The Silverbulletday Stakes, the second-most noteworthy feature on Saturday's Road to the Derby Kickoff card at the Fair Gounds, has shaped up as a three-filly race.
Trainer Mark Casse and assistant trainer David Carroll have the two odds-on favorites in Wonder Gadot (2-1) and Heavenly Love (3-1). Blonde Bomber, trained by Stanley Gold, is next at 7-2.
The $150,000 Silverbulletday is for top 3-year-old fillies. However, Wonder Gadot also is entered in the more prestigious $200,000 LeComte Stakes against the top 3-year-old colts. Which race she will run won't be decided until Saturday morning, Carroll said.
“We're probably leaning toward the Silverbulletday,” Carroll said, “but we're going to wait until race day in case there are any key scratches.”
The Silverbulletday is the first Fair Grounds race for 3-year-old fillies as they come off their 2-year-old campaigns and try to make steps toward the Kentucky Oaks on May 4. The next such Fair Grounds race is the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 17 followed by the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 24, Louisiana Derby Day.
Wonder Gadot is the darling filly in the race, one that for now has the look of a solid Oaks competitor. She is 16th in Horse Racing Nation's rankings of fillies based on rating, not points accumulated. Heavenly Love is 44th.
Wonder Gadot, a Medaglia d'Oro filly who has Seattle Slew in her bloodlines, is coming off a win Dec. 2 in the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct. That came after a sixth-place finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4.
Heavenly Love, a Malibu Moon filly that also has Seattle Slew bloodlines along with that of Mr. Prospector, was a disappointing 11th in the Juvenile. However, she has won her previous two races — the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6 and a maiden special weight on turf at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 7.
“(Heavenly Love) is a beautifully balanced filly, a very good moving filly,” Carroll said. “I've been around her a long time. The race at Del Mar, the Breeders Cup, was very disappointing. The inside (rail) that day was not very good, but for whatever reason, she didn't show up. None of the horses who went inside did well that day.”
The win at Kentucky Downs was on turf. Carroll, though, said there was no consideration for Heavenly Love becoming a turf horse.
“It just happened to be mere timing more than anything else,” Carroll said. “If we were to wait for the Churchill Downs' September meet to open and run her on the dirt, we would not have enough time for the Alcibiades. But, basically, she was ready to run. She was training very well. It turned out to be a good decision.”
If Wonder Gadot is entered into the LeComte, Heavenly Love and Blonde Bomber would be the two odds-on favorites. Blonde Bomber finished third in the Breeders — ahead of Wonder Gadot.
However, that was Blonde Bomber's last race. She ran in four races between May 18 and July 23, finishing second in two maiden special weights at Gulfstream and third in another one at the Florida track.
“I have a lot of respect for (Blonde Bomber),” he said. “Most of what I know about her, though, is from the Racing Form.”
Before the Breeders Juvenile, Wonder Gadot had won two of her first three races, all coming on her base track at Woodbine in Ontario, Canada. After an allowance win there Aug. 26, she finished third in the Grade I Natalana Stakes on Sept. 17 then won the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes on Oct. 7.
“She was very good up at Woodbine, and I thought she ran a terrific race in the Breeders Cup,” Carroll said. “She easily could have been third.
“Of course, we're hoping they both run well and move forward. What we're looking for is for them to run a big race, show that they have trained on from (age) 2 to 3 and that we have a lot left to look forward to.
“We're very lucky and very privileged to have both of them in the barn.”