By Alan Carasso
Havre de Grace (Saint Liam–Easter Bunnette, by Carson City), the 2011 Horse of the Year and Eclipse Award-winning older mare who sold to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, passed away in the early morning hours of Apr. 30. Wayne Sweezey, who boarded Havre de Grace at his Timber Town Farm, confirmed that the 16-year-old mare hemorrhaged multiple times and died after producing a colt by Into Mischief the afternoon of Apr. 28.
“She was just so smart, she fought all the way to the end, so full of grace, like her name says,” an emotional Pope said via phone Sunday afternoon. “She was stoic right to the end. I am so grateful that I was able to be here, it would have been a great deal more difficult if I hadn't made it up.”
Bred in Kentucky by Nancy S. Dillman, Havre de Grace was a $380,000 Keeneland September purchase by the late Rick Porter and raced in the colors of Fox Hill Farms, finishing out of the top three just once in her 16 career starts. A leading 3-year-old of her generation in 2010, Havre de Grace was second to Blind Luck in that year's GI Alabama S. before turning the tables in the GII Fitz Dixon Cotillion S. and finishing third in the GI Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic. She was an even better filly at four, taking the GI Apple Blossom H. that April ahead of a victory versus the boys in the GI Woodward S. at Saratoga. A romping winner of the GI Beldame Invitational S., the bay was fourth in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic and closed her career victoriously in the 2012 New Orleans Ladies Classic. She bankrolled $2,586,175.
Having been named Horse of the Year at the beginning of 2012, Havre de Grace was always going to be the pin-up horse at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale, and so it proved, as Pope went to eight figures for the then 5-year-old from the Taylor Made draft.
“I don't know what to say,” Pope commented at the time. “She's beautiful. You look at her and she's everything a racehorse should be, she did everything a racehorse could do and she has a wonderful attitude. She's the epitome of what we're all trying to breed. Hopefully she'll pass that on to her foals.”
Underbidders were reported to include Frank Stronach, Besilu Stables' Ben Leon and Coolmore.
Including the Into Mischief colt, Havre de Grace has produced eight foals and five winners from as many to the races. Pope's affinity for Tapit is well-known, and five of Havre de Grace's first six foals are by the Gainesway star. The best of them is her filly of 2016, Graceful Princess, who won the 2021 GIII Molly Pitcher S. and who is also represented by an Into Mischief colt for her first foal this season. Those of Havre de Grace's foals that have been offered at public auction have been well-received, as River Front (War Front) was bought back on a bid of $1.9 million at KEESEP in 2016, while Marvelous Guide (Tapit) was sold for $550,000 at the same auction two years later. The mare is also represented by a 2-year-old Justify colt in addition to her newest foal, who seems to be handling the events of recent days in stride.
“The Into Mischief colt is a big horse and looks like he inherited her smarts,” she said. “He knew she was in trouble. After looking at her for a couple of hours, he wanted to lay down so we made him a bed of straw right out where she could see him.
“She was such a pleasure to be around, she was kind and friendly, but she didn't want people doting all over her,” Pope continued. “I remember watching her one day, there was a plane overhead and she just cocked her head and kind of took everything in, never turned a hair.”
There is plenty of Havre de Grace in her offspring, Pope said.
“I think she passed on her personality to her offspring and they are all smart like she is. Hopefully she'll be in the Hall of Fame one day.”
Havre de Grace was among the finalists for induction this August.
“Thanks to everyone at Timber Town and the three vets that did everything that they could to save her. I want to give special thanks to Dr. Charlie Scroggins and Dr. Laurie Metcalf.”
Sweezey said that they have already accessed a nurse mare and that the Into Mischief colt has accepted her.
Pope confirmed that Havre de Grace would be cremated, with some of her ashes to be spread across Timber Town joining America's Joy (American Pharoah), the half-sister to Into Mischief, Beholder and Mendelssohn who sadly died in the summer of 2021.