The filly Lovely Bernadette has morphed into isn't the one trainer James DiVito thought he had at the start of the year. That's not to say the veteran conditioner isn't thoroughly pleased with her development.
James Miller's Lovely Bernadette further signaled herself a rising presence in the turf filly ranks Nov. 24 when she took advantage of a sweet stalking trip under Florent Geroux to post a half-length victory over Journey Home in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs.
When the bay daughter of Wilburn hit the wire in 1:47.02 for 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf, it marked her third straight stakes win, second straight graded score, and fourth win in her past six starts since being switched to turf. Where DiVito thought he might have a contender for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) following Lovely Bernadette's victory in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill in October 2016, he is more than happy that she has managed to flip the script for herself following a string of disappointing main-track outings earlier this season.
After consecutive off the-board efforts in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) and Eight Belles Stakes Presented by Kentucky Trailer (G2), DiVito put Lovely Bernadette on the grass in a one-mile allowance test at Churchill in June in an attempt to get her confidence back. The turn of foot she showed in winning that day also carried her to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Oct. 20 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes (G3T) at Keeneland, and again proved too much for her rivals to overcome Friday.
"She wasn't running that well on the dirt and ... she has Bernstein (as a broodmare) sire so you have to try them once on the turf. And she just took off," DiVito said. "The first time she ran here, she just galloped and now she loves the turf. I thought we had a big chance coming in here.
"I knew she would move up (from her Keeneland race). She's in good shape, she's been training really well; she's just progressing. Hopefully she can get to a grade 1 now."
Sent off at 7-2 odds in a field of 10, Lovely Bernadette couldn't have gotten a better trip had Geroux and DiVito drawn it up. With 66-1 longshot Marina's Legacy setting tepid fractions of :24.55 and :50.92 on the front end over the yielding course, Lovely Bernadette rated second in the two-path, biding her time before taking command around the final turn.
With Geroux going to some right-handed urging, Lovely Bernadette withstood the challenge from Journey Home in the lane and had too much daylight on favorite Daddys Lil Darling when that one came running on late to get up for third.
"The pace was slow and Florent had her in a good spot," DiVito said. "I could see he had plenty of horse and then he just let her run the last part of it."
Bred in Kentucky by David Hager II out of the Bernstein mare Inlovewithlove, Lovely Bernadette was a $28,000 purchase by her owner from Bobby Jones Equine and Santa Fe Thoroughbreds' consignment to the Ocala Breeders' Sales' June 2016 2-year-olds and horses of racing age auction. She also went through the ring as a yearling at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall sale, where she was sold by Four Star Sales for $8,000 to agent Ricky Griffith.
Her record improved to seven wins from 14 starts, with $508,413 in earnings.