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Dreaming of Julia tops short field in Davona Dale

Dreaming of Julia looks to regain the winning thread (NYRA/Adam Coglianese)
Only four fillies have signed on to challenge Grade 1 Frizette heroine Dreaming of Julia in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Davona Dale on the Fountain of Youth undercard at Gulfstream Park. As with the Fountain of Youth for the Kentucky Derby hopefuls, the Davona Dale is part of the next stage on the new scoring system for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, with the winner now receiving 50 points.

Dreaming of Julia, who suffered her first loss when third in the November 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last out, will meet Ruthless stakes winner Lady Banks and a trio of stakes debutantes -- Private Ensign, Live Lively and Twice Told Tale.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Dreaming of Julia was an effortless winner of her first two starts, a sprint maiden at Saratoga and the Meadow Star at Belmont, by a combined margin of 26 3/4 lengths. The Stonestreet Stables homebred flashed more speed than typical for a daughter of A.P. Indy, likely due to the influence of her dam, multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Dream Rush.

Dreaming of Julia had her first real battle in the October 6 Frizette, held over the same one-turn mile as her jaunt in the Meadow Star. This time, she was engaged throughout by My Happy Face, and had to dig deep to prevail by a head. Dreaming of Julia stretched out to two turns in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, where she raced off the pace for the first time and plugged on for an inspiring third, beaten more than five lengths by champion Beholder. The 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale marks her second try at a route, and she will break from the middle of the field (post 3) beneath a returning John Velazquez.

"She's always been a good work horse, one that enjoys her training on a daily basis," Pletcher said of the 122-pound highweight, who will be spotting six pounds to each of her rivals. "She puts a lot into everything she does. Hopefully, we've done enough with her to have her ready off the bench, but she's given us every indication that she's ready to go."

Private Ensign, another A.P. Indy blueblood, is the only entrant with a win at this distance. A sharp maiden winner despite encountering trouble in a 1 1/16-mile event here on December 26, the Dale Romans filly made it two in a row in an entry-level allowance on January 25. Private Ensign signaled her readiness for the challenge with a bullet five-furlong drill in 1:00 at Palm Meadows Monday, best of 26 works at the trip. The descendant of unbeaten Hall of Famer Personal Ensign has drawn the rail with Javier Castellano.

Lady Banks will be making her two-turn debut as well as her first start away from Aqueduct. Runner-up to Davona Dale foe Live Lively in her unveiling, Lady Banks went on to win her next two sprinting six furlongs over the inner track, a December 14 maiden and the January 12 Ruthless. That prompted trainer James "Chuck" Lawrence to ship her south to Palm Meadows, where she breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 on Monday.

"I think she'll get the distance because she doesn't run until you ask her to," Lawrence said. "I've thought from the beginning that she was very classy. She came out of the Ruthless with a little piece of gravel in a foot from that muddy track, but she's over that everything has gone right since then."

The Successful Appeal filly, now running in the name of trainer Raymond Lawrence Sr., is drawn just to the inside of Dreaming of Julia in post 2.

Live Lively crushed a seven-furlong allowance here on New Year's Day, flashing high speed and ultimately crossing the wire 11 1/4 lengths in front. The Mark Hennig-trained daughter of Medaglia d'Oro promises to seize the initiative early with Joel Rosario.

Twice Told Tale has won her past two sprinting at Gulfstream, on each occasion closing from well off a frenetic pace to get up in time by a half-length. The Ralph Nicks pupil hopes to be as effective against a higher grade of opposition, and over a route of ground.

Data Link is the 123-pound highweight in the Canadian Turf (Benoit Photos)
In between the Davona Dale and Fountain of Youth, Data Link and a supporting cast of older turf milers will contest the Grade 3, $150,000 Canadian Turf. Since his late-running third in last year's edition, Data Link has kept improving for Shug McGaughey. The son of War Front captured the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile, Grade 2 Monmouth in course-record time and the Grade 2 Citation Handicap in his latest on November 23. Data Link limbered up with a bullet half-mile in :48 on the fast main track at Payson Park Monday, and will team up with Castellano in his five-year-old bow.

Howe Great was undefeated over the Gulfstream turf last winter, including wins in the Grade 3 Palm Beach and Kitten's Joy, and he aims to improve his local mark to four-for-four. The Graham Motion charge didn't have as much success elsewhere, but did garner the Jersey Derby and placed in the Grade 2 American Turf, Grade 3 Hill Prince and Grade 2 Del Mar Derby. Shelved after an uncharacteristic last of seven in the Grade 1 Jamaica on October 6, Howe Great will be venturing outside his own age group for the first time.

Others to note in the grassy mile are Za Approval and Joes Blazing Aaron, who were separated by a nose in a January 5 allowance here; Beau Choix, a course-and-distance allowance winner on February 1; and Cash Rules, who switches to turf after a productive fall and winter on dirt, capped by a best-of-the-rest effort behind Ron the Greek in the January 19 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic.

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