Heavenly Love showing Grade 1 class
Debby Oxley sells many of the horses she breeds as part of her business model. But when her Grade 1-placed mare Darling My Darling, then 18, delivered a Malibu Moon filly two years ago, she strategically elected to retain the filly as a future member of the family for the broodmare band.
“I sell a lot, but Darling’s getting older,” Oxley said.
There was another reason she wanted to see the filly run in her colors.
“Sometimes, you’ve just gotta have fun,” she said.
Oxley and her husband, John, had plenty of fun last Friday at Keeneland as Darling My Darling’s daughter Heavenly Love, ears pricked, rolled to a 5 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes, her first two-turn dirt start, to secure her spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The Alcibiades was one of two races last weekend offering a fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Fillies. The other was the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes on Sunday at Belmont, where Separationofpowers, beaten after a suicidal speed duel last out, bounced back with a 3 1/2-length score in the one-mile race.
The Oxleys purchased Darling My Darling as a yearling in 1998, and she was multiple Grade 1-placed as a juvenile, beaten three-quarters of a length by Finder’s Fee in the Matron and just a head by Surfside in the Frizette. She went on to become a multiple stakes winner at Keeneland, winning the 2000 Raven Run and 2001 Doubledogdare before joining the broodmare band. The Deputy Minister mare is the dam of five winners from as many starters, including Grade 2 winner Forever Darling, whom Oxley sold as a yearling.
Heavenly Love made her debut in a six-furlong dirt sprint in June at Gulfstream Park; she finished third after being steadied at the start and racing wide. She was subsequently given some time to regroup and trained so well over the summer that assistant trainer David Carroll, instrumental in the filly’s development, urged Mark Casse to give her a start at Kentucky Downs.
“I begged him to run her,” Carroll said. “I just thought she was sitting on such a huge race, and she needed to run. Mark does a great job of running notnecessarily-turf horses on the turf just to get experience for them.”
Going six furlongs on the turf, Heavenly Love, eighth at the quarter pole, made a sweeping move to draw off and win by five lengths. That opened the door to stakes company at Keeneland – but on which surface?
“We really didn’t expect her to run on the grass as well as she did” given her breeding, Debby Oxley said. “That was a surprise. And she had trained well on the dirt. We could have run her [in the Alcibiades] or could have run in the Jessamine.”
They selected the Grade 1 race, where Heavenly Love showed she had that most important of attributes.
“Her works were just awesome, her disposition, everything about her just oozes class,” Carroll said. “I said to [the Oxleys] before the race, ‘What you’re seeing right now is something you can’t buy – class.’ Her disposition, the way she walks, she has that look about her. And she ran to all of that.”
◗ Princess Warrior came into the Alcibiades off a debut victory at Churchill Downs and finished a creditable second. She was further flattered when Mia Mischief, second by 1 1/2 lengths in that maiden race, romped by 16 1/4 lengths on a sloppy, sealed track Sunday at Keeneland.