Pletcher Puts On The 'Heat' In Davona Dale
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – R Heat Lightning had a troubled trip when finishing fourth in the Forward Gal (G2) in her 2011 debut at Gulfstream Park, but the sub-par performance might have caused some to speculate that the daughter of Trippi’s success last year was merely a result of possessing a high level of precociousness.
The Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old filly dismissed such thoughts Saturday in emphatic fashion while dominating a strong field of eight by 7-1/4 lengths in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2).
“She had a much smoother trip today. Last time she got bumped pretty hard at the start and never settled down in the backstretch,” Pletcher said. “Today, she had a clean trip, relaxed, and then went on with it
R Heat Lightning, who completed her 2-year-old season with a runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, received a heads-up ride from John Velazquez while posting her come-from-behind triumph. Racing a few lengths off the early pace contested by Hot Summer and Pomeroys Pistol, she was sent between Oh Carol on the rail and 6-5 favorite Dancinginherdreams. Leaving the turn into the homestretch, Pomeroys Pistol was sent to the lead by jockey Ramon Dominguez as R Heat Lightning passed a tiring Hot Summer and loomed as a serious treat on the inside.
As Dancinginherdreams faltered on the outside, R Heat Lightning surged to the lead and drew off to a convincing victory. Dancinginherdreams, ridden by Julien Leparoux, was no threat to the winner but did managed to edge Pomperoys Pistol by a head for second.
R Heat Lightning, who ran the mile in 1:36 1/5 while winning her third start in seven starts, established herself as an imposing force in the 3-year-old filly division.
“She settled really well today. Maybe she learned something from her last race when she was a little rank,” Velazquez said. “We were between horses today and she relaxed and when I asked her at the quarter pole she responded. It was a big difference from her last race.”
While R Heat Lightning managed to make amends for her disappointing seasonal debut, Dancinginherdreams was shut out of the winner’s circle for the second time this year after winning both of her starts last year.
“I just wanted to put her where she was comfortable. She was pretty close to the pace when she won the race at Churchill Downs [Grade 2 Pocahontas] so I wasn’t really concerned about it,” said Leparoux, referring to a victory in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) in her 2010 finale. “We actually had a good trip. No real excuses actually.”
R Heat Lightning, who won the Spinaway at Saratoga last year to become a Grade 1 stakes winner, earned $150,000 for the E Paul Robsham Stables.
“We’ll naturally consider the Gulfstream Oaks here (Apr. 2),” Pletcher said. “The main goal is the Kentucky Oaks (May 6). She’s run well at Churchill (2nd Breeders’ Cup juvenile Fillies).”
Pomeroys Pistol, who had captured the Forward Gal, lost a chance to advance in the Black-Eyed Susan 2.2 bonus program, which required a filly to win the Forward Gal, the Davona Dale, the Gulfstream Oaks and the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 20 to earn $2.2 million in bonuses for her connections. Fillies on the west coast will complete the second round of the Preakness 2.2 in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on March 5.