In terms of previous accomplishments, grade I winner Dreaming of Julia towers over entries in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 23 at Gulfstream Park, but several fillies who have flashed brilliance await.
Stonestreet Stables' Dreaming of Julia will be making her seasonal debut in the Davona Dale, which has attracted just four other 3-year-old fillies. Last year the A.P. Indy filly won two stakes, including the Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont Park, and trainer Todd Pletcher hopes Dreaming of Julia will be ready in her first start since finishing third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
"She's always been a good work horse, one that enjoys her training on a daily basis. She puts a lot into everything she does," Pletcher said. "Hopefully, we've done enough with her to have her ready off the bench, but she's given us every indication that she's ready to go."
The only other filly with a stakes-placing in the field is Lady Banks, a daughter of Successful Appeal who enters off a victory in the Jan. 12 Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct. James Lawrence II trains George and Stephanie Autry's Lady Banks.
"I think she'll get the distance because she doesn't run until you ask her to. I've thought from the beginning she was very classy," said Lawrence, whose filly will be ridden for the first time by Joe Rocco Jr. "She came out of the Ruthless with a little piece of gravel in a foot from that 'muddy' track, but she's over that; everything has gone right since then."
While Lady Banks boasts that stakes win, Live Lively closed out 2012 with a narrow victory over Lady Banks and opened 2013 with an 11 1/4-length score in a seven-furlong, allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Mark Hennig believes Lee Lewis' Medaglia d'Oro filly has earned a shot against stakes competition.
"It's a big test for her with the step up in class and first start going a distance," said trainer Mark Hennig, whose filly will be ridden by Joel Rosario. "She showed she liked the track in the allowance and ran well enough to earn a chance in this race."
Rounding out the field are allowance winners Private Ensign and Twice Told Tale.
The Davona Dale is a Road to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) points race and will award 50 points to the winner, 20 to second, 10 to third, and five to fourth. The points are used to determine the field if more than 14 fillies are entered.
$250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II, race 9, approximate post time 4:35 p.m. EST), fillies, 3yo, 1 1/16 miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Private Ensign (KY), J. Castellano, 116, D. Romans
2. Lady Banks (ON), J. Rocco Jr., 119, R. Lawrence Jr.
3. Dreaming of Julia (KY), J. Velazquez, 122, T. Pletcher
4. Live Lively (KY), J. Rosario, 118, M. Hennig
5. Twice Told Tale (KY), E. Prado, 116, R. Nicks