Returns to Venue of Best Turf Effort
After Heavenly Love impressively won a Kentucky Downs maiden race last year as a 2-year-old, she was the romping winner of Keeneland’s Grade I Darley Alcibiades on dirt in her next start. Since then, things have been tougher for Debby Oxley’s filly.
Heavenly Love ran poorly in three subsequent starts on dirt after the Alcibiades, including an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and was returned to turf. Since then, the best result she's had was third a third-place finish in Churchill Downs’ Grade III Regret Stakes. That result was sandwiched between a sixth-place finish in the Grade II Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland and a fifth in the Grade III Lake George at Saratoga last time out.
Her camp hopes a return to Kentucky Downs in the Dueling Grounds Oaks on Sunday gets her back on track.
“She was arguably a little unlucky in the Regret,” said David Carroll, the former trainer who handles Mark Casse's string at Churchilll Downs in the summer and at Keeneland in the spring and fall. “She’d drawn the 1, got shuffled back, came with a run and we get beat 1 1/2 lengths for everything. Her last race in the Lake George at Saratoga was just a terrible race. She didn’t run a step. No excuses really. She’s back and has trained beautifully. She’s a grade I winner, so she doesn’t owe us anything. But we’d love to see her win a big one again.”
Also among the top horses trainer Mark Casse plans to run during the five-date meet is Stonestreet Stables' Valadorna in the $500,000, Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on Saturday.
Valadorna will make her turf debut in the mile Ladies Turf. She was second two years ago in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies off a maiden victory, won last winter’s $50,000 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds and Keeneland’s Grade III Doubledogdare before finishing a well-beaten sixth in Churchill Downs’ Grade II Fleur de Lis.
Valadorna at times looked like she might be one of the best in the older filly and mare division. Carroll said it’s not that she’s underperforming the other times, but rather “she’s always overachieved, we’ve felt. She’s won a Grade II now and second in the Breeders’ Cup. That wasn’t necessary expected. She breezed well on the turf at Saratoga, and she’s doing as well as I’ve ever seen her.”
Edited release with additional content by Dick Downey