Heavenly Love won a Kentucky Downs maiden race last year as a 2-year-old, then was the romping winner of Keeneland's Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades on dirt in her next start. Now Debby Oxley's filly will try to get back in the winner's circle in Kentucky Downs' $300,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks on Sept. 9.
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 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf.
Heavenly Love ran poorly in three subsequent starts on dirt after the Alcibiades and returned to turf. While she was third in Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Regret Stakes, her camp is hoping the return to Kentucky Downs gets her back on track.
“She was arguably a little unlucky in the Regret,” said David Carroll, the former trainer who handles Casse's Churchill string in the summer and is at Keeneland in the spring and fall. “She'd drawn (post) 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 1 winner, so she doesn't owe us anything. But we'd love to see her win a big one again.”
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 the Fair Grounds and Keeneland's Grade 3 Doubledogdare before finishing a well-beaten sixth in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 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 3 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.”
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