No matter which way you look at it, with only five entered in Saturday’s G2 Davona Dale Stakes, there is just no way to avoid eating chalk. Even though a short field makes for short odds, it does make handicapping easier since there are fewer variables. At first glance, the Davona Dale looks like it should be Dreaming of Julia’s to lose, but since she will be the heavy favorite, I’m looking for a less chalky selection. Unfortunately, my play to beat to Julia will likely be the second choice, but since Julia will be so heavily favored, odds of around 2-1 look great in comparison.
Of the four other contenders, regally bred Private Ensign is the one most likely to beat the Todd Pletcher trained favorite. Trained by the reigning Eclipse winning trainer Dale Romans, the chestnut daughter of A. P. Indy will break from the rail with Javier Castellano in the irons. At Gulfstream Park, drawing the rail for the Davona Dale distance of a mile and a sixteenth is particularly advantageous due to the short run to the first turn. Private Ensign likes to be up close to the pace and the distance is right up her alley. Her only career loss thus far came in her debut when racing off the pace in a seven furlong sprint. Romans wisely stretched her out to 8.5 furlongs and Castellano had her on the pace next out, a combination that proved fruitful as she drew away to win by 3 ½ lengths.
It will be interesting to see how the pace scenario plays out. I expect Dreaming of Julia to go straight to front and dictate the race. Letting her get loose on the lead would prove to be disastrous for her rivals, so I expect Castellano to hustle Private Ensign out of the gate to either block Julia from getting the lead or to stay right with that rival. The Romans trained filly has yet to set the pace, but given her rail draw and the threat of letting Julia get away, I could easily see a change in tactics for Saturday. Ruthless Stakes winner Lady Banks and impressive allowance winner Live Lively should be right there, too, grabbing good stalking positions. Live Lively did wire the field at Gulfstream in her last start, so she could easily be a part of the pace, too. Of the five, Twice Told Tale is the closest there is to a true closer, and with her outside post position, I foresee her trailing early.
Private Ensign has been training beautifully at Palm Meadows. In her most recent work, she zipped through five panels in 1.00:04 to earn bullet status. She has done nothing wrong to date other than come up short at a distance that most assuredly was not her best given her distance oriented pedigree. The odds will not be great due to the size of the field, but if you’re looking for a filly with a legitimate shot at beating Julia, look no further than this good looking daughter of A. P. Indy.