Like her sire, Curlin, Spice Is Nice was a runaway winner at first asking over Gulfstream Park’s main track. That 12-length romp on Jan. 12 punched her ticket to Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) over the same 1-mile distance.
One of the few fillies nominated early to the Triple Crown, Spice Is Nice already carried high expectations having sold for slightly more than $1 million as a yearling. She can claim a spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a win here, as the Davona Dale offers qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four placers.
However, Spice Is Nice will need to get past Tonalist’s Shape, who brings a 4-for-4 mark into the race, including back-to-back wins in the 7-furlong Forward Gal (G3) and the 1-mile Hut Hut S. by a combined margin of 12 3/4 lengths.
“After the Hut Hut, we said we were going to give her a break,” said trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “We looked at the calendar and the Forward Gal looked like a good spot to start her back up. It was seven-eighths. I don’t think she wants to be doing that, but we thought it would be a good spot to start off her 3-year-old campaign, and it worked out well.
“We think stretching back out in distance is going to help her. She has a lot of stamina.”
Bayerness went 2-for-2 in Kentucky last fall and makes her stakes debut for Cherie DeVaux here, while Reluctant Bride tries dirt for the first time after running sixth in the Sweetest Chant (G3) on turf. She has a dirt-oriented pedigree, by Speightstown and out of Sassy Image.
Nikki and Papa was a credible third in the Forward Gal in her career debut and is eligible to improve.
Sweetest Chant winner Cheermeister is among a dozen 3-year-old fillies in the $150,000 Herecomesthebride (G3) over 1 1/16 miles on the turf, which is a potential rebound spot for Natalma (G1) heroine Abscond, who managed to rally for third in the Jan. 4 Ginger Brew S. after stumbling at the start.
Others likely to garner support include In a Hurry and Witez, one-two in a Jan. 31 allowance