by Brian Bohl
Divine Miss Grey will look to make her seasonal debut an impressive one when she aims to repeat in the $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational for older fillies and mares on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The sixth running of the Heavenly Prize will see Divine Miss Grey return to one mile, where she has amassed four wins and a second-place finish in five starts.
Owned by Corms Racing Stable and R.A. Hill Stable, Divine Miss Grey will be coming off a respite off more than three months, making her first start since running second to Prado's Sweet Ride in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Fall City Handicap on November 22 at Churchill Downs. Previously, she registered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for besting Berned by 1 ¼ lengths in the Grade 2 Chilukki at one mile on November 3 over the same track.
Divine Miss Grey resumed workouts in late January at her Belmont Park base, registering three official works over the training track in 2019 in preparation for her 5-year-old bow.
"She's an aggressive horse in the morning and is the type of horse who always trains pretty strong," trainer Danny Gargan said. "We're happy with her. It's her first start and we'd love to win, but the goal here was just getting her back to the races."
Divine Miss Grey is 3-2-0 in five career starts at Aqueduct.
"She's doing well, my biggest concern is how the track will be since it's been so heavy," Gargan said. "That's the only thing I'm worried about. Other than that, I think she should be super tough."
Gargan will be looking to see if Divine Miss Grey can duplicate her gate-to-wire 6 ¾-length romp in last year's Heavenly Prize as she gears up for another opportunity at the one-turn mile.
"She can run any distance. She's a pretty remarkable filly," Gargan said. "She can carry her speed long. But a mile is her best distance. That's why we stayed in New York to run her, and we'll probably go from here to Churchill."
Meet-leading rider Manny Franco will have the call from post 3.
Gary Barber and John Oxley's Road to Victory will look to rebound from a 12th-place effort in the South Beach on January 26 at Gulfstream Park. That race, held on a yielding turf course, came nearly seven months after a second-place finish to Midnight Bisou in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 30 over Belmont's Big Sandy.
The 4-year-old Quality Road filly won her first three career starts, including a victory in the 2017 Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. That effort by the Mark Casse trainee marked the only time 2018 Eclipse-winning 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl has ever seen a horse finish a race in front of her, as Road to Victory prevailed by a neck.
"She's been doing very nice," said Jamie Begg, assistant to Casse. "Following her break after the Mother Goose, the idea was to give her a race on the turf to ease back into things, but unfortunately the course at Gulfstream received a good amount of rain that day and it was very boggy. Since then, she's been training up for this very nicely, so we're excited to have her back in this stakes Sunday."
Road to Victory, a $500,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland sale, will return to the main track in making her first appearance at Aqueduct, drawing post 4 in tandem with Jose Lezcano.
Godolphin Racing's Sara Street has one win and a second-place effort since returning from a seven-month layoff since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Sara Street bested allowance company at Aqueduct's one-turn mile on a sloppy track on December 21 and ran second in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies Handicap on a similar surface on January 20.
"She's training very well but it's a tough race," McLaughlin said. "The mile seems to suit her pretty well. We'll see what happens."
Dyan Davis will be in the irons from post 6.
Trainer Linda Rice will saddle a troika of stakes winners in Tic Stables' Split Time, Leonard Green's Sower and Midnight Disguise.
Owned by William Wilmot, Joan Taylor and Devin Wilmot, the New York-bred Midnight Disguise has finished off the board just once in eight career starts, including a victory in the seven-furlong Bouwerie on May 28 at Belmont. Returning to action in the Biogio's Rose on February 10 at the Big A, Midnight Disguise ran second to Frostie Anne at the same distance as the Heavenly Prize.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will ride from post 5.
Split Time earned additional stakes black type, winning the Bay Ridge on December 30 at Aqueduct. The consistent 4-year-old Take Charge Indy filly is 6-2-2 in 11 career starts, including four stakes wins, and is a Silver member of the New York Racing Association Starter Loyalty Program.
Junior Alvarado will have the call from the outside post.
Sower will return to one mile after dueling Dawn the Destroyer last out, finishing second in the Interborough on January 25. The daughter of Flatter will be seeking her first win since the Pumpkin Pie on October 28 at Belmont. Kendrick Carmouche will be aboard the NYRA Starter Loyalty Program Gold member, drawing the rail.
Rounding out the field is Kallenberg Farms' Forever Liesl, winner of the Ladies Handicap last out for trainer Michelle Nevin. The 5-year-old Mineshaft mare has won two of her last four starts and finished second in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on November 3 during that span. Eric Cancel has the jockey assignment, drawing post 2.
First post time for Sunday's 9-race card at Aqueduct is 1:30 p.m.