Fourth in Classic, Havre de Grace may still have a shot at Horse of the Year honor

Havre de Grace's bid for a Horse of the Year title may still have a glimmer of hope after she finished fourth in Saturday's Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

She certainly ran well enough in North America's richest horse race to proudly represent the Harford County city with which she shares her name.

The $5 million race was won by 14-1 long shot Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont Stakes winner who put on a furious charge in the stretch to run down leader Game on Dude and get a nose in front at the wire. 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice was third.

Havre de Grace, who was a 4-1 second choice in the betting, also appeared to be closing well at the end, but once again she was unable to win a race at one and quarter miles, the Classic's distance. Her only previous loss in seven races this year had come by a nose in the mile and a quarter Delaware Handicap.

Like many people in Harford County, County Executive David Craig was rooting for Havre de Grace, whose owner, Rick Porter, named the 4-year-old mare after the old Havre de Grace Race Track. Porter's horse was the only female among the Classic's 12 starters.

"I've been following her, and she was pretty close at the end, plus none of those ahead of her was expected to win," Craig, who watched the race on TV, said afterward.

A Havre de Grace native and a former mayor of the city, Craig has also extensively researched and written about his hometown's horse racing history. The old track, now a Maryland National Guard reservation, closed when Craig was a year old, but it and the lore surrounding remain a big part of the city's history.

Craig also said that one of the more amazing aspects of watching Saturday's race was that "for the most part they pronounced the name [Havre de Grace] correctly."

Craig said he has also heard that Porter, whose Fox Hill Farm is near Newark, Del., may have another horse he named Concord Point, which is where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay in Havre de Grace. He said he has never met Porter, however.

"Our office was asked to try to get in touch with him to see if they might bring the horse here for Graw Days," the city's fall festival themed around its racing past (the old track was known as "The Graw), Craig said. "But, who's going to bring a million dollar horse out so people can pet it?"

Following the race, several posts on the Fox Hill Farm website were still expressing optimism Havre de Grace will receive Horse of the Year honors. It's a highly subjective selection, based on voting by media and racing industry groups.

The last two Horse of the Year winners were females, Zenyatta last year and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. This year, Havre de Grace has been as consistent as any horse racing in top tier stakes, male or female, so her fourth place showing in the Classic doesn't necessarily dash her chances for the honor. Prior to Saturday, she had been widely considered the leading candidate.

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