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Davona Dale Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Replay [Kentucky Oaks]
Fiona's Magic (Lauren King / Coglianese Photos)

Davona Dale Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Replay [Kentucky Oaks]

The Michael Yates-trained Fiona’s Magic won the 2024 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, a prep race for the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

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Watch the race replay here:

The press release:

Stonehedge’s Florida homebred Fiona’s Magic, who came up short in her graded-stakes debut last month, led every step of the way and turned back previously undefeated Into Champagne and Leslie’s Rose through the stretch to win Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) presented by FanDuel TV by a half-length at Gulfstream Park.

The 37th running of the one-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies was the fourth of nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million in purses on a blockbuster 14-race program headlined by the $400,000 Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2).

Named for the champion 3-year-old filly of 1979 that was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, the Davona Dale follows the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) Feb. 3 and precedes the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 30 in Gulfstream’s series of stakes for sophomore fillies.

The complexion of the Davona Dale changed early Saturday afternoon with the scratch of Just F Y I, the undefeated champion 2-year-old filly of 2023 that was the 7-5 program favorite to make her sophomore debut, after spiking a fever according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

That left Leslie’s Rose, unbeaten in two starts and facing stakes company for the first time, as the 1-5 favorite exiting a victory over winners Jan. 11 at Gulfstream. She was content to lay fourth as Tyler Gaffalione directed Fiona’s Magic to the front, where she led through a quarter-mile in 24.59 seconds and a half in 47.47, pressed to her outside by 16-1 long shot Queen’s Martini with Into Champagne in the clear three wide in third.

Fiona’s Magic was still in front after six furlongs went in 1:11.72 when jockey Julien Leparoux and Into Champagne, winner of the Jan. 7 Glitter Woman at Gulfstream off a 6 ½-month layoff to improve to 2-0 – rolled up alongside approaching the stretch as Leslie’s Rose took aim with a rail run. Fiona’s Magic dug in under the threat passing the eighth pole and held sway as Into Champagne had to settle for second, with Leslie’s Rose 1 ¾ lengths in third.

Queen’s Martini, Whocouldaskformo and New Diamond completed the order of finish. Miss Sayely was also scratched.

“I didn’t give Tyler any instructions,” winning trainer Michael Yates said. “I said, ‘Ride the race how it comes up.’”

Fiona’s Magic (Coglianese Photos)

Fiona’s Magic had a two-race win streak snapped in her prior start, a two-length loss to R Harper Rose when second in the Forward Gal (G3), her stakes debut, also with Gaffalione aboard.

This marked the second straight year Yates has won the Davona Dale, following Dorth Vader in 2023. Dorth Vader went on to run fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), fifth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), second in the Acorn (G1) and fourth in the Test (G1).

“She put in a huge effort last time. I was able to get familiar with her,” he said. “The team did a great job bringing her over ready. Mr. Yates has done a fabulous job last year with Dorth Vader, this year with her. She was there for me every step.”

The Davona Dale was the first time racing beyond seven furlongs for Fiona’s Magic. Yates said he was not concerned about the distance, and was uncertain what might be next for the daughter of Irish Group 3-placed St Patrick’s Day.

“[We’ll] enjoy today and talk about the rest tomorrow,” Yates said. “I thought she was very capable of it. She’s been coming along steadily.”