SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – For the second straight year, Corms Racing Stable and R. A. Hill Stable’s Divine Miss Grey shot to the front and led the field from start to finish to win Sunday’s Heavenly Prize Invitational Stakes at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 3 under Manny Franco as the even-money favorite, Divine Miss Grey was able to clear the field and cross over. With the speedy rail-drawn Sower a late veterinarian scratch, Divine Miss Grey was able to set a relatively unpressured opening pace of :23.81 and :47.52 while Road to Victory gave closest chase. Given a challenge from Split Time to her outside midway through the far turn, Divine Miss Grey dug in and began inching away in midstretch. The Danny Gargan trainee edged clear late before crossing 3 lengths the best in a final time of 1:37.32 for the mile-long event over the sloppy (sealed) main track. By comparison, her winning time last year came in 1:38.13 over a fast track.
“When I saw that (Sower) scratched, I said, ‘I’m going to play it by ear, so if my filly breaks good, and nobody wants to go, I’m going to take it,’ and that’s what I did,” Franco said. “I know she’s fast and she always gives me all she has. She proved that today.”
While she was repelled in deep stretch, Split Time was clearly second-best, finishing 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Forever Liesl in third. Midnight Disguise took fourth over a tiring Road to Victory, while Sara Street – who lunged in the air and was a few beats behind from the get-go – never factored into the running prior to completing the order of finish.
Divine Miss Grey’s win came in her first start since finishing a narrow second in the Falls City Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs last November and improved her overall record to 24-12-6-1. The 5-year-old daughter of Divine Park is nearing the 7-digit club in earnings, having now amassed $929,372 thus far in her career.
“This is a horse that you just have to have so much respect for,” said co-owner Randy Hill of R.A. Hill Stable. “She has so much heart and she runs every time. She’s been off three months, and when (Sower) scratched, that made me happy. I thought we needed the lead and I know Manny knew how to ride the horse. When we went out front and got the lead in 23 (seconds), I was feeling pretty good. When we turned for home, all I kept saying was, ‘Manny, break their heart.’ Manny rode a perfect race and she’s a great horse, she really is.”
Divine Miss Grey returned $4.30 to win, $3.30 to place, and $2.40 to show. Split Time brought back $7.40 to place and $3.70 to show, while Forever Liesl paid $2.90 to show.