Peras International’s Yara went into Saturday’s $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park unheralded after winning two of five starts in sprints, the first four at Calder last year. But the 3-year-old Florida-bred filly won a long head-to-head duel with Michael Dubb and partners’ 4-5 favorite Grace Hall in the stretch to score by hard-fought triumph by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile test.
A strong field of nine 3-year-old fillies lined up for the Davona Dale with Grade 1 winner Grace Hall making her first start since finishing second to Eclipse champion My Miss Aurelia in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
Ridden by jockey Jesus Castanon, Yara broke sharply to take command around the turn and into the backstretch until jockey Ramon Dominguez brought Grace Hall up to challenge from the inside midway through the backstretch, taking the lead briefly. The two fillies fought it out to deep stretch before Yara edged away to victory. Darley Stable’s Captivating Lass finished third, 3 ½ lengths behind Grace Hall.
“This is the biggest win of my career,” Florida-based trainer Jose Garaffolo said. “I knew it was a tough field, but I was always confident that she would handle a distance. The owner (Anderson Castro) is from Venezuela and is investing in several horses over here, including some I have coming up.
“I picked this one out,” added Garaffolo, who paid $24,000 for the daughter of Put It Back at the 2011 OBS April 2-year-old sales. “The goal is the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with maybe a race before then. I usually wait to see how they come out of a race to make more immediate plans.”
Garaffolo instructed Castanon to get Yara involved in the pace right from the start.
“I saw the ‘2’ (Grace Hall) right next to me, and when she went ahead and took the lead, my horse settled really nicely,” Castanon said. “My filly was just waiting for me to push the button, and when I did, she ran on really well. I was actually very confident coming into the race. I saw her race last time and I knew she had run some good races before that.”
Yara had finished fourth, beaten 22 ½ lengths in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes (G2) over a sloppy Gulfstream track in her previous start on Jan. 29. She paid $131 for $2 to win Saturday after being timed for the 1 1/16 miles in 143:41 over the ‘fast’ track.
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