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Grace Hall romps in Gulfstream Oaks
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and the Elkstone Group's Grace Hall reclaimed her winning attitude just in time to dominate Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks under jockey Javier Castellano. The pair were forced to race three wide down the backstretch and swung wide into the lane before easily drawing off to a 6 1/2-length score on the wire.
"We got the perfect outside trip which is what I wanted," Castellano said. "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."
Yara defeated Grace Hall by a neck in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on February 25 and tried to duplicate that front-running effort when taking command of this one from the onset. The chestnut miss set splits of :23 3/5, :47 and 1:10 4/5 while closely tracked by Hearts of Red and Grace Hall to her outside. The pace took it's toll, however, and Yara faded nearing the stretch.
Meanwhile, Castellano gave Grace Hall her cue and the Empire Maker filly shot straight to the lead. She kept right on motoring to pull away in a final time of 1:49 1/5 for the 1 1/8-mile, fast-track affair.
"I didn't make any excuses for her getting beat last time and gave the winner (Yara) credit," trainer Tony Dutrow said. "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 (on May 4 at Churchill Downs). We know she's happy here training at Palm Meadows and we'll keep her there until at least April 15."
Sent off the 6-5 favorite, Grace Hall gave back $4.40, $2.60 and $2.20. Zo Impressive was the 2-1 second choice and recovered from a bumping incident earlier in the race to go on and take second by 2 3/4 lengths over Hearts of Red. That one just managed to nose out The Cat's All In for the show spot, while Yara, Captivating Lass, And Why Not and Emma's Encore completed the order under the wire.
Grace Hall moved her lifetime record to 6-4-2-0, $809,000. The bay lass opened her career with a trio of wins, including the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes and Blue Hen Stakes last season, and closed out her juvenile campaign with a nice second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Grace Hall started her quest for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in the Davona Dale, and will now enter that nine-furlong event on a winning note.
Bred in Kentucky by Darley, Grace Hall sold for $95,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is the most successful offspring out of the Ezzoud Irish-bred mare Season's Greetings, who captured a listed race in France while placing in a Group 2 and a pair of Group 3 contests. Season's Greetings is a half-sister to Group 3-placed Legend of Spring and listed-placed Deep Space.
Grace Hall's third dam is multiple Grade 1 queen Life at the Top, who placed in the 1986 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama Stakes before going on in the breeding shed to foal Group 3 victress Elizabeth Bay. That one is the dam of Grade 3 winner Bayeux, Group 3-placed listed star Colonial and Dunnes River, herself the dam of 2010 Group 1 Prix Ganay scorer, Cutlass Bay.
This female family is also responsible for 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes champion Bold Forbes as well as undefeated Grade 1-winning sire Saratoga Six.