LEXINGTON, Ky. (Friday, Oct. 6, 2017) — Debby Oxley’s Heavenly Love came into Friday’s $400,000 Darley Alcibiades off a five-length victory on grass in one of Kentucky Downs’ $130,000 maiden races. The 2-year-old filly proved as dominant on dirt, tracking the early pace set by stablemate Dancing and drawing away in the stretch for a 5 1/2-length romp over the late-running Princess Warrior.
The victory was one of four for horses who had made their last start at Kentucky Downs. Those included maiden winner Magical Sky, the second of three winners on the day for Oxley-owned horses trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux as Keeneland began its fall meet. War Bond, who had been sixth in a Kentucky Downs allowance race, took Keeneland's seventh race for trainer Mike Maker and owner Three Diamonds Farm. Maker, Kentucky Downs' three-time leading trainer, and Three Diamonds also captured the nightcap as St. Louie, fourth in the $600,000 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, won a 1 1/2-mile allowance on turf.
The Casse-trained Heavenly Love covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.32, paying $13.40. Dancing finished another 1 1/2 length back in third in the field of 10 juvenile fillies.
While it’s obvious that Heavenly Love will advance to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Del Mar, Casse said he’ll also try to get in Gio Game in the field after that 2-year-old filly captured a 1 1/16-mile maiden race that kicked off Keeneland’s fall meet. Gio Game is owned by Oxley’s husband, John, in whose name most of their horses run, including 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
Heavenly Love made her first start on dirt June 27 at Gulfstream Park, in relative close proximity to Casse’s Ocala-area training center where he prepares his 2-year-olds before sending them to the track. She finished third to earn relocation to Casse’s Kentucky division with assistant trainer David Carroll.
“I said to David, ‘Do we really want to run her on the grass?’ You know, with the big purse,” Casse said of running at Kentucky Downs. “He said, ‘I think so.’ We ran her. The purse was really good, the timing was good. I just think it’s a good place to get them started, between Churchill and Kentucky Downs. I don’t know. They might have thought I was crazy going back to the dirt. But I’ve done crazier things.”
Said Carroll: “I said to Mr. Oxley in the paddock, and probably shouldn’t have said it before the race. But I said, ‘What you’re seeing right now is something you can’t buy, which is class. Her disposition, the way she walks, she has that look about her. She ran to all of that. Just so happy for the Oxley. Unbelievable people. A real team effort.”
Of the racing at Kentucky Downs, Carroll said: “It just goes to show the caliber of horse that runs at Kentucky Downs. And more importantly, the horses come back well…. I don’t think it mattered what she ran on. Mark had a question whether we should run her or not (on grass), and I begged him to run her. And thankfully it worked out well. I thought she was sitting on such a huge race and needed to run. Listen, Mark does a great job running not necessarily turf horses on the turf just to get experience in them and to learn. And she’s evidence of that. But she trained unbelievable on dirt. She’s just a very, very good filly. And I don’t think you’ve seen the best of her today.”
Casse didn’t get to Keeneland until after the Alcibiades because of day-long travel woes from Florida, but he watched the race on his iPad after hitching a ride from Central Florida on Stonestreet Farms’ jet.
“When they were going across the wire, we went under 10,000 feet and lost the signal,” he said. “Unless we got DQed, I knew we had won.”
Said Leparoux: “She gave me a great impression at Kentucky Downs. I thought she did it nicely and the right way. I really liked her then. Today was obviously a step up, and I knew she was going to run well. I think she’s learning still. I think she’s going to improve.”
Heavenly Love is a daughter of the Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon and out of Debby Oxley's Deputy Minister mare Darling My Darling, a multiple stakes-winner. "Darling My Darling was my first really nice filly," Debby Oxley said. "So this is so special. Darling My Darling is getting older, and to have her daughter who is a Grade 1 winner and to win this wonderful Alcibiades is just incredible. I'm floating on Cloud 9."