Handicapping the Davona Dale Stakes

Handicapping the Davona Dale Stakes
Photo: Kenny Martin/Gulfstream Park

Like its male counterpart later on the card, the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) drew a short but talented field. Since 2000, only three fillies have completed the Davona Dale/Gulfstream Park Oaks double, the last being R Heat Lightning in 2011. The Davona Dale Stakes is a qualifier for the 2016 Kentucky Oaks contenders and offers the winner 50 points. While winners of this race have not had much luck in also capturing the Gulfstream Park Oaks, capturing the Kentucky Oaks after a Davona Dale win has become a bit of a pipe dream.

The field of seven fillies contesting this year’s edition of the Davona Dale will speed one mile over the Gulfstream Park oval. Some will have class and distance checks, others will be shaking the dust off and using the Grade 2 event as a springboard to longer races.  Todd Pletcher has sent three fillies out to win the Davona Dale and Jockey John Velazquez has entered the winner’s circle five times.  Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and I sort out the field.



Thrilled (Uncle Mo - Excited, by Giant's Causeway) found 1 1/8 miles a bit too far for her first try on dirt in the Demoiselle Stakes last year. Pletcher shakes things up by giving the daughter of sensational new sire champ Uncle Mo a shiny new set of blinkers.  Thrilled’s dam is a G3 turf Router, her second dam won stakes over dirt and turf, plus she’s a full sister to the amazing race mare Spain.  Thrilled has been ecstatic in her morning works and I’m enthusiastic about her chances here. Contender.

Thrilled—Laurie, I’m glad you’re excited about this filly because I am, too. Here’s my question about the Demoiselle: Was 1 1/8 mile truly too far for Thrilled, or did she just lose to a very good filly in Lewis Bay? Part A of that question has no bearing here since they’re cutting back to 1 mile, but Part B is oh so relevant as the top 2 Demoiselle finishers will face off (again) with not just each other but with undefeated Cathryn Sophia, too. With the cut back in distance, I like Thrilled here. Contender for sure, and for an added bonus, she will bring some value to the board, too.

Dearest (Midshipman - Keowee Clai, by Cherokee Run) has a recent win over the course and excellent speed figures. Her second dam is a listed winner and a half to the competitive Stopshoppingmaria.  Love her breeze pattern at Cald..uh, Gulfstream West. That track is deeper than GP, thus, the slower breeze times. Dearest gets a class and distance check but could pull the upset.  Contender.

Dearest—I like the win over the course and her speed figures, too, but trainer Gilberto Zerpa has yet to saddle a winner when moving his horses from a sprint to a route. However, Zerpa does get 22% winners when sending out a last time victor. Additionally, her last victory came over Broadway Gal, a filly that looks to be loaded with potential if she lives up to her siblings’ (Broadway’s Alibi, R Gypsy Gold, Golden Lad) legacy. To add to the impressiveness of her last race, Dearest also looked the runner-up in the eyeball and won the slug fest down the stretch. I like a filly that shows that kind of determination. Contender.

Bagema (Notional - Savannah Sunrise, by Street Cry (IRE) is 1-9 in her career and her victory was against maiden claimers.  Trainer stats are poor, and no clue why she’s in here unless they needed another warm body to spice up the betting. Pass.

Bagema—Spice up the betting? I don’t see how she could possibly do that, Laurie. Like you pointed out, there’s absolutely nothing to like here. Toss.

Lewis Bay (Bernardini - Summer Raven, by Summer Squall) galloped past Thrilled in the Demoiselle to win the 1 1/8 mile race by 1 ¾ lengths. She’s a half to the talented but fragile Holy Bull victor Winslow Homer and G3 winner Misconnect. Lewis Bay has similar breeding to Zulu, both share a sire and are out of Summer Squall mares. There’s a 3x3 Rasmussen Factor breeding (inbred to blue hen in 5 gen.) to Weekend Surprise. Lewis Bay’s morning works aren’t as sharp as her nemesis Thrilled, and might not be geared up for her best effort, but she should be respected.  Contender

Lewis Bay—Looked quite good when winning a very slow edition of the Demoiselle in her 2-year old finale. Like defeated nemesis Thrilled, she makes her first start since November 28, but like Laurie stated, her morning works have not been as flashy as Thrilled’s. That lack of sharpness could end up costing her, but she still has the talent to at least hit the board here. Contender.

Cathryn Sophia (Street Boss - Sheave, by Mineshaft) absolutely dominated the Forward Gal Stakes galloping home a 5 ½ length winner in a very sharp 1:22 for 7F.  She’s won all three starts by a combined 34+ lengths. The John Servis trainee came out of her 3YO debut with a bullet work.  Contender

Cathryn Sophia—proved she was more than a big fish in a little pond when she shipped to Gulfstream from the Mid-Atlantic and blew right past her competition in the stretch after breaking a step slow and getting stuck behind rivals in the turn. She has plenty of speed, and with her margins of victory, she looks like she could tire in the extra furlong she will be asked to travel in the Davona Dale and still come home a winner. Javier Castellano gets the call with regular jockey Joel Rosario out with an injury. Contender.

R Girls A Charmer (In Summation - Velvet Charm, by Montbrook) is the speedball in here. She ran them off of their feet in the Gasparilla at Tampa, however, this is a much tougher field and she’ll be asked to carry her speed an extra furlong.  She can probably stretch to a mile, but it will be tough against this crowd.  Also Jockey/Trainer combo of Saez & Casse are 0-11. Not a confidence builder. Exotic play

R Girls A Charmer—Lost to Dearest in her debut but has not been outside the winner’s circle in her two starts since. Her best career speed figure will not get the job done against this field but maybe she can hang around for a minor award.

Rontos Lily (Big Drama - Platinum Tiara, by Cozzene) is the first blacktype earner out of a popular stakes veteran who was competitive over dirt and turf. Rontos Lily’s only victory in 5 starts was a wire to wire romp on the lawn. Her efforts over the dirt are meh.  She gets first time Lasix, but I don’t see her doing much in here, maybe she can spoil the super and get up for fourth place.

Rontos Lily—From the looks of her dirt efforts, I’d say her connections would be better served putting her back on the turf where she recorded her one and only win. Last out, she was nowhere near Cathryn Sophia, and that was against a less talented group overall. With her dirt speed figures, I don’t even see her playing spoiler for fourth place. Toss.

Final Thoughts:

Laurie:  This is a tough, competitive race.  R Girls A Charmer will go to the front and last for as long as she can. Thrilled should be very sharp and if she gets a good break, she could be up on the inside of R Girls A Charmer.  Dearest could be close up too and they should be traveling at a good clip and set it up for Lewis Bay.  Or Cathryn Sophia could be a freak and gallop home by daylight again.

Ashley: Dearest boasts the highest speed figure in the bunch, but Cathryn Sophia and Lewis Bay are the proven graded stakes commodities here. Cathryn Sophia has run a triple digit speed figure in every career race and is without a doubt the one to beat here. But I’m going to try to do just that and go for some value.



Laurie:                                                          Ashley:

Cathryn Sophia (6-5)                                   Dearest (5-1)

Lewis Bay (4-1)                                            Cathryn Sophia (6-5)

Thrilled (6-1)                                                Lewis Bay (4-1)

Dearest (5-1)                                                Thrilled (6-1)


Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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