This year, the festival has been condensed from six to four dates, with nine stakes worth $2,825,000 to be run from Wednesday, April 11 to Saturday, April 14.

Nakatani now riding at Oaklawn

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who rode last weekend in Dubai, has three mounts on Thursday’s card at Oaklawn. He is to ride here regularly through the end of the meet that closes April 14, said his agent, Ron Anderson, with the one exception being Saturday, when Nakatani will be in New York. On Thursday, the rider has two mounts for Steve Asmussen, the second-leading trainer at Oaklawn.

“Steve asked him to come in for a few days,” Anderson said. “He’s been riding a number of horses for him, so, he’ll stop off there, finish off the meet, then it’s off to New York.”

Anderson said Nakatani, who this winter rode in Southern California, would start riding at Belmont regularly April 15.

Nakatani a year ago came in to ride during the final stages of the Oaklawn meet and went 4 for 19 with his mounts and finished second in the Arkansas Derby with the Asmussen-trained Nehro. The year before, in 2010, Nakatani spent most of the meet at Oaklawn and won 49 races from 206 starts, for mount earnings of $1,173,587.

Nakatani on Thursday also has a mount for trainer Cody Autrey, and Anderson said he’s been fielding inquiries from other horsemen based at Oaklawn.

“I’ve got quite a bit of action the rest of the time, six, seven calls a day,” Anderson said.

2013 racing dates approved

Oaklawn will again race 56 dates in 2013 after receiving calendar approvals during an Arkansas Racing Commission meeting Saturday. Next year’s meet will open on Friday, Jan. 11 and run to April 13.

Oaklawn will race Thursday through Sunday most weeks, with special holiday Monday cards on Jan. 21 and Feb. 18. There also is Wednesday racing the final week of the meet, on April 10. In addition, Oaklawn will not race on Easter, March 31.

The biggest change is that Oaklawn will not have a four-day opening weekend as it did this year, when the meet started Jan. 13 and Martin Luther King Jr. Day fell on Jan. 16. The track instead will race five straight days its second week, with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21.

◗ Bret Calhoun, tied for 11th in trainer wins in North America, is nearing a milestone of 2,000 career victories. He was at 1,993 through Tuesday. Calhoun has a division at Oaklawn.

◗ Jockey Cliff Berry, who leads the current standings at Oaklawn, enters Thursday’s card two wins from career victory 4,000. Of his 3,998 wins, 3,889 have been aboard Thoroughbreds.

mike More than 1 year ago
I feel its owner not trainer being an idiot in this situation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think she's running. Jones is BLUFFING so he can hopefully get less weight on HDG. He knows how to play the game. If by some chance she doesn't run will this race be worthy of G1 status? Who else will run? If HDG does go, I predict a 5 horse race.
Dieter Reesem More than 1 year ago
The owners of these tracks are where the problem lies. In situations like these, the owners tell the racing secretaries how to do their job (...for a day). Racing secretaries stand there like puppets and sellout to these owners (since the owner wants a certain horse at their racetrack).
Mick More than 1 year ago
Man I'm getting tired of reading about this, this is spoiling her and them in my eyes. However this still doesn't beat their request of Fair Grounds to raise the New Orleans Ladies purse by $50,000 in order to have her run there. They should have just shipped out for the Azeri if they wanted that kind of money. Especially if its the reigning HOY on their hands, they shouldn't be looking to tilt the scales in their favor, pick a race and go, like everyone else does, and show us why she's the HOY.
Westin Niles More than 1 year ago
Do they hand out an Eclipse for "Whiner of the Year"?
David More than 1 year ago
These clowns (Larry Jones and Rick Porter) are embarrasing to our sport. They should get back underneath momma's dress because their "Horse of the Year" can't handle weight. I've heard enough. I thought Bobby Frankel was a weight whiner, but Larry Jones takes the cake.
Mike More than 1 year ago
EVERY RACING SECRETARY SHOULD LOAD HER UP TO 130 LBS....that way she can retired happily ever after......
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Man-o, Manischewitz. Larry Jones is playing the game that trainers have always played - get the best weight assigned for the horse that is in your care. The only whines I see are in these comments. It's Apple Blossom time and the HOY is getting ready to run. Grow a set.
Mike More than 1 year ago
And I bet you thought overrated Rachel was something too! lmfao.... when great horses ran, the racing secretaries would bogged down them down TO ENTICE OTHER HORSES TO RUN AGAINST THE GREAT HORSE.... now the supposedly HOY IS BEGGING TO GET LESS WEIGHT SO THAT IT WOULD CONSIDER RUNNING A RACE..... HAHAHA PATHETIC!!!!!!!!!!
Mike More than 1 year ago
YES, they need to grow a set!!
therealdubwhite More than 1 year ago
You know as a fan of horse racing and someone that has followed FHF in the past this has ruined a much anticipated year for a very good filly. First the debacle of running in a race that was as meaningless as most every f/m race in California and now consistently having to hear about the posturing for weight and how the spread has to be right. I recognize that these are issues that you take into consideration when you run a top class runner, but you have to show some class by means of the way in which you make statements. You dont send out notices by means of the media that give indication that you will run if the weight is this or that, you just shut up and wait for the waits and if they arent right take your ball and go play elsewhere. Then to call out Mr. Cella as if he is running some type of bullring that has a need for the filly to run at Oaklawn. Im sorry as people stated she is a good horse but she has done nothing at all to even come close to breathing the same air as Azeri, Ginger Punch, Rachel or Zenyatta. And none of those connections felt the need to call out the owner of Oaklawn Park or to make appeal to him to make sure the racing secretary does special favors for the aforementioned fillies or mares. The biggest problem is the absolute bush-league nature of the way that these statements are being made, making statements to Jason Shandler of Bloodhorse and others in an attempt to influence the situation, and then mentioning conversation with Bob Baffert about how they would not give 10 lbs to Plum Pretty, when they certainly were in the same situation and took 10 lbs from Blind Luck in the Cotillion. At the time BL had 5 G1 victories to HDG's 0, currently HDG has 3 G1 wins to Plum Pretty's 1, why is it that there is much of a difference especially since BL had 2 of those victories came as a 2 year old. The point is, Curlin, Zenyatta, and other's connections thought or mentioned that weights were an issue, (ONCE) but they ran their horses. This is pitiful and has ruined the year of racing for this very classy filly, because her connections are lacking the same class.
Junior Jimenez More than 1 year ago
Enough Larry, please stop the crying!!!!!!!!!!! Right now she is not even the best mare in training Larry. She is not Azeri or Zenyatta . Just imagine if Blind Luck was still running and ran in this race he would not run her. Larry just tired of the constant complaining you didn't complain when she given an award she didn't deserve!!! Shut up please