Only four fillies have signed on to challenge Grade 1 Frizette heroine Dreaming of Julia in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Davona Dale on the Fountain of Youth undercard at Gulfstream Park. As with the Fountain of Youth for the Kentucky Derby hopefuls, the Davona Dale is part of the next stage on the new scoring system for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, with the winner now receiving 50 points.
Unlimited Budget, who knocked out two wins in the span of 15 days last November, including the Grade 2 Demoiselle, will kick off her sophomore season in the Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra on Saturday at Fair Grounds. The 1 1/16-mile test is a stepping stone to the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.
Lee Lewis' three-year-old filly Live Lively was very impressive winning a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park on New Year's Day by 11 1/4 lengths for trainer Mark Hennig and is on target to make her stakes debut and first start around two turns in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on February 23.
"It's a big test for her with the step up in class and first start going a distance," Hennig said Friday morning from Palm Meadows.
Trainer Tom Proctor confirmed Saturday from his wintertime base of operations in Southern California that he plans on shipping Midnight Ballet to New Orleans to contest the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra on February 23 as part of the Louisiana Derby Preview Day, and also that newly unretired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens would be coming to Fair Grounds for the mount on the filly.
Later on Saturday, in another points race for the Kentucky Oaks, Rutherford Group et al's Redressthebalance came with a powerful rally to capture the $53,550 California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields. With jockey Christian Santiago Reyes in the irons, the Doug O'Neill pupil earned her first win stateside when completing 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic Tapeta in 1:45 2/5.
Millennium Farms and Little Brother Farm's homebred Sister Ginger turned back the game effort of Rose to Gold for a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park. The Steve Asmussen trainee was seeking her first win since breaking her maiden by 5 1/2 lengths last October at Remington Park, and finished this one mile contest over the fast dirt in 1:39 2/5.
Liberty Girl was one of the most impressive winners from Oaklawn Park's January 11 opening day, when she drew off to take a first-level allowance by 4 1/4 lengths in her three-year-old debut. On Saturday, the A. P. Warrior filly takes another step forward as one of nine fillies entered in the $75,000 Martha Washington.
Godolphin's Lovely Pass became the first classic winner sired by Raven's Pass when grinding out a half-length success in Thursday's $250,000 U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas at Meydan. The Mahmood al Zarooni pupil topped a Godolphin trifecta, rounded out by Shuruq and Music Chart.
Though not graded and only worth $50,000, Saturday's California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields will award the winner of the 1 1/16-mile contest with 10 points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks starting gate.
Eleven sophomore fillies have thrown their hats in the ring, led by the Lloyd Mason trainee Lucky Moment (Marino Marini). The dark bay lass is currently riding a three-race win streak and has already beaten others in this field.
Princess of Sylmar, a stablemate of Grade 3 Withers winner Revolutionary, had a much easier time than her fellow Todd Pletcher trainee Saturday as she rolled by seven lengths in Aqueduct's Busher, her fourth straight win, all around two turns.
According to assistant trainer Michael McCarthy, next up for the Majestic Warrior filly will be Aqueduct's Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle on April 6.
Fiftyshadesofhay flew home in the stretch of Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita to take her first stakes victory in impressive fashion under jockey Rafael Bejarano. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Pulpit bided her time in second on the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile contest before easily swooping past pacesetter Escape Act to take command and draw off by 5 3/4 lengths on the wire.
Stonestreet Stables' Kauai Katie continued her winning ways this year with yet another easy win for trainer Todd Pletcher, this time in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, the Malibu Moon miss grabbed command from the start and never looked back while pulling away in the lane to be 5 1/2 lengths clear of My Happy Face on the wire.
Champion two-year-old filly Beholder likely had an excuse when she was second in her three-year-old debut as the 1-5 favorite in Monday's Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes.
"We did an exam of her yesterday, scoped her and found an ulcer in her throat, a small one that we can clean up real quick," Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said on a rainy Thursday morning.
"She probably had a pretty sore throat in the race and didn't even know it."
Mandella is optimistic that the daughter of Henny Hughes can still make the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on March 2.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel will get the stakes action underway at Santa Anita on Saturday when a six-filly field breaks from the gate. Scarlet Strike has yet to visit the winner's circle since taking her maiden at Del Mar going a mile last September, but the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil has been close.
In addition to having champion Shanghai Bobby in Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull, trainer Todd Pletcher will also have the prohibitive favorite in the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal when he saddles Kauai Katie in the seven-furlong test for three-year-old fillies.
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Zillah Reddam's Renee's Titan capitalized on a torrid early pace to stun newly-crowned champion Beholder at odds of 20-1 in Monday's Grade 2, $150,500 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita. Well beaten by Beholder in their only prior meeting, and winless from five previous stakes attempts, the Doug O'Neill trainee rallied from last to mug the 1-5 favorite and her stubborn rival Dawn's Charm in the final strides.
A more than two-month layoff proved to be no detriment to Touch Magic on Saturday as the Coteau Grove Farms colorbearer bounded home a three-quarter length winner of the $125,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.
The score, her first in three stakes tries, provided the Lion Heart filly with 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, and increased her current point total to 14 following a half-length second in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess in her last race on November 17.
It looks like the field against presumptive two-year-old filly champion Beholder in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday feature at Santa Anita -- the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez -- doesn't hold much challenge, but, as the old saying goes, "They still have to run around the track."
While the boys begin their Kentucky Derby quest in Fair Grounds' Grade 3 Lecomte on Saturday, the fillies will start their journey toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in the $125,000 Silverbulletday. The mile-and-70-yard contest will feature a rematch between Seaneen Girl and Gal About Town, the respective top two from the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last November.