By Bob Ehalt
The great work by trainer John Veitch in revitalizing the fortunes of Calumet Farm is most commonly associated with the legendary Triple Crown runner Alydar.
Yet for all the fame generated by Alydar's trio of runner-up finishes to Affirmed in the 1978 Triple Crown, Veitch enjoyed more success with three homebred Calumet fillies that he turned into champions.
Foremost among that group was a filly who gave Veitch a sweep of a series for 3-year-olds—times two.
It was Davona Dale who helped erase some of the sting from the previous spring with her heroics in a championship season of 1979.
In a career that would land her a spot in the Racing Hall of Fame, Davona Dale enjoyed the kind of 3-year-old season that even Affirmed had to admire. She not only swept New York's filly Triple Crown series of the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), but the big, lanky filly also won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) during a wondrous eight-race winning streak.
In the process, she became the only filly to sweep both the Triple Tiara and the former national 3-year-old filly Triple Crown of the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and Coaching Club American Oaks.
"Well, she's the first filly to win the old and new Triple Crowns," Veitch, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, said after her win in the CCA Oaks. "You don't often get an opportunity to do something a first time. You can spend a lifetime on the racetrack and not get the chance to train a horse of this ability. It's a thrill."
Davona Dale's career started late in her 2-year-old season as the daughter of Best Turn won her career debut at Belmont Park by 1 1/4 lengths on Oct. 23, 1978.
Her jockey that day, as it would be in all 18 of her starts, was Jorge Velazquez, Alydar's regular rider.
She raced only once more at 2, winning the Holly Stakes at the Meadowlands, and then started her 3-year-old season by tackling males and finishing fourth in the Tropical Park Derby (gr. III).
She then finished second to 1978 co-champion 2-year-old filly Candy Eclair in the six-furlong Shirley Jones Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28.
But as the races grew longer, Davona Dale advanced with giant strides. She turned the tables on Candy Eclair in the seven-furlong Bonnie Miss Stakes on March 17 to start a winning streak that would carry into the summer and Saratoga Race Course.
Victories in the Debutante Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course and the grade I Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park followed and put her on edge for a 4 1/2-length triumph in the Kentucky Oaks as a 2-5 favorite.
She followed the 3-year-old males on the Triple Crown path by moving on to Pimlico Race Course and taking the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, then shipping to New York and capturing the Acorn Stakes.
Her next two starts—and wins—were probably the most impressive of her career. She romped by 10 lengths in the Mother Goose the day after Coastal won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and won by eight lengths in the CCA Oaks.
Given a short break, Davona Dale took aim at a ninth straight win—but joined the long list of champions humbled at Saratoga when she finished second to It's in the Air in the grade I Alabama Stakes.
She tried to atone against males in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), but floundered on a muddy track and wound up fourth, some 28 lengths behind the victorious General Assembly in the midsummer derby.
She closed out 1979 with a fourth in the Maskette Stakes at Belmont, but when Eclipse Award votes were counted at year's end, she was crowd the year's champion 3-year-old filly.
At four, Davona Dale struggled to regain her top form as she battled ankle and tendon injuries.
She opened 1980 with a stunning third-place finish in a July 26 allowance race at Belmont, but the conditioning she gained from that start enabled her to avenge her defeat in the Alabama by beating It's in the Air in the Ballerina Stakes.
After that came one of the era's greatest matchup of fillies in the Maskette Stakes. Contested on a Wednesday afternoon at Belmont, the Sept. 10 race brought together Davona Dale, 1980 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Genuine Risk, 1980 Kentucky Oaks winner Bold 'n Determined, and 1980 Alabama victor Love Sign among a select field of five.
Davona Dale was sent off as a 6-5 favorite, but she was unable to keep pace with her younger rivals as she finished fourth while Bold 'n Determined hung on for a nose victory over Genuine Risk.
The Maskette turned out to be Davona Dale's last race. She was retired and returned home to become a broodmare at Calumet.
Her best offspring was Le Voyageur, who was sold for $1.5 million as a yearling and finished third behind Easy Goer and Sunday Silence in the 1989 Belmont Stakes.
That was moderate success, yet it paled in comparison to what Davona Dale accomplished on the racetrack as she gave Veitch sweeps of not one, but two prestigious three-race series.
Davona Dale was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1985.
She was ranked 90th by Blood-Horse in the magazine's rankings of the 20th Century's best horses.
In the Coaching Club American Oaks, Davona Dale triggered a U.S. record minus show pool of $97,268.21.
Davona Dale entered the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 2003.
She compiled a record of 11 wins from 18 starts with two seconds and a third and earnings of $641,612.
Davona Dale was one of three champion Calumet fillies trained by Veitch, joining Our Mims (3-year-old filly champ of 1977) and Before Dawn (2-year-old filly champ of 1981).