Grace Hall lost a narrow decision to Yara last time out in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2), but has been installed as the 4-5 favorite in today’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) rematch.
Owned by Michael Dubb and partners, the 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker recorded a near perfect slate last year at two, losing just once to division champion My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
A $95,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Grace Hall won all three of her starts before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies beginning with a debut victory at Delaware Park in late July, the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in early September and the Blue Hen Stakes back at Delaware on Oct. 1.
“She has trained really well since the Davona Dale,” said trainer Anthony Dutrow. “We have her right where we want her to be for the Oaks. The only disappointment (losing Davona Dale) was she was a big favorite and she lost to a longshot. In the big picture, winning was the only thing she didn’t do, but that race was not the main objective. I think she ran great.”
Peras International’s Florida-bred Yara was making her first start around two turns as a 65-1 longshot in the Davona Dale and was prominent from the start. She came again when headed in the stretch by Grace Hall to score under jockey Jesus Castanon, who will be back aboard today for Calder-based trainer Jose Garoffalo.
A daughter of Put It Back purchased for a modest $21,000 at the OBS April 2-year-old sale, Yara won two of four starts sprinting at Calder last year and finished a well-beaten fourth in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes (G2) on Jan. 29 before the Davona Dale.
“She worked good last Saturday (five furlongs in 1:02 at Calder) and will be much better for this race than she was for the last one,” said Venezuelan-born Garofallo, who was scoring his first graded stakes victory in the U.S. with Yara. “She will like the extra half-furlong and the likely slower pace this time going a mile-and-an-eighth.”
Godolphin Racing’s Captivating Lass and Live Oak Plantation’s Zo Impressive will each attract some support after good races at the meet with jockeys John Velazquez and Rajiv Maragh to ride, respectively,
Zo Impressive takes a big step up to make her stakes debut in the race for trainer Tom Albertrani, but has built up a following in her two career starts at the meet. The roan/gray homebred by Hard Spun won her debut going six furlongs on Jan. 22 by 6 ¼ lengths and came back to score by 4 ½ lengths going a mile in an ‘a other than’ allowance on Feb. 25.
Trainer Michael Matz has a solid contender in the Gulfstream Oaks in Helen Groves’ And Why Not with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Gulfstream Park Publicity contributed to this report.
Grace Hall/NYRA photo