With Corey Lanerie aboard for trainer Eddie Kenneally, Heavenly Landing was 11th after six furlongs and still eighth at the top of the stretch before beginning to pick off horses. La Reine Lionne, who was always close to the pace, wrested the lead away from pacesetter Wallis at the eighth-pole. She held Tapitsfly at bay for the last furlong, but was caught in the final stride by a fast-closing Heavenly Landing.
Heavenly Landing, a 5-year-old daughter of Pulpit, made the first 10 starts of her career on dirt with just one win. But Kenneally switched her to turf in October at Keeneland for a win in an entry-level allowance race, and last out she scored another allowance victory on the Churchill Downs turf Nov. 25. Lanerie was aboard for both of them.
The winning bay mare was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds and is out of the Woodman mare Peace River Lady. She was a $340,000 buy back in 2008 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
“She showed considerable promise breaking her maiden on dirt earlier in her career in what seemed like a key race, but then she didn’t achieve what we had hoped for her,” Kenneally said. “With her pedigree top and bottom, we decided to go to turf, but the first time she was entered it came off. Now she’ll stay on turf. We’ll take it one race at a time from here.”
English-bred Wallis, an also-eligible who drew in after three scratches reduced the field to 12, broke sharply from her outside post and set the pace under Jose Lezcano. She posted fractions of :24.28, :48.35, and 1:11.82 with La Reine Lionne, Louvakhova, and Tapitsfly all chasing her closely. La Reine Lionne finally took the lead from Wallis approaching mid-stretch and was game to the end despite coming up on the losing end of the photo.
Tapitsfly finished another head back in third under Javier Castellano. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf was 1:41.70.
“Man, she’s just turned around once they put her on the turf,” Lanerie said. “I don’t know what it is, but I like it. She was much the best in there today. My trip wasn’t the greatest but, thankfully, I found some room just in the nick of time. It might have been close at the wire, but I think she was by far the best horse today.”
Heavenly Landing improved to 4-1-2 from 13 starts and extended her earnings to $189,384.
The winner paid $40.40, $13, and $9.60. The exacta (5-6) returned $257 and the trifecta (5-6-10) was worth $1,502.90 for $1.