By Emily Shields
A whopping ten stakes races – nine of them graded – highlight a stellar card at Gulfstream Park on February 29. The day is topped by the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep, the Fountain of Youth Stakes, but the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) is also important as a prep to the 2020 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). Nine horses have entered the Davona Dale.
On the rail is Chart, who was a winner in her lone start. That came at Tampa Bay Downs over six furlongs, but she scored by over five lengths for trainer Gary Contessa. Joe Bravo will ride the daughter of Lea, a $120,000 purchase as a juvenile last year.
Dream Marie has won three in a row for Matthew Williams. The daughter of Graydar is unbeaten in two tries here, both at today’s distance of a mile. A former claimer, this will be her first try in stakes company.
Emily’s Oasis is by American Pharoah. Ian Wilkes trains the filly, a $325,000 purchase who broke her maiden at Churchill Downs in October. That was her lone win in five starts, but she has been top three four times. She hasn’t run since November 30, but has been working well at Palm Meadows since.
Nikki and Papa is the most interesting horse in the race. The $500,000 purchase by Mineshaft is a maiden, but made her debut in the local prep for this, the Grade 3 Forward Gal over seven furlongs on February 1. Nikki and Papa, at 22-1, broke terribly, rallied around the field, and finished third. She will be another price in this.
Reluctant Bride makes her dirt debut after running her first two races on turf for trainer Patrick Biancone. She broke her maiden sprinting here over five furlongs, then was 20-1 when sixth in the Grade 3 Sweet Chant over a mile. The daughter of Speightstown is out of a multiple graded stakes winner and dual Grade 1 winner in Sassy Image, who did her best running on the dirt.
Like Chart, Spice Is Nice has only started once. That was a maiden win here January 12 over a mile. Todd Pletcher trains the daughter of Curlin, who was a $1,050,000 purchase as a yearling. John Velazquez gets back aboard; serious contender.
Bayerness is unbeaten in two starts. Both were in Kentucky, and she hasn’t run since November 30, but trainer Cherie DeVaux has her primed off a series of sharp workouts at Payson Park. Florent Geroux climbs back aboard for this.
Addilyn has more experience than anyone else in the field; this will be her ninth start. She has only one win, and lost to Dream Marie last out.
Tonalist’s Shape will break from the outside. The favorite is unbeaten in four starts, including three over this course, and she is a nine-length winner at the distance in stakes company. Saffie Joseph, Jr. trains the daughter of Tonalist, who gets Tyler Gaffalione for the first time.
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