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2023 Davona Dale Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Grade 1 Winner Leave No Trace Returns In Major Oaks Prep
Leave No Trace (NYRA)

2023 Davona Dale Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Grade 1 Winner Leave No Trace Returns In Major Oaks Prep

Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) from Aqueduct, then gives her top picks & long shots from this 2023 Ketucky Oaks (G1) prep race. The Phil Serpe-trained Leave No Trace returns to the track for the 1st time as a 3-year-old but faces an ultra-tough field. Will the 2022 Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner come back with a bang? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

           WellSpring Stables’ Grade 1 winner Leave No Trace, unraced in 17 weeks since her runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), is set to make her sophomore debut against nine rivals including undefeated Grade 3 winner Red Carpet Ready in the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) Saturday, March 4 at Gulfstream Park.

            The one-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies is part of a blockbuster 14-race card featuring nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million in purses anchored by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) for 3-year-olds on the road to the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1).

            Post time is 11 a.m. EST. The Davona Dale is carded as Race 12 with a post time of 4:37 p.m. EST.

            Named for the 1979 Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly and 1985 Hall of Famer trained by John Veitch, who passed away Feb. 14, the Davona Dale offers a total of 50 qualifying points (20-15-10-5) for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) to the top four finishers.

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            Leave No Trace, wintering at Gulfstream with trainer Phil Serpe, has had five timed breezes on the main track and two over the all-weather Tapeta surface since mid-January for her season opener, including a mile in 1:47.81 Feb. 19 and a :49.10 breeze Sunday.

            “Everything’s going good,” Serpe said. “Her workouts have gone well. Everything went fine [Sunday]. It was just an easy breeze in 49. We like the way she’s coming into the race. She’s grown quite a bit from 2 to 3 and, in fact, just had her actual birthday [Feb. 24], so all’s good.”

            Serpe has been pleased with how Leave No Trace has settled in at Gulfstream, where the daughter of Outwork out of the Good Journey mare Tanquerray has yet to race after starts at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Keeneland.

            “We ran into some weather a few works back so we worked her on the synthetic track. She’s got a lot of grass pedigree on her bottom side, so she had no trouble adjusting to that track,” Serpe said. “We came back and worked her on it again, and then she worked a mile on the dirt last week. She seems to go across the track fine. She seems to go across all tracks fine. We’re just very fortunate for that.”

            Serpe said he gave some consideration to running Leave No Trace in Gulfstream’s seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) Feb. 4 but opted to keep her at a distance of ground following her two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies, where she was beaten three lengths at odds of 25-1 as runner-up to eventual champion Wonder Wheel.

            “I think she’s fit enough. After the Breeders’ Cup we just gave her six weeks off. We kind of kept her at the barn and hand-walked her in the shed, just to give her a chance to chill out a little bit,” Serpe said. “She’s come back fine. This seemed like a good starting point for us. We were originally thinking a little earlier in February, but I really didn’t want to turn her back to seven furlongs off of the Breeders’ Cup race.

            “Other than the Breeders’ Cup, her previous three races were all one-turn races so we’re good with that. It’s a good starting point as far as there’s a lot of places to head for down the road, whether it’s the Ashland, the Kentucky Oaks, the series in New York,” he added. “This is where we start and, just like when she was 2, we’ll take it one race at a time.”

            Leave No Trace won each of her first two starts last summer at Saratoga, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight and the seven-furlong Spinaway (G1), the latter by 1 ½ lengths over Wonder Wheel. She ran an even third in the slop in the one mile Frizette (G1) at Aqueduct as her prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Tyler Gaffalione is named to ride for the first time from outermost Post 10.

            “She was touting herself a lot before we ever shipped up to Saratoga from Belmont. We were very confident when we ran her the first time that she was going to run well. We’re not going to sit there and say we knew she was going to win – that’ll bite you in the rear end every time – but we were very confident in her,” Serpe said. She trained great going up to the Spinaway. She can work remarkably fast on the dirt by herself. She worked 46 and change before she went to the Breeders’ Cup. She’s a very, very talented filly. What I’m seeing now that I like a lot is that now this 2-year-old is growing into a 3-year-old. It’s still February and these horses still have a lot of growing to do, but we’re really happy with what’s going on so far.”

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            The same can be said for Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing’s Red Carpet Ready, whose three victories in as many starts have come by 15 ½ combined lengths. She overcame a bobbled start to win the Forward Gal by 2 ¼ lengths in her graded-stakes debut and has worked twice since including a bullet half-mile in 48.17 seconds Feb. 25 at Palm Beach Downs, the fastest of 28 horses.

            “Everything’s gone smooth. She came out of her last race well and in good shape. She’s been acting good and had two good works back,” trainer George ‘Rusty’ Arnold II said. “We’ll check her out and hope to have a smooth week.”

            The Davona Dale marks the next progression in distance for Red Carpet Ready, who debuted with a 10-length maiden special weight romp at odds of 36-1 sprinting six furlongs last October at Churchill Downs, where she stepped up in her subsequent start to win the 6 ½-furlong Fern Creek.

            “You never know until you do it. It’s a one turn mile, which is a very good place to take this step,” Arnold said. “You don’t have to do the two turns yet, you don’t have to change racetracks, so we’re ready to get her over there. We’re excited.”

            Luis Saez, up in the Forward Gal, gets the return call from Post 3 on Red Carpet Ready, who Arnold said continues to surpass his and the owners’ expectations.

            “She’s done so each time we’ve run her, I think,” he said. “he probably was most likely going to be a turf horse and they didn’t have turf racing at Churchill so we tried her on the dirt and she handled that. She handled the stakes jump, and then you worry if they just like one racetrack. But, she got here and trained well and handled Gulfstream with no problems. Each time we take this step the water gets a little deeper and a competition gets a little tougher. We just hope that she can keep making that step forward.”

            Undervalued Asset and Atomically, respectively second and third behind Red Carpet Ready in the Forward Gal, separated by a length, return in the Davona Dale. Klaravich Stables’ Undervalued Asset was making her season and stakes debut off an 8 ¼-length maiden special weight triumph for trainer Chad Brown, who also entered CHP Racing’s Guns N’ Graces, a 3 ½-length maiden special weight winner going a mile and 40 yards Dec. 23 at Tampa Bay Downs in her most recent start.

            Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Bernard and Harry Colburn’s Atomically broke her maiden and won the 1 1/16-mile FSS My Dear Girl by open lengths at Gulfstream before being sold privately and moved to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The Girvin filly was seventh in the Juvenile Fillies racing first time for her new connections, and overcome a slow start to be beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the Forward Gal.

            John Ropes’ Dorth Vader is a multiple stakes winner that will be stretching out beyond a sprint for just the second time, having run third behind Atomically in the My Dear Girl last October. She won the seven-furlong Juvenile Sprint at Gulfstream and six-furlong Sandpiper at Tampa to cap her 2022 campaign and launched 2023 finishing sixth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Gasparilla Jan. 14.

            Diamond 100 Racing Club, Madaket Stables and Frank Silva’s Infinite Diamond will be racing for the first time since a 2 ¼-length triumph in the one-mile Cash Run Jan. 1 at Gulfstream, where the daughter of Bee Jersey owns two wins and a second from three lifetime starts.

            Arindel homebred Lynx won each of her first three starts, including the FSS Desert Vixen and Susan’s Girl, before being denied a sweep when second to Atomically in the My Dear Girl, where she was 4 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Dorth Vader. Like Infinite Diamond, Lynx has made her only start this year in the Cash Run, finishing third.

            Completing the Davona Dale field are Randall Bloch, Six Column Stables, John Seiler and David Hall’s Positano Sunset and R.T. Racing Stable’s Adeliese’s Smile, respectively fourth and ninth in the Forward Gal.