When last they met last fall, J D Farm's Dakota Light was no match for Gilbert Campbell's Ivanavinalot, but the gap may have closed between them since then. The pair clash again in Saturday's $100,000 Office Queen Stakes at Calder Race Course.
Jockey Jesus Castanon gets the call on Dakota Light and leading rider Manoel Cruz rides Ivanavinalot, the leading contenders in a strong field of seven 3-year-old fillies lining up in the 1 1/16-mile test.
Trained by David Brownlee, Dakota Light showed promise after winning her career debut at Calder last summer. Making just her second start and stretching out to two turns, she finished a well beaten second behind the more advanced Ivanavinalot in the $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes.
The homebred daughter of Colony Light tried that rival again in the $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes in mid-October, finishing third, but beaten more than 15 lengths.
The two talented fillies have been down different roads since then, both with success. Dakota Light may be ready to tackle her rival on more even terms with maturity and experience.
She is in top form currently, winning the Ravolia overnight stakes going one mile last out on May 25 by 2 ¾ lengths after running well to finish second in the Florida Oaks (gr.III) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Ivanavinalot has accomplished more with $630,000 in lifetime earnings, but she needs to get back on the winning track after two unfortunate out-of-town engagements to Kentucky and Maryland for trainer Kathleen O'Connell.
The homebred daughter of West Acre appeared to be headed to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) this spring after an impressive score in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in mid-March.
Things didn't go well from there, though, as she was eliminated from the start and early running of the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in April. Another foray to Pimlico for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) last month didn't go much better as she finished fourth, obviously not handling the 'sloppy' footing that day.
The Office Queen, won last year by Cellars Shiraz, is not a two-horse race. Several others in the division are doing well, including Jacks or Better Farms' Crimson And Roses, with jockey Eduardo Nunez aboard.$100,000 Office Queen Stakes, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Dakota Light (FL), 121, Jesus Lopez Castanon
2. Crimson and Roses (FL), 113, Eduardo O. Nunez
3. Splasha (KY), 113, Manuel Aguilar
4. Gonetorule (FL), 113, Gary Boulanger
5. Scapade (FL), 116, Julio A. Garcia
6. Running Debate (FL), 121, Paul R. Toscano
7. Ivanavinalot (FL), 121, Manoel R. Cruz