Barbara Vivian and Dominic Vittese's DIVA DELITE (Repent) added a fifth straight victory to her line on Saturday when taking the $170,000 Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs by two lengths under Rosemary Homeister Jr. The dark bay miss, who scored in her first two stakes attempts in the Gasparilla S. and Suncoast S. prior to this one, finished up 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:46.
Sent off the 9-5 favorite following the scratch of champion She Be Wild (Offlee Wild), Diva Delite was content to track the pace in the tightly bunched field as Mallory Square (Southern Image) posted splits of :24 3/5, :50 and 1:14 2/5. Homeister sent Diva Delite four wide rounding the second turn, and the dark bay lass quickly gained command in the stretch run. She continued to pull away from her rivals in the lane, and improved her record to 15-8-4-2, $285,067, in her first graded try.
"This is such a wonderful filly to ride," Homeister said. "I knew she was going to be good again today; she was just so perky in the post parade and then she just waited in gate without turning a hair. She broke nicely like she always has and I took a spot behind the lead group. But the pace slowed and I was afraid of running up on horses so took her out and asked her to wait. She wanted to go after them as we got past the half-mile pole. But when I asked her to go she just went past everybody in about five strides. All I was worried about in the stretch was that something might come up inside of us but there was nothing there. What a delight it has been to ride this filly for the Vivians, who I have known all my riding life!"
The David Vivien trainee paid $5.60, $3 and $2.80 to her faithful backers while keying the $74.80 exacta and $591.60 trifecta. C C's Pal (Alex's Pal), off at 21-1, saved ground on the inside just behind the pacesetter, scooted through along the rail to threaten, but couldn't match strides with Diva Delite late. She was worth $12.80 and $9.80 for taking second by a half-length over Mallory Square, who returned $9.40 at 19-1. Near 2-1 second choice Cuff Me (Officer) followed in fourth to finish off the 6-2-7-3 superfecta that totaled $2,909.
Awesome Vow (Awesome Again), Yournotthebossofme (Johannesburg), Tesoro de Amor (Medaglia d'Oro) and Miss Afleet Alex (Afleet Alex) rounded out the order under the wire after Imaginary Saint (Saint Liam) was eased.
"I didn't want her that close to the pace," Vivien explained his instructions to Homeister. "I told her to let her lay back; the further back you are, the better, because she'll really come closing. I figured that that horse from Gulfstream would be setting a fast pace, but she didn't set a fast pace. Rosie is knowledgeable enough to know that she needed to get a little closer on the backside. She rode a very good race. Not necessarily the way I wanted her to ride her, but I'm not on her back and she is."
Vivian said that he will probably opt to rest Diva Delite after the Florida Oaks and will not pursue the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on April 30.
"I think," he prudently added. "You never know what you're going to do. Right now I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but she's run some hard races, and I've shipped her back and forth with two weeks apart and three weeks apart; she's done a lot. She looks excellent, though, so I'm just going to play it by ear. See how she is in three or four weeks and we'll see what she'll do. I think she's better than I think she is! She just keeps improving and improving and she goes long. And there are not too many three-year-old fillies that want to go long."
Bred in Florida by Clover Leaf Farms II Inc., Diva Delite sold for $16,000 as an OBS August yearling and $35,000 as an OBS April two-year-old. Making her first 12 starts at Calder against maiden, claiming and allowance types, she proved more than capable of handling stakes company when shipped to Tampa Bay Downs for the Gasparilla and Suncoast.
Diva Delite is out of multiple stakes-placed Tour Hostess (Tour d'Or), who is a half-sister to dual black-type victress Bay Street Gal (Marco Bay). This is the same family as champion sprinter and sire Cherokee Run (Runaway Groom), Grade 1 queen Pirate's Revenge (Pirate's Bounty), and Grade 2 winners Green Gambados (Swaps) and Forest Fealty (Baederwood).