Two talented fillies from trainer Todd Pletcher's barn, undefeated grade II winner Onlyforyou and dual graded stakes victress Stopchargingmaria, will go head-to-head in the Feb. 22 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
The Davona Dale is the first of three graded races on the 12-race card, which also includes the Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Fountain of Youth (gr. II). Named after named after Calumet Farm's homebred Hall of Fame filly, the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies is slated for 4:33 p.m. EST.
Onlyforyou and Stopchargingmaria have by far the most impressive resumes heading into the Davona Dale. They will carry 118 and 120 pounds, respectively, while all of the other entrants will tote 116.
"They are two nice fillies," said Pletcher, who won the Davona Dale with R Heat Lightning in 2011 and Wait a While in 2006. "I hate to run them against each other."
Owned by Glencrest Farm, Onlyforyou did not make her career debut until last November but has been perfect in all three of her starts. Two of those wins have come at Gulfstream, an optional claiming allowance race on Dec. 15 and the Jan. 25 Forward Gal (gr. II) in her stakes debut.
Onlyforyou won the Forward Gal in front-running fashion, hitting the wire in 1:22.50 for seven furlongs as the 1-5 favorite in a field of six that also included fellow Davona Dale contender Aurelia's Belle.
"I would imagine coming out of the sprint races that she would be prominently placed early," Pletcher said of the daughter of Malibu Moon—Erhu, by Tactical Cat who drew post 3. "It's always kind of been in the back of our mind to keep stretching her out. The Forward Gal we felt like was the right opportunity at the right time, and a solid building block for this race as well."
Onlyforyou has breezed twice since the Forward Gal, most recently going a half-mile in :49.75 Feb. 16. Two-time defending meet riding champion Javier Castellano will be aboard.
"I'm not overly concerned about her stretching you, because she has trained so well and always indicated to us that she won't have an issue doing it," Pletcher said of Onlyforyou, who was bred in Kentucky by Elm Tree Farm and Popatop. "Until you do it, you don't know for sure. She's giving us all the right signs. She's been training great and she's galloped out great. We know she likes the track, so there's a lot going positive for her."
Stopchargingmaria won three of five starts at 2 for Pletcher and owner Mike Repole. She launched her career with a maiden victory at Saratoga Race Course last July and closed the season with back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct Racetrack, the one-mile Tempted (gr. III) and the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle (gr. II).
In between, the Tale of the Cat filly placed in a pair of grade I stakes, finishing second in the Spinaway at Saratoga and third in the Frizette at Belmont Park. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride for first time since her maiden win. The pair will break from the outside post.
"We freshened her up a little bit with this race in mind," Pletcher said of Stopchargingmaria, who was bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke and Brookdale Farm out of the Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom. "She finished up great in the Demoiselle and had two big wins to close out the year. We were thinking of getting her two prep races, hopefully, for the Kentucky Oaks, and this seemed a logical place to start."
Also in the Davona Dale is Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Penwith, who set the pace in the Demoiselle before being caught by Stopchargingmaria. She finished third, beaten only a neck for the win.
"We think she's a very nice filly and belongs in here," said McLaughlin. "It's a tough race, but she's doing real well. She would like to go further, but it's ok. It's a good prep for the (March 29) Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II). We'll give it our best shot."
Rounding out the field are Aurelia's Belle, who was second by 2 3/4 lengths to Onlyforyou in the Forward Gal; recent maiden winners Abou and House Rules; Holiday Magic, winner of last year's Brave Raj Stakes at Calder Race Course; and Luna Santa, who won her only previous start at Gulfstream, a one-mile maiden race, last September.
$200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, approximate post 4:33 p.m. EST), 3YO fillies, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Abou (KY), J R Leparoux, 116, J Scott
2. Luna Santa (KY), J. Bravo, 116, A Sano
3. Onlyforyou (KY), J Castellano, 118, T A Pletcher
4. Aurelia's Belle (KY), J Rocco, Jr., 116, W M Catalano
5. House Rules (KY), A O Solis, 116, H A Jerkens
6. Penwith (KY), L Saez, 116, K P McLaughlin
7. Holiday Magic (FL), J C Leyva, 116, W A Kaplan
8. Stopchargingmaria (KY), J R Velazquez, 120, T A Pletcher