By Andrew Morisch
The 2016 edition of the $200,000 Davona Dale (GII) drew a field of seven for the co-main event on Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park. Undefeated Cathryn Sophia headlines the group with plenty of hype surrounding her. Not only has the daughter of Street Boss demolished her competition by a whopping total of 34 1/2 lengths in her three career starts, but there are also elements to her races that suggest that she will continue to progress.
In her last race, the Forward Gal (GII), Cathryn Sophia broke a step slowly and had to come from off the pace. She was able to rally while not being asked and finished under a hand ride in 1:22.04 for the seven-furlong event. The ability to rate and come from off the pace is something that she had not shown in her previous two races. She also owns a win over the local strip.
In fact, the only question about Cathryn Sophia on Saturday is: Can she stay the mile distance of the Davona Dale? (She’s never gone that far.)
If the answer to that question is “no,” there is sure to be value scattered among the remaining six horses in the field. One of those fillies is the lightly-raced Dearest.
Dearest is coming off a nice optional claiming win in her last start over the local strip, in which she secured an 88 Beyer speed figure — the second-best last-race Beyer number in the field, behind only Cathryn Sophia, who recorded a 91 in her previous outing.
Dearest improved her Beyer by 18 points that day from her previous maiden-breaking performance. I have more questions regarding Dearest than I do Cathryn Sophia, however:
- Did the “good” track aid her performance in her last race? Perhaps she liked the wet ground and freaked in her last race or perhaps she is just a rapidly improving three-year-old, which is the norm this time of the year.
- Can she get the distance? She has only sprinted in her first two starts, but she was able to gut out a stretch duel and finish willingly in her latest.
- Will she be involved in a speed duel with the other early runners in the race? The pace should be zippy and from what we have seen so far she should be on or right off of the pace. She has a chance to pounce at a price if she is able to rate a little further back today.
R Girls a Charmer has an outside chance as well. As with the others we have talked about so far, sprinting has been her thing thus far. She looks like the speed of the speed in this field, and if she is left alone on the front end it might be good night Irene. Her credentials do not scream upset, but her style makes her feel scary to me at a price. Do not forget her if you are trying to beat Sophia.
I think Lewis Bay has a puncher’s chance to win as well. Her style fits if there is a pace meltdown. I would have liked to have seen the daughter of Preakness champ Bernardini race this year before tackling Cathryn Sophia on a track that the latter just won over, but Lewis Bay will definitely get the distance and has an impressive pedigree.
Thrilled comes into this race as a great unknown. The price will be great. Bettors get a prolific jockey, a prolific trainer, a prolific owner, a prolific sire… they do not get a horse in great form.
If you take a shot with Thrilled, you know you will get the very best performance possible. The question to ask is: What kind of performance is her best? She is adding blinkers for her 2016 debut, but has raced just once on dirt, recording a mediocre 68 Beyer figure while coming out of the same last race as Lewis Bay (the Grade II Demoiselle).
She seems to be working well for the race and could fire big off a short (91-day) layoff. But how big is big? Pletcher’s charges don’t go off as longshots very often — and for good reason. Still, I will not be shocked if Thrilled fires on Saturday.
Bagema and Rontos Lily round out the field.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Drew Morisch, aka “Drew Mo” or the “Bloghorse,” has been an avid sports fan since he was born. Growing up in Nebraska, it was easy for him to fall in love with football and horse racing. He became a huge horse racing fan by attending Ak-Sar-Ben race track before its gates closed (sadly) for the last time in 1995.
Horses such as Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Black Tie Affair, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and local favorite Who Doctor Who all graced the dirt at Ak-Sar-Ben and helped power Drew’s passion for the Sport of Kings.
Drew has other passions to go along with horse racing. He is a big Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. You will usually find him tailgating at some undisclosed location on game days. Drew loves crunching numbers and analyzing data. Whether it’s PE ratios on stocks, speed figures in horse racing, or assist-to-turnover ratios in basketball, there is no such thing as too much information in his book. Drew also plays fantasy sports.
You can reach Drew at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @thebloghorse.