Diva Delite, who was bred by John Sykes in the name of his Clover Leaf Farms II, was bought back by her breeder following her stellar victory in the Florida Oaks (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs for an undisclosed sum March 19.
With an eye toward the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Sykes has sent the dark bay or brown filly to the barn of trainer Ian Wilkes to begin preparing for the Run for the Lillies.
Matt Lyons, general manager of Cloverleaf II and Woodford Thoroughbreds, explained that after Sykes sold Diva Delite as a yearling for $16,000 at the 2008 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s August sale, she was never far from his mind.
Sykes paid attention when Diva Delite, a daughter of his stallion Repent (who stands at Empire Stud in New York), was sold again the next year--this time for $35,000 to Barbara Vivien and Dominic Vittese--at the 2009 OBS April 2-year-old sale.
Along with his wife, Susan, Sykes began following Diva Delite's career, and after witnessing her seven-race win streak that also included victories in the Suncoast Stakes and the Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa, he decided he wanted her back.
That thought was even further confirmed when trainer David Vivien indicated he would not be pointing Diva Delite toward the Kentucky Oaks, in spite of her proven ability at 1 1/16 miles.
“I had been to see the filly while I was at the Calder sale and had a chance to inspect her,” said Lyons. “So all those things together, we thought it made sense for us to try and acquire her. After speaking with Mr. Vivian following the Tampa Oaks, he was okay with the idea of selling her for the right price.
“She’s a filly that really impressed us with her running style, being able to relax and finish her races. So we bought her with the idea of having a Kentucky Oaks-type filly. We thought she deserves a shot to go there.”
Plans call for Diva Delite, who has a record of 8-4-2 from 15 starts and earnings of $285,067, to be trained up to the Oaks.
Diva Delite is out of the winning, multiple stakes-placed Tour d'Or mare Tour Hostess, who Sykes sold a couple years ago.
“(Tour Hostess) was a real hard knocking mare who ran until she was 9 and earned more than $200,000,” said Lyons. “She was probably the right kind of mare to breed to any young stallion. She seems to have put that toughness and durability into her daughter.
“The thing I like about (Diva Delite) too is that she had enough speed to win at 5 1/2 furlongs to break her maiden, and then she won the (Florida Oaks) going 1 1/16 miles. So she not only has speed, but she has pretty good stamina. We’re hopeful that we can do as good as job as Vivian did with her and continue her success.”
Sykes still owns Cloverleaf Farm II near Ocala, Fla. The farm has been empty since 2007, but Sykes is planning on reopening it this summer. He plans on keeping 20-25 broodmares on the property.