Road to Victory wins the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs

Road to Victory wins the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs

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Road to Victory Returns in Ocala with KY Oaks in Mind

Daughter of Quality Road defeated Monomoy Girl in Golden Rod Stakes (G2).

Mark Casse may not have been able to defeat Monomoy Girl with his two entries in the Feb. 17 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but the trainer did come away with a measure of satisfaction from the result.

Casse-conditioned Road to Victory, the only horse to defeat Monomoy Girl in that one's five starts, has resumed training in Ocala after missing a couple weeks with an injury discovered following her triumph in the Nov. 25 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.

The daughter of Quality Road  has not recorded an official workout since digging in to defeat her Brad Cox-trained rival by a neck in the Golden Rod, but Casse said he nominated her to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) in hopes she can return in time for the first Friday in May.

"She actually had a minor injury when she got back to Ocala after that race and we gave her a little time off," Casse said of Road to Victory. "She only missed a little bit of training, so I went ahead and I did nominate her to the Oaks. Whether we'll make it or not, I don't know. It's possible.

"It's not a real late start because she only missed a couple weeks. We're just going to have to play it by ear."

The 1 1/16-mile Golden Rod represented just the second start and first try on dirt for Road to Victory, who broke her maiden on the turf at Woodbine last October for owners Gary Barber and John Oxley. The bay filly showed her aptitude for the Churchill main track when she prompted 4-5 favorite Monomoy Girl through early fractions in the Golden Rod, then fought back with a sustained outside drive after the latter held a 1 1/2-length advantage in the stretch.

Given how impressive Monomoy Girl looked when she rallied from the back of the seven-horse field to win the Rachel Alexandra by 2 1/2 lengths in her seasonal bow this past weekend, Casse is happy to have his charge flattered by association.

"I mean, that filly was unbelievable that day," Casse said of Monomoy Girl. "We're excited because we think Road to Victory is extremely talented. We just have to keep her happy and healthy."

Casse sent out graded stakes winner Wonder Gadot and grade 1 winner Heavenly Love to third and seventh-place finishes, respectively, behind Monomoy Girl in the Rachel Alexandra. For Heavenly Love, the loss marked the third straight off-the-board effort for the daughter of Malibu Moon  since winning the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last Oct. 6 and may prompt a surface switch.

"She is the mystery of all mysteries," Casse said of Heavenly Love. "I told (owner) Debby (Oxley) after the race 'I can't even tell you to give her a break, because she looks wonderful and she acts wonderful.' I have no idea how to explain her last three starts. But she's absolutely fine.

"She reminds us a lot of a grass horse. They'll run good, they'll train really good, and then when you ask them to go and they kind of just flounder along. That's what (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said. So you may see her show up on the grass."