Michael Dubb and partners’ 3-year-old filly Grace Hall made her
season debut in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb.
25 as the 4-to-5 favorite. Despite losing a neck decision to longshot
Yara, Grace Hall will very likely be favored again to avenge that defeat
in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
Leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano gets the call on Grace Hall
for trainer Anthony Dutrow. She will face seven rival 3-year-old
fillies in the 1 1/8 miles test expected to yield one or more contenders
for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4.
A daughter of Empire Maker, Grace Hall was making her first start in
the Davona Dale since finishing second to My Miss Aurelia in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, the
undefeated winner later voted Eclipse champion.
A $95,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Grace Hall won all
three of her starts before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies beginning
with a debut victory at Delaware Park in late July, the Spinaway Stakes
(G1) at Saratoga in early September and the Blue Hen Stakes back at
Delaware on Oct. 1.
“She has trained really well since the Davona Dale,” said Dutrow. “We
have her right where we want her to be for the Oaks. The only
disappointment (losing Davona Dale) was she was a big favorite and she
lost to a longshot. In the big picture, winning was the only thing she
didn’t do, but that race was not the main objective. I think she ran
Peras International’s Yara was making her first start around two turns
as a 65-to-1 longshot in the Davona Dale and was prominent from the
start. She came again when headed in the stretch by Grace Hall to score
under jockey Jesus Castanon, who will be back aboard Saturday for
Calder-based trainer Jose Garoffalo.
A daughter of Put It Back purchased for a modest $21,000 at the OBS
April 2-year-old sale, Yara won two of four starts sprinting at Calder
last year and finished a well-beaten fourth in the seven-furlong Forward
Gal Stakes (G2) on Jan. 29 before the Davona Dale.
“She worked good last Saturday (five furlongs in 1:02 at Calder) and
will be much better for this race than she was for the last one,” said
Venezuelan-born Garofallo, who was scoring his first graded stakes
victory in the U.S. with Yara. “She will like the extra half-furlong and
the likely slower pace this time going a mile-and-an-eighth.”
Godolphin Racing’s Captivating Lass and Live Oak Plantation’s Zo
Impressive will each attract some support after good races at the meet
with jockeys John Velazquez and Rajiv Maragh to ride, respectively,
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Captivating Lass finished an even third
last out in the Davona Dale behind Yara and Grace Hall. The Kentucky
homebred daughter of A.P. Indy won the Busanda Stakes on the inner track
at Aqueduct in her previous start on Jan. 7 after winning her debut at
Parx Racing and finishing seventh in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at
Aqueduct in two starts as a 2-year-old.
Zo Impressive takes a big step up to make her stakes debut in the race
for trainer Tom Albertrani, but has built up a following in her two
career starts at the meet. The roan/gray homebred by Hard Spun won her
debut going six furlongs on Jan. 22 by 6 ¼ lengths and came back to
score by 4 ½ lengths going a mile in an ‘a other than’ allowance on Feb.
Trainer Michael Matz has a solid contender in the Gulfstream Oaks in
Helen Groves’ And Why Not with Julien Leparoux aboard. The Kentucky
homebred daughter of Street Cry finished third to Grace Hall in the
Spinaway last year and finished up the season with a very good runner-up
effort behind On Fire Baby in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill
Downs on Oct. 30.
Completing the field for the Gulfstream Oaks are James Spence’s Hearts
of Red, Edgar Prado; James Connors and partners’ The Cat’s All That,
Elvis Trujillo; and Brenda Mercer’s Emma’s Encore, Joe Bravo.