Havre de Grace proves her point in Woodward

Larry Jones latest fair lady, Havre de Grace, won the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga Race Course on Sa

Hail and salute him, then haul off and boot him.

Just get him past the church on time.

Trainer Larry Jones, perhaps best known for running Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, then retiring temporarily amid hate mail and controversy after she broke down, planned to be clear through the New York City traffic before the churchgoers let out this morning.

“I mean, everybody in New York goes to church, right?” the Kentuckian said, grinning from under the brim of his cowboy hat.

His latest fair lady, Havre de Grace, won the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, so they are headed back through New York to their Del­aware Park base to prepare for one more race before the Breeders’ Cup.

Jones and owner Rick Porter believe that the Woodward win and a likely shot at the Beldame would put her on the threshold of becoming the third female in a row to win Horse of the Year.

Havre de Grace was just the second filly to win the Woodward in 58 runnings, a quick echo to 2009, when Rachel Alexandra wowed the crowd in the final start of what was her Horse of the Year season.

Jones and Porter know Havre de Grace still has much more work to do to achieve that, but by winning the Woodward by a length and a quarter over Whitney runner-up Flat Out, at least they’ve taken a crucial step.

“I think we’re in the picture now,” Jones said, while fans shouted his name from outside the winner’s circle. “I thought we were in the picture to start with, maybe a low-profile picture. But I think it puts us up there with anybody else.”

“We can’t talk about Tizway or horses on the West Coast, but I think on the East Coast, she just showed she was better than the older males today,” Porter said. “Winning the Woodward is not easy, especially with a filly, but she’s a special horse. She just deserved a chance to show herself, and she did.”

Lacking a hoped-for date with the filly Blind Luck, the 4-year-old Havre de Grace was aggressively sent to the Woodward to face males for the first time, just as Rachel Alexandra did in winning the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward as a 3-year-old.

She was the 8-5 morning-line favorite against seven males and went off at 2-1, a slight betting favorite over Flat Out.

Despite getting carried a little wide around the first turn from the No. 6 post under Ramon Dominguez, Havre de Grace was able to settle into a comfortable stalking position behind Rule on the lead and Convocation on the backstretch.

Dominguez asked her to accelerate around Convocation as they entered the turn, a move mirrored by Flat Out and jockey Alex Solis, stalking the stalker.

Havre de Grace made steady progress on the two lengths that separated her from Rule, and finally headed him just inside the eighth pole once Dominguez switched to a right-handed whip.

Flat Out, who picked up nine pounds from his runner-up to Tizway in the Whitney, ducked inside and found running room between Havre de Grace on the outside and Rule on the inside.

Dominguez kept Havre de Grace busy with four hard snaps of the stick inside the eighth pole, the last coming two strides from the wire, as public address announcer Tom Durkin shouted, “And it’ll be Havre de Grace, in the spirit of Rachel Alexandra!”

“She just kept right on going,” said Scooter Dickey, Flat Out’s trainer. “He couldn’t catch her. He was trying to.”

“I could feel him coming, and I could also hear Alex kind of encouraging his horse, but she wasn’t really about to give it up at all,” Dominguez said.

It wasn’t another edition of the spectacular Blind Luck-Havre de Grace matchup, but very impressive, nonetheless, as many in the box seats acknowledged with a standing ovation as Havre de Grace trotted by on her way to the winner’s circle.

Horse of the Year or not, the older filly and mare division is also out there to be had, and Jones suspects that the Blind Luck camp was keeping a close eye on the Woodward outcome.

“I’ll bet you they had a scout in there somewhere. Yep. Sooo . . . yep,” he said.

“Now, we have to continue on. It’s not over today, for anybody.”

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