Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Havre de Grace looms large in Grade III Obeah Stakes

Stanton, Del., June 8, 2011 — Havre de Grace is a formidable presence in the mile-and-an-eighth $150,000 Grade III Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park this Saturday. A field of five fillies and mares have been entered in the last local prep for the mile-and-a-quarter $750,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap on July 16. The top four finishers in the Obeah automatically earn a free nomination to the Delaware Handicap.

Trainer J. Larry Jones has followed the old Delaware Park adage “with a filly and mare go to Delaware”, and he has enjoyed success.

In 2005, the 54-year-old native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky ran one horse at Delaware Park and won the filly and mare summer classic with Island Sand. He liked Delaware Park so much; he brought all of his horses to the Stanton-oval the following year. The rest is history with a bright future. The history is training Hard Spun and Eight Belles, who were both locally owned by Richard Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. The bright future is training the likely favorite for the Delaware Handicap in Havre de Grace, who is also owned by the native of Wilmington, Delaware.

On Monday, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Saint Liam breezed five furlongs at Delaware Park in :57.80.

“Well she is doing okay,” said trainer J. Larry Jones tongue in cheek. “We worked her on Monday and she worked all right. You know we were not trying to knock her out by any means. She may have went a little slow. Other than that, she did fine.”

In her most recent, she posted a ¾-length victory in Grade I Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 15. In her only other outing this year, she notched a 3 ¼-length over the 2010 filly champion Blind Luck in the Grade III Azeri at Oaklawn Park on March 19.

Since the beginning of the year, the Delaware Handicap has been the summer objective and trainer J. Larry Jones is looking forward to using the Obeah Stakes as the prep.

“The game plan is number one knowing it is going to be a long year and number two the primary summer objective is the Delaware Handicap,” Jones said. “So with that in mind, we want to make sure we have her at her very best for that. The Obeah is the logical spot to get her ready for that. Everything is right here at her home, you get a trip over the track and we train here every day. As far as her needing a race, we think we are right where we want to be. She is coming off a huge effort in the Apple Blossom and she has been at Delaware Park ever since. She is coming into this race the way we want her. We are expecting for her to run her race.”

Last year, she did not win at Delaware Park, but had a pair of solid seconds. She ran second in the Go for Wand Stakes and then ran second beaten a nose to Blind Luck in the Grade II Delaware Oaks. She concluded the season with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs.

In 2009, Havre de Grace broke her maiden at Delaware Park in her second career start. She sports a lifetime record of five wins, three seconds and two thirds from ten starts with earnings of $1,263,175.

But Havre de Grace may have plenty to handle in the Obeah Stakes. Cresran’s Tiz Miz Sue is unbeaten over the Delaware main track and is coming off an impressive victory in the mile-and-a-sixteenth $50,000 Winter Melody Stakes.

“She is improving with every year and in her last race she caught a pretty fast filly with an easy lead, so I was very happy,” said trainer Steve Hobby. “She is going the right way, but I hate to hook a Grade I filly in a Grade III race. I was hoping to stay away from Havre de Grace until the Delaware Handicap, but hopefully we will run well in this race and come back for the big one in July. My girl likes this track, so I might as well take on Havre de Grace here.”

Ironically, while the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Tiznow is four-for-four over the Delaware Park main track, her dam Sue’s Good News suffered her first career defeat at Delaware Park in the 2003 Delaware Oaks.

“She only ran at Delaware Park once and lost,” Hobby said, who also conditioned Sue’s Good News. “She was undefeated and four-for-four heading into the Delaware Oaks in 2003. But what is ironic is that Tiz Miz Sue loves this track, but this was the track her mother had her first defeat.”

Last year, Tiz Miz Sue had three victories at Delaware Park including the mile-and-a-sixteenth $50,000 Polly’s Jet Stakes. She has a career record of five wins, four seconds and a third from 16 starts with earnings of $212,209.

Another filly who could be peaking at the right time and will be a major early factor as a speedy front runner in a short field is Barry and Joni Butznow’s Sarah’s Song.

In her last, she ran second to Tiz Miz Sue in the Winter Melody Stakes. Previously, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Songandaprayer had won her last two against allowance competition at Oaklawn by a combined margin of 19-lengths. She has a career record of three wins, a second a three thirds from seven starts with earnings of $94,250.

“I breezed her on Monday and she came out of it well, so we will see how she does Saturday,” said trainer McLean Robertson. “After Oaklawn, I gave her a little break and I may have run her a little short the other day. When you run them a little short and when they go a little to fast, they will tire. She is fit now and if they want to go with her on Saturday, she is fit. In her last, if she had the opportunity to loaf along with an easy lead she would have been fine. A couple of horses kind of pressed her and ran with her early. But she is fit and ready to go which makes a difference. If she is pressed early and has to go a little fast, she will have a little more left for the stretch this time.”

The Obeah Stakes is named after the two-time winner of the Delaware Handicap (1969 & 1970) locally owned by Christiana Stables. She had a career race record of 11 wins, 13 seconds and three thirds from 46 starts with earnings of $387,299. As a broodmare, Obeah produced the Eclipse Award winning filly Go for Wand. She was also the dam of Black Powder, Dance Spell and Discorama. She was inducted into the Delaware Park Wall of Fame in 2010.

The Obeah Stakes was inaugurated in 1996. Since then, four fillies and mares have used the race as a prep for victories in the Delaware Handicap. They are: Power Play, who was trained 2011 Kentucky Derby winning trainer H. Graham Motion, finished second in the Obeah before capturing the Del Cap in 1997; Irving’s Baby finished third in the Obeah before winning the Delaware Handicap in 2001; Fleet Indian, the Eclipse Award winning filly or mare, won the Obeah before notching a Delaware Handicap triumph in 2006; and Unbridled Belle ran third in the Obeah before winning the Delaware Handicap in 2007.

Last year, Miss Singshix won the Obeah and followed by running second in the Delaware Handicap. Others to win the Obeah and follow with second-place finishes in the Delaware Handicap include Your Out, also conditioned by H. Graham Motion, in 2002; and Under the Rug in 2001.

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