Home of the Louisiana Derby

Hurricane Michelle Storms Louisiana

Just like another strong female force we're all familiar with that was named Hurricane Katrina, trainer Michelle Lovell has stormed through Louisiana like a Category 5 hurricane. With only three days remaining in this 2009-2010 season, Michelle is winning races at just above a 20% average. Her horses have finished one-two-three at a 50% clip with a record of 17 wins, 16 seconds and nine thirds from 82 starters. Not bad for any trainer competing here at this always tough meet in only her second season. "I think this meet is one of the toughest meets of the winter racing season anywhere and we feel very fortunate to be competing and winning races against this competition. The thing that makes this meet so tough is not only the quality of horses, but the number of quality trainers that come here. No doubt, this is the toughest group of trainers assembled at one track and we're proud to be in the mix of this group."

According to Michelle, a number of different elements have made their Fair Grounds meet successful. "There's a number of things that have made this a very successful meet. Number one, you've got to have good owners and good horses to work with. The other things are up to me and Casey." Casey is Michelle's husband and the two are a unique married couple. They're unique because not only do they work together, but they work together well. "Casey is a huge part of our success. He is the other half of Team Lovell and I rely heavily on him to help run this operation.

Another important factor in winning races anywhere is paying attention to details. You've got to know your horses and you'd better know your crew that works for you. If the horses and the help are happy, then everything kind of gels, but the main thing is you've got to have the right horses for the right spots in the condition book and that has been the case for us. We've broken a number of maidens and our allowance horses have gone through some conditions. We're in a good spot right now with our stable."

Michelle had a successful stint as a jockey, but injuries cut her career short. "I rode my first race in November of 1989 and felt like I did a good job as a jockey, but injuries were a problem. I retired in 1994 and completely got away from horseracing, but I only stayed away for about four years and came back again to ride for short time. Another injury and I retired again, but this time I met Casey. He was breaking babies in San Antonio where I joined him and soon after we were preparing horses for yearling sales, in-training sales and eventually we just started our own training business. We started out slow with the intention of increasing our stable size and hoping to gain the momentum to keep growing."

In 2003 Michelle and Casey ventured into the training business full-time and have been in horse "heaven" ever since. "We started out with eight horses and we did everything ourselves. We groomed them. cleaned stalls, walked them, Casey ponied them and I galloped and breezed them. We were on the Texas circuit then and since then it seems like our stable has doubled in size and quality each year."

With the success of this meet a couple of new owners have sought out the training services of Team Lovell. "First, let me say again that we've got a great group of owners that have been with us for a long time and have helped us get where we are  today - owners like Dr. Robert Griffon's of Griffon Farms and Mark Martinez of Agave Racing, just to name a couple. We also had horses this meet for Bill and Denise Morrison and Joe Walkoviak, and we are absolutely thrilled to add owners Maggi Moss and Temple Weber to our stable for our summer campaign."

At the conclusion of this meet, the Lovells will be packing up and heading north, to north Louisiana, that is - Louisiana Downs - home of the Super Derby. "We're hoping we can continue this pace for the summer at Louisiana Downs. Last year we had 30 stalls and had a good meet, but this year new racing secretary David Heitzmann has given us 40 stalls and we're looking to have a super meet. We've got horses that fit a lot of the conditions that are going to be offered, whether it be for a tag or allowance. Another positive for us is our Louisiana-bred business has picked-up. We not only train more state-breds than we have in the past, but the quality of what we have is really good. Everything that has happened over the last year has opened doors for us to not only pick-up new owners and more horses, but pick-up more Louisiana-breds,and that's very important on this circuit. Things are really exciting for us right now and we're very grateful."

Louisiana Downs opens on Saturday, May 1, so stay tuned to the continuing saga of "Hurricane Michelle Storms Louisiana"  starring Michelle and Casey Lovell.

*** In the final three days of racing Michelle has 11 horses entered, with one (Shutupanddance) doubled-entered in two stakes on two different days***