09/01/2011 2:17PM

Woodward could put Havre de Grace in the picture for Horse of the Year

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Barbara D. Livingston
Havre de Grace has won three of her four starts this year.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The last two recipients of the Horse of the Year award have been females – Zenyatta in 2010 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. The connections of Havre de Grace would like to keep that trend going.

In order to do so, Havre de Grace must do something extraordinary, or at least out of the box. She can’t come within a head of a perfect season – and career – as did Zenyatta. She can’t go 8 for 8 and win the Preakness and two other races against males a la Rachel Alexandra. Havre de Grace can put herself into the discussion for Horse of the Year if she is able to beat males in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Rachel Alexandra became the first female to win the Woodward in 2009.

Havre de Grace, who this year has won 3 of 4 starts, including the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, will take on seven males in the Woodward run at 1 1/8-miles, including Suburban winner and Whitney runner-up Flat Out, the in-career-form Mambo Meister, and Grade 1 winners Giant Oak and Ice Box as well as Mission Impazible, Rule,and Convocation.

“Obviously we think we have a chance to be Horse of the Year,’’ said Rick Porter, owner of Havre de Grace. “After we got beaten by a nose [by Blind Luck] in the Delaware Handicap we thought we had to do something aggressive.’’

Larry Jones, the trainer of Havre de Grace, said he didn’t start worrying about the competition until he noticed that six of the seven rivals have already run over Saratoga’s main track this meet, something neither Havre de Grace nor Mambo Meister has done.

“I don’t think you’re taking your best hold whenever you’re running against everybody and they’ve run over the track and you haven’t, but I guess that will be another thing if she can pull it off will prove how good she is,’’ Jones said.

Jones said he believes Havre de Grace is very good right now. Though she has yet to face males, running against the likes of Blind Luck – whom Havre de Grace has faced six times – should have her prepared.

“She’s been battle-tested without a doubt,’’ Jones said. “She’s looked them in the eyeball and held her own. I worked her with some colts, she doesn’t care. They worry more about her, they think she’s cute. I hope all those guys are going to say `man, nice view’ and stay back there and keep watching.’’

Flat Out looms the horse to beat in the Woodward. Hampered by feet and shoulder issues throughout his career, Flat Out had his coming out party when he rallied from next-to-last to win the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont by 6 1/2 lengths. He followed that up with a solid second to Tizway – arguably the top older male in training – in the Whitney.

After working a sharp five furlongs in 57.20 seconds at Monmouth Park on Aug. 18, Flat Out has simply galloped though it was possible he could blow out through the lane Friday morning under Alex Solis. Trainer Scooter Dickey said he really liked how Flat Out galloped Thursday morning here under exercise rider Kat Zwiegler.

“She said he just glides over this track,’’ said Dickey, whose horse will break from post 7 on Saturday. “We’re happy with our post draw, we were down on the rail all the way around in the last one.’’

Havre de Grace, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, figures to get first run on Flat Out behind a pace that figures to be established by Rule and possibly Mambo Meister.

Mambo Meister might be the wildcard in this group. A 6-year-old gelded son of King Cugat, Mambo Meister is coming off a career-best effort in the Primal Stakes at Calder, a race he won by 11 lengths while earning a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. Trainer Phil Gleaves had planned on using that race as a prep for the Sword Dancer on turf, but wanted more time for the horse so the Woodward became the next objective.

“We can do a lot of things with Mambo Meister,’’ Gleaves said. “When we ran so big in the Primal we thought it best not to run back as quick. Even when they run big figs, two days later they’re bouncing around the barn. We gave him as much time as possible and it really feels like he’s really bounced back.’’

Fernando Jara rides Mambo Meister from the outside post.

Giant Oak has been in Saratoga since July 19 and he got a useful race when third in the Whitney, where he broke poorly and was compromised by a slow pace.

“We’re hopeful for a solid pace much more than what we saw last time and then maybe a little bit better break from the gate,’’ trainer Chris Block said. “I was a little disappointed with how he got away from there last time; I think he cost himself a couple of lengths. I hope he doesn’t leave there flat-footed and give himself a bad position. If we get away from there good and we get a legitimate pace and the track is playing fair we should be in good shape.’’

The Woodward is one of three Grade 1 races on the 12-race program that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. The Woodward and the Grade 1 Forego will be broadcast live on Versus in a one-hour telecast beginning at 5 p.m.

Woodward Stakes 2011

Purse: $750,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 1

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Ice Box

Nick Zito

Jose Lezcano

12-1

1

Mission Impazible

Todd Pletcher

John Velazquez

10-1

1

Giant Oak

Chris Block

Shaun Bridgmohan

8-1

1

Rule

Todd Pletcher

Javier Castellano

5-1

1

Convocation

Jimmy Jerkens

Rajiv Maragh

20-1

1

Havre de Grace

Larry Jones

Ramon Dominguez

8-5

1

Flat Out

Scooter Dickey

Alex Solis

5-2

1

Mambo Meister

Phil Gleaves

Fernando Jara

10-1

MORE: Full Coverage of the 2011 Woodward Stakes »