HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- It looks like Havre de Grace is sitting on an outstanding season. In her first start since running third in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic in November, she rolled to a 3 1/4-length win over champion Blind Luck in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn Park.
It was the fifth match-up between the fillies, and largest margin of victory that either had turned in during their series of stretch battles. Blind Luck won the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Delaware Oaks over Havre de Grace last year, while Havre de Grace turned the tables in the Grade 2 Fitz Dixon Cotillion. Havre de Grace evened the score in the Azeri.
Havre de Grace ($5.20) stalked the pace in fourth early, as Absinthe Minded was left alone on the lead through fractions of 23.64 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.51 for the half-mile. Havre de Grace made a sweeping move around the turn, took the lead into the stretch, and went on to cover the mile and a sixteenth for fillies and mares in 1:42.02.
"When I asked her to run she just picked it up nicely and really, turning for home, she was striding out beautiful and galloped out strong," said Ramon Dominguez, who rode Havre de Grace for Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones.
"She could be anything."
Blind Luck put in her patented run, closing from last to finish second under jockey Garrett Gomez.
"The pace didn't help her at all," he said. "I mean that other filly was sitting in the garden spot the whole way. I do feel like [Blind Luck] ran back to her races here that she was running earlier, and throughout her year last year. She's still good as she as ever was."
The Azeri could set up a sixth face-off between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, as it was a prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, a race mentioned as a goal for both fillies. The Apple Blossom will be run at Oaklawn on April 15.