12/02/2010 5:18PM

Kitty Love tries to give Sheppard his first stakes win in New Orleans


Jonathan Sheppard has sent out 14,649 starters during his Hall of Fame career and won with 2,248 of them, according to records compiled by The Jockey Club. Only two of those starters came at Fair Grounds, and neither so much as hit the board: It is high time Sheppard made a dent in the New Orleans scene, and Kitty Love may be just the horse to do it.

Kitty Love makes her stakes debut Saturday at Fair Grounds in the $60,000 Pago Hop, a one-mile grass stakes restricted to 3-year-old fillies. She has raced three times and done little wrong, with a debut win around two turns over the Delaware turf course in September followed by an entry-level allowance victory on Keeneland grass in October. On Nov. 10 at Churchill, Kitty Love, a George Strawbridge homebred by Kitten’s Joy, finished third in a second-level grass allowance at Churchill but ran as well in defeat as she had in victory, rallying wide into a fast late pace while gaining two lengths from the stretch call to the finish. Rosie Napravnik, the only rider Kitty Love has known in the afternoon, happens to be based at Fair Grounds and has a return call Saturday.

Another fourth-time starter, Battle Buster, also looks promising, though she is taking a steeper step up in class than Kitty Love. Battle Buster finished third in her career debut, a Polytrack sprint, but easily won her next two starts when switched to turf in Chicago. Battle Buster has never raced outside Illinois-bred competition but appears capable of doing more.

“It’s a step up for her, but when she got to the grass it picked her up, and she sure looks the part,” said Richie Scherer, who has taken over Battle Buster’s training for the winter from Chris Block. “She’s a horse that’s improving, and hopefully she can build off what she’s shown.”

Another Chicago-campaigned filly, Cave Creeker, has a chance if she shows her best. Cave Creeker has been in and out this year but possesses a strong late rally and nearly won a maiden race on the Fair Grounds course last season.

Josie Carroll has two entrants for the race, and both Valli with a Vow and Somme merit some attention. Doe Run exits an entry-level Churchill allowance-race win and has faced stronger rivals than the fillies she meets Saturday.