(By Lizz Kunz)
A large crowd generated buzz Nov. 5 at Fasig-Tipton before the start of the Lexington company’s elite sale, anticipating the appearance of Havre de Grace. She was slated to be the second Horse of the Year ever available for purchase at public auction— and fans, members of the press, and industry professionals eagerly gathered around Barn 2 to snap shots of the beautifully balanced mare.
Havre de Grace had been an amazing racemare, having won against almost every top filly in her four-year career. A winner at 2 and graded winner at 3, the daughter of ill-fated Saint Liam dominated at 4, annexing three grade I contests. In the Beldame Invitational (gr. I) she annihilated a talented field that included two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) winner Royal Delta. This impressive score came only three weeks after accomplishing what many thought she couldn’t: matching Rachel Alexandra’s performance against males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). Her win in the Woodward defined her not just as a spectacular filly, but as one of the sport’s greats. The colts Havre de Grace defeated were the elite of their division: Flat Out, two-time winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I); 2012 Monmouth Cup (gr. II) winner Rule; and Ice Box, who finished second to Super Saver in the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Havre de Grace was not done making headlines when her retirement was announced. As she paraded around the Fasig-Tipton back ring, onlookers started to gather. The viewing area became so crowded the 2011 Horse of the Year barely had room to show off before entering the auction stage. While bidding quickly hit seven figures, what happened next had everybody in awe. Her price climbed past $5 million, then notched six, seven, eight million. The audience gasped as Havre de Grace’s price soared to $9 million. I know I wasn’t the only one in the room with chills.
After the final bid hit eight figures—$10 million—the crowd was mute as the hammer fell. The mare walked off the stage with the same poise she demonstrated on the track. We all needed a moment to soak in what had just happened. The big girl had made history yet again, and now has the opportunity to bestow the blue in her blood to her offspring.
While Havre de Grace’s dam, Easter Bunnette, didn’t do much on the track, second dam Toll Fee showed the ability to run in graded stakes races and to produce an outstanding race horse as well. Toll Fee earned more than $300,000 on the track and produced two graded-placed offspring. One of them, the Seeking the Gold daughter The Bink, is best known as the dam of multiple grade I winner Riskaverse (by Dynaformer), who earned more than $2.1 million dollars. Another graded-winning The Bink filly won $300,000 on the track, proving Riskaverse wasn’t a fluke: This family passes speed, stamina, and the power to produce through the generations.
The stars aligned to form the mating that produced Havre de Grace. The cross combined a daughter of Carson City—one of the top broodmare sires in the U.S. and sire of the dam of beloved Barbaro—with Saint Liam, 2005 Horse of the Year and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Saint Liam, whose bloodlines added desirable crosses of Halo and Quiet American into Havre de Grace’s pedigree, stood only one season before his untimely demise—and Havre de Grace was one of 10 stakes winners from the 82 runners of that lone crop.
We hope to see Havre de Grace—the $10 million broodmare prospect—continue her family legacy as a producer of top runners. In the meantime, we will enjoy memories of her as a racehorse during a time when fillies—Zenyatta, Rags to Riches, Rachel Alexandra—took North American Thoroughbred racing by storm.