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Grace Hall seeks revenge, Yara vindication, in Gulfstream Oaks
Grace Hall was sent off the 4-5 choice to capture the Grade 2 Davona Dale in her seasonal bow on February 25, but an upset in the form of 64-1 longshot Yara just denied the Empire Maker filly from making a winning return. On Saturday, Grace Hall will be looking to exact revenge on her rival as the pair are entered in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks going nine furlongs.
A total of eight fillies will line up in the Gulfstream Park co-feature on Florida Derby Day, but all eyes will be on Grace Hall and Yara as they each try to prove something in the race.
Grace Hall entered the Davona Dale off a game second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but was undefeated prior to that championship event. The Tony Dutrow charge broke her maiden by three lengths at Delaware Park in late July, captured her stakes bow in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga two months later, then was an easy 5 3/4-length victress of the Blue Hen Stakes back at Delaware on October 1.
"She has trained really well since the Davona Dale," Dutrow remarked. "We have her right where we want her to be for the Oaks. The only disappointment (losing Davona Dale) was she was a big favorite and she lost to a longshot. In the big picture, winning was the only thing she didn't do, but that race was not the main objective. I think she ran great."
Javier Castellano will take over the ride on Grace Hall from Ramon Dominguez, who is currently recovering from a separated collarbone.
Yara shocked in the Davona Dale after finishing fourth, beaten 22 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes on January 29. The Put It Back daughter has either won or run fourth in her six career starts, alternating the finishing order with each start. She ran fourth in her debut, broke her maiden next out, filled the fourth spot in the Cassidy Stakes and posted a 5 1/4-length score in the Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies Stakes prior to her Forward Gal fourth-placing.
The chestnut miss could go off at lower odds in the Gulfstream Oaks, but if she stays true to form will more than likely fill out the superfecta.
"She worked good last Saturday (when going five furlongs in 1:02 at Calder) and will be much better for this race than she was for the last one," her Venezuelan-born trainer Jose Garofallo said. "She will like the extra half-furlong and the likely slower pace this time going a mile-and-an-eighth."
While the Grace Hall and Yara match-up will be the main attraction, a few other fillies could make some noise in the race. Like Grace Hall, Captivating Lass was making her sophomore bow in the Davona Dale and ran a one-paced third throughout. The A.P. Indy filly scored a neck victory in the Busanda Stakes in early January, though, and keeps jockey John Velazquez aboard Saturday.
And Why Not hasn't competed since a close second to the talented On Fire Baby in last October's Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes. A well-beaten third in the Spinaway, the Michael Matz-trained daughter of Street Cry will get the services of Julien Leparoux for the first time.
Zo Impressive will need to run well here if she hopes to make the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks field. Unbeaten from two starts thus far, the Hard Spun miss romped in her initial two outings and keeps regular rider Rajiv Maragh for her stakes debut.