Having made a successful return to graded company in the first start for her new connections four weeks ago, four-time stakes winner Take Charge Paula faces a new challenge in Saturday's $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 31st running of the one-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies is among nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.5 million in purses on a 14-race program highlighted by the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2). First race post time is 11:30 a.m.
Purchased privately by Peter Deutsch prior to her sophomore debut and sent to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Take Charge Paula ran away from her rivals for a 3 ½-length victory in the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) Feb. 3 at Gulfstream, her first graded triumph in three tries.
It was the third straight win for the daughter of 2012 Florida Derby (G1) winner Take Charge Indy, all in stakes, and second straight at Gulfstream. The Davona Dale will be the second try at a distance of ground for Take Charge Paula, who was bumped and steadied while finishing 10th in the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas (G2) last fall for previous trainer Kelly Breen.
“She had one bad run around two turns but she had a troubled trip that day so we're going to throw that out,” McLaughlin said. “She's a very nice filly and this race will be a good stepping-stone for whatever we do. The one-turn mile should be a good test for us to see whether we go two turns next time or go back to seven furlongs.
“She came out of the last race in great shape,” he added. “She's had two half-mile [works] since and worked very well in both of them. It's a stretch-out, but she just won going seven impressively so we'll give her a chance and see how it goes.”
Former Championship Meet leading rider Paco Lopez, who is spending this winter riding in New York, will ride from Post 6 at topweight of 122 pounds. Lopez has been aboard Take Charge Paula for six of her seven starts, including the past three and all five of her wins.
“She will be forwardly placed,” McLaughlin said. “We like that spot. You stay out of trouble on the lead or near the lead. We hope to be on or near the lead again. If someone goes, we can lay second. Paco knows her well and has a lot of confidence in her. This is another test for her, and the mile is a question mark.”
Two horses with experience at success at the mile distance are Gary Barber's stakes winner Miss Mo Mentum and Phipps Stable's Fly So High, making her stakes debut in the Davona Dale. Miss Mo Mentum, by Uncle Mo, was sixth in the Forward Gal in her sophomore debut after capping her juvenile season with an 8 ¾-length romp in the Hut Hut Dec. 9 – both one mile races at Gulfstream.
Fly So High is trained by Shug McGaughey, who will enter Saturday's program one win shy of 2,000 for his Hall of Fame career. A bay Malibu Moon filly, Fly So High has put together back-to-back wins going a mile at Gulfstream by a combined 13 ¼ lengths, the latter in her first try against winners Jan. 4.
Unraced until late fall, Fly So High came with a rally to be third in her October debut going six furlongs before rolling to a front-running 7 ¾-length maiden special weight score Nov. 16 at Aqueduct and heading south.
“Her first race wasn't that bad; it was just too short and she was kind of in a little bit of trouble but the race did help her. Then she came back and ran off the screen,” McGaughey said. “She shipped down here and I thought she ran fine against winners and she's trained well here. She's a great big filly and I'll be anxious to get her around two turns. This race will be another stepping-stone and we'll be able to run against 3-year-old fillies.
“Once she gets filled out and starts learning where her legs are supposed to go, hopefully by the middle of summer I think is when she'll probably really peak,” he added. “She's good right now but I'm just looking at her and thinking, 'Boy when she kind of catches up to everything, it'll be a lot of fun.' We're looking forward to it.”
Courtlandt Farms' Cache will be making just her second career start in the Davona Dale, exiting a 2 ¾-length debut victory going seven furlongs Jan. 27 at Gulfstream for trainer Mark Hennig. Her win followed by two weeks stablemate and workmate Cypriana's maiden special weight triumph, also for Courtlandt.
“It gave us a lot of confidence going forward with Cache. She and Cypriana had worked together along the way,” Hennig said. “I would have liked to possibly run in an allowance race, but there isn't one to run her in at this point. I think she's a stakes-caliber filly, there's no doubt, but we're giving away a handful of experience. It's a lot to ask of any horse to go from a maiden victory in their first start to run against graded-takes winners in her next start. It takes a pretty special horse to win.”
Also entered in the Davona Dale are Sultry and Heavenhasmynikki, second and fourth, respectively, in the Forward Gal; Grade 2-placed Sunny Skies and recent Gulfstream maiden winner Alter Moon.
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