R Heat Lightning returned to the winner's circle for the first time since last summer's Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) with a 7 1/4-length romp in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 26 (VIDEO) .
Last year's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) runner-up rebounded from her disappointing 2011 debut when she was a wide fourth at 13-10 odds in Gulfstream's Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 30.
With John Velazquez aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher, E. Paul Robsham's homebred daughter of Trippi completed the one-turn mile test for 3-year-old fillies in 1:36.25 over a fast track. Dancinginherdreams, the 6-5 favorite in the field of eight, pipped Pomeroys Pistol, the Forward Gal winner, for second by a head.
"She was much better today," Pletcher told HRTV. "She got a much smoother trip. She got into the bridle and I was really pleased with the way she was moving down the backstretch. It was just a matter then if she brought her 'A' game and she did."
Pomeroys Pistol, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, prompted pacesetter Hot Summer before taking over following early fractions of :23.92 and :46.53. She led at the quarter pole by one length after running six furlongs in 1:10.77.
Dancinginherdreams, with Julien Leparoux aboard, stalked on the far outside with R Heat Lightning to her inside. R Heat Lightning found room on the inside at the top of the stretch and soon challenged Pomeroys Pistol while Dancinginherdreams struggled to keep pace while still racing on the outside.
R Heat Lightning shook off the pacesetter to lead by 1 1/2 lengths mid-stretch and was unchallenged while coming home under a strong hand ride from Velazquez.
“She settled really well today," Velazquez said. "Maybe she learned something from her last race when she was a little rank. We were between horses today and she relaxed and when I asked her at the quarter pole she responded. It was a big difference from her last race.”
Pletcher said R Heat Lightning would likely head to the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), formerly the Bonnie Miss Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles April 2. He said the main goal is the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 6.
The bay filly, out of the Gold Fever mare Yellow Heat, has won three of seven career starts with three seconds and boosted her earnings to $772,800. In her only prior stakes win, Saratoga's seven-furlong Spinaway (gr. I) Sept. 5, she prevailed by four lengths.
Dancinginherdreams, also considered a leading candidate for the Kentucky Oaks, was unable to improve on her runner-up effort in the seven-furlong Forward Gal. Trainer John Ward Jr. is likely try a route distance with the daughter of Tapit next time. She won the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs by more than five lengths last fall.
Sent off as the second choice, R Heat Lightning carried 116 pounds and paid $7, $3.20 and $2.40. Dancinginherdreams, the 120-pound high weight who got up just in time for the place, returned $2.60 and $2.10 and completed a $20.20 exacta. Pomeroys Pistol was $3 to show.
Oh Carole, undefeated in two prior starts, finished fourth, followed by Hot Summer, Evil Queen, Mending Hearts and Bellaridge. Roxy Gap scratched.