HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Michael Dubb and partners’ 3-year-old filly Grace Hall more than atoned for finishing second as the odds-on choice in her first start of the season at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25 in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) with a commanding 6 ½ lengths victory in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) Saturday.
The victory could send her into the Kentucky Oaks (G1) Churchill Downs on May 4 as the favorite or at least one of the top choices, depending on results of other major previews around the nation yet to be run.
Leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano was aboard Grace Hall for the first time for trainer Anthony Dutrow in the 1 1/8 miles test and they sat a stalking trip third down the backstretch, took command nearing the stretch and powered away in the final furlong. Live Oak Plantation’s second choice Zo Impressive rallied for second with James Spence’s Hearts of Red another 2 ¾ lengths back in third in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies.
“I didn’t make any excuses for her getting beat last time and gave the winner (Yara) credit,” said Dutrow, referring to Grace Hall’s neck defeat as the 4-to-5 favorite in the 1 1/16 miles Davona Dale Stakes (G2) last out on Feb. 25, her first start since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
“Today, I was confident that she would run a big race and it set up perfect. She is happier outside in the clear (as opposed to racing inside when second to Yara in the Davona Dale). We’ll point her for the Kentucky Oaks (May 4 at Churchill Downs). We know she’s happy here training at Palm Meadows and we’ll keep her there until at least Apr. 15.”
A daughter of Empire Maker purchased or $95,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales, Grace Hall had won all three of her starts before the Breeders’ Cup, including the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. She ran well but was pinned down on the rail for most of the Davona Dale losing a close decision to 64-to-1 longshot Yara.
Castellano said, “We got the perfect outside trip which is what I wanted. I was hoping we’d be able to stalk the pace and that’s the way it worked out. She was very strong the entire way today. It was a really impressive effort.”
Grace Hall paid $4.40 for $2 to win as the favorite and was timed nine furlongs in 1:49:36 over the ‘fast’ track.
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