07/04/2013 12:46PM

Ellis Park: Heavenly Landing still a force to be reckoned with

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Heavenly Landing (right) is beaten by Bizzy Caroline in the Early Times Mint Julep.

At age 6, Heavenly Landing might seem on the other side of midnight, but hold that thought. A Pulpit mare, she still has the class and recency to prevail under the right circumstances, and her presence figures to be felt Saturday in the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes.

Eleven runners are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Ellis Turf, and the apparent theme is that “it looks like a very competitive race,” said Eddie Kenneally, who trains Heavenly Landing for Lally Stable. “Our mare is doing great and looks like she’s as good as any of the others in there.”

Like most of the other contenders, Heavenly Landing will be shipping in from Churchill Downs. She brings a field-high bankroll of $308,855, most of that earned during steady campaigns at ages 4 and 5, including a three-race win streak capped by the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January 2012.

Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call aboard Heavenly Landing, who will break from post 5.

Most recently, Heavenly Landing finished a respectable fifth at Churchill in the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap, the same race in which another Ellis Turf contender, Soft Whisper (Marcelino Pedroza, post 9), finished fourth after setting the pace to early stretch.

Soft Whisper, based at Churchill with trainer David Vance, looks like the one to catch in a field without all that much speed, with Heavenly Landing among those who figure to be in closest pursuit once they straighten away for the stretch run.

Other threats in a deep lineup include Artemus Kitten (post 1, Joe Rocco Jr.), a stakes-winning 5-year-old for the ever-dangerous tandem of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker; Beijoca (post 6, Jesus Castanon), turning back from route distances as a late-run possibility; and Lily the Pink (post 10, Leandro Goncalves), a consistent mare making her third start since coming under the care of Tom Proctor.

All starters carry 120 pounds.

The Ellis Turf is the first of four stakes at a two-month summer meet that runs through Sept. 2. Two of the other stakes are worth $50,000 each, while the track’s lone graded race, the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes on Aug. 10, is worth $100,000.

First post Saturday is 12:50 p.m. Central, with the feature, the eighth of nine races, set for 4:10.

The Saturday undercard is a good one, with three allowances (races 1, 6, 9) on tap.