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Dorth Vader won the 2023 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, a prep race for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1) worth 50 points to the winner, at 45/1 odds. Now a 3-time stakes champion, is the Florida-bred Girvin filly a legitimate contender for the Kentucky Oaks? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
John Ropes’ Dorth Vader stalked heavily favored Red Carpet Ready into the stretch before drawing off to a 45-1 upset victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) presented by FanDuel TV at Gulfstream Park.
The Davona Dale was one of nine stakes worth $1.85 million in purses on Saturday’s 14-race program headlined by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2). The Davona Dale, a mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies, is a key prep for the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) April 1, as well as a designated prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Michael Yates-trained Dorth Vader earned 50 points, virtually assuring her a stall in the Churchill Downs starting gate May 5.
The two-time stakes-winning daughter of Girvin was making her graded-stakes debut in the Davona Dale.
Red Carpet Ready, the even-money favorite who was undefeated in three starts, set the pace along the backstretch under Luis Saez with Dorth Vader a few lengths back. Red Carpet Ready continued to show the way into the far turn after completing the first half-mile in 45.06 seconds. The favorite continued to show the way on the turn into the homestretch as Dorth Vader loomed boldly to her outside. The Yates trainee took over at the top of the stretch and drew clear to score by 4 ¾ lengths under Miguel Vasquez.
Dorth Vader ran a mile in 1:37.23. Guns n’ Graces closed from far back to finish second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of the tiring Red Carpet Ready.
Dorth Vader won back-to-back stakes, capturing the Juvenile Sprint for Florida-breds at Gulfstream and the Sandpiper in open company at Tampa Bay Downs, before finishing a disappointing sixth in the Gasparilla at Tampa Bay in her last start.
Red Carpet Ready won the first two races of her career by a combined 13 ½ lengths before capturing the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream by 2 ¼ lengths.
Winning trainer Michael Yates (Dorth Vader): “I was confident in her. I thought she would run a really big race, because of the way she had trained. I kind of drew a line through the Tampa race. That’s happened to me more than once. It rained really hard the day before and it was kind of a heavy track, so we just drew a line through it.”
“I was thrilled down the backside. I was worried when Tyler [Gaffalione, Leave No Trace’s jockey] was lapped outside of her that they were going to be able to pinch her back, but as soon as I saw her ease through the hole, I felt really good.”
“I don’t see why she won’t [go two turns]. She ran a decent two turns as a 2-year-old in the stallion stakes. She wasn’t what I would consider really prepared, but they don’t move the dates, so you’ve got to go do it.”
(On his first graded-stakes win) – “It’s a great feeling. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest with you.”
“We’re dreaming of it [Kentucky Oaks]. Why not? We nominated already to the [Gulfstream Oaks, G2, April 1]. Right now, we’re just going to enjoy today and see how she comes out of the race and move forward. We’ll talk to Mr. Ropes about it, and we’ll make a decision. She’ll help us decide.”
Winning jockey Miguel Vasquez (Dorth Vader): “First of all, I’d like to thank God and thank the trainer (Michael Yates) for providing me with the opportunity; he told me to put her among the leaders in the pace from the start, so I gave her a long warm-up to get her interested from the beginning; I didn’t have to use her much even though the pace was strong. I am really grateful.”
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