Regular exercise rider Jen Brasser was aboard Havre de Grace, while Robby Albarado was astride Joyful Victory, who is pointing to the March 17 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Trainer Larry Jones galloped about 100 yards ahead of the workmates before the real running started and watched the action from his pony.
After picking up speed into the backstretch, the pair broke off at the five-eighths pole. Joyful Victory kept pace early through splits of :11 1/5, :23, :35 and :46 3/5. Into the stretch, however, Havre de Grace effortlessly pulled ahead and crossed the finish line a neck in front in :58 2/5. The Horse of the Year worked an eighth of a mile farther into the turn, while Joyful Victory was officially timed for the five furlongs and galloped out three-quarters in 1:12 1/5.
“It was good for both horses,” Jones said afterward. “It’s kind of like letting Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen go out and play one-on-one; it just helps them both to get better.”
The extra eighth that Havre de Grace worked was by design. Jones wanted to give her a little more to do coming up on her first race of the year, whereas Joyful Victory is already quite fit from two races at this meet.
“Havre de Grace is so fooling, when she’s really rolling along the riders think they’re not going fast enough,” Jones said. “Jen came back and said she felt like she was just galloping. So we put Joyful Victory out there kind of like a pace car because we know that Joyful Victory is plenty fast. Havre de Grace will get a little more aggressive with another horse there. Jen thought she did the 58 and 2 for the five-eighths easier than she had done the 59 the week before but it’s because the adrenaline’s pumping and she’s on the bit a little more.”
Jones declared Havre de Grace ready for what will be her first start since a fourth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4. Today marked her fifth timed work since returning to training in early February.
“With her fitness level, we’re there,” Jones said. “We’re where we want to be.”
Havre de Grace will get one more breeze before the New Orleans Ladies, most likely Monday but possibly Sunday depending on the weather forecast.
“We’ll have a nice, comfortable, smooth five-eighths work to just stretch her legs and be ready to go,” Jones said.
Video and a photo of today’s work can be found at Facebook.com/FairGroundsRaceCourseandSlots.