Pletcher Pair Square Off in $200,000 Davona Dale (G2)
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Considering the size and quality of his stable, no matter how hard trainer Todd Pletcher tries to keep his horses apart, there are those times when it is unavoidable. Such will be the case on Saturday in the 30th renewal of the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Pletcher, the 10-time defending Gulfstream meet champion, will saddle undefeated Grade 2 winner Onlyforyou and multiple graded stakes winner Stopchargingmaria in the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies on the main track.
The Davona Dale shares Saturday’s 12-race card with the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) for 3-year-olds and the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3) for older grass milers.
“They are two nice fillies,” said Pletcher, who won the Davona Dale with R Heat Lightning in 2011 and Wait a While in 2006. “I hate to run them against each other.”
Owned by Glencrest Farm, Onlyforyou wasn’t unveiled until last November but has reeled off three consecutive victories to start her career. Two of those wins have come at Gulfstream, an optional claiming allowance on Dec. 15 and the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) in her stakes debut on Jan. 25.
Onlyforyou won the Forward Gal in front-running fashion, hitting the wire in 1:22.50 for seven furlongs as the 1-5-favorite in a field of six that also included fellow Davona Dale contender Aurelia’s Belle.
“I would imagine coming out of the sprint races that she would be prominently placed early,” Pletcher said. “It’s always kind of been in the back of our mind to keep stretching her out. The Forward Gal we felt like was the right opportunity at the right time, and a solid building block for this race as well.”
A bay daughter of Malibu Moon, Onlyforyou has breezed twice since the Forward Gal, most recently going a half-mile in 49.75 seconds on Sunday. Two-time defending meet riding champion Javier Castellano will be aboard.
“I’m not overly concerned about her stretching you, because she has trained so well and always indicated to us that she won’t have an issue doing it,” Pletcher said. “Until you do it, you don’t know for sure. She’s giving us all the right signs. She’s been training great and she’s galloped out great. We know she likes the track, so there’s a lot going positive for her.”
Stopchargingmaria won three of five starts at 2 for Pletcher and owner Mike Repole. She opened with a maiden victory at Saratoga Race Course on July 19 and closed with back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct 27 days apart, the one-mile Tempted (G3) and the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle (G2).
In between, the Tale of the Cat filly placed in a pair of Grade 1 stakes, finishing second in the Spinaway at Saratoga and third in the Frizette at Belmont Park. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride for he first time since her maiden win.
“We freshened her up a little bit with this race in mind,” Pletcher said. “She finished up great in the Demoiselle and had two big wins to close out the year. We were thinking of getting her two prep races, hopefully, for the Kentucky Oaks, and this seemed a logical place to start.”
A Bernardini filly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Darley Stud Management, Penwith set the pace in the Demoiselle before being caught by Stopchargingmaria and Pletcher-trained stablemate Got Lucky and finishing third, beaten only a neck for the win.
“She ran very well that day,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve always liked her. She’s very well-bred and she’s been running well every time since after her first race. We do hope that she’s a top 3-year-old filly.”
Sixth after a wide trip in her debut last September at Belmont Park, Penwith beat Got Lucky by a length to break her maiden one start prior to the Demoiselle. She made her 3-year-old debut in a one-mile optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 2, settling off the lead and getting her nose down on the wire in front of Comme Chez Soi.
“It was just time to run her and keep going,” McLaughlin said. “We think she’s a very nice filly and belongs in here. It’s a tough race, but she’s doing real well. She would like to go further, but it’s ok. It’s a good prep for the [March 29] Gulfstream Oaks. We’ll give it our best shot.”
Trainer Wayne Catalano is hoping for a reversal of fortune with Aurelia’s Belle, who was second by 2 ¾ lengths to Onlyforyou in the Forward Gal and third behind the Pletcher-trained pair of Sweet Whiskey and Co Cola in the $100,000 Old Hat (G3) on Jan. 4, also at Gulfstream. Her lone win came in her debut last October over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Aurelia’s Belle has had two works on Gulfstream’s main track since the Forward Gal, most recently going five furlongs in 1:00.89 on Sunday.
“We were pleased with her last race. She ran good, and she worked good since then,” Catalano said. “She’s doing good. We’re very happy with her.”
Recent maiden winners Abou and House Rules will be making their stakes debut in the Davona Dale. Abou has run once for trainer Joan Scott, capturing her debut as the favorite at Tampa Bay Downs going six furlongs on Jan. 22.
Trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, House Rules won for the first time in her fourth start, a one-mile maiden at Gulfstream on Jan. 17, drawing off by 5 ¾ lengths. She was second in her previous start behind Please Explain, who went on to win the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa on Feb. 1.
Also entered are Brave Raj Stakes winner Holiday Magic and Luna Vista, who won her only previous start at Gulfstream, a one-mile maiden last September for trainer Antonio Sano