HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Swilcan Stable’s Vequist, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2020, stands out among 30 nominees as she is poised to launch her sophomore season in the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) Saturday, Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
The one-mile Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies is among eight stakes, seven graded, on a spectacular program supporting the $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) for 3-year-olds, and serves as the next step for sophomore females on the road to the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 27.
Last year’s Gulfstream Park Oaks was won by Swiss Skydiver, who would go on to defeat males in the 145th Preakness Stakes (G1) and win the Alabama (G1) en route to the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.
Trained by Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr., Vequist broke her maiden in her second start – a 9 ½-length romp in the seven-furlong Spinaway (G1) last summer at Saratoga. From there, the daughter of 2016 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist ran second in the one-mile Frizette (G1) and captured the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 6 at Keeneland by two lengths.
Vequist has spent the winter in South Florida, posting four works at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. Her most recent came Feb. 13, when she went five furlongs in 59.65 seconds, second-fastest of 30 horses.
Trained and co-owned by Timothy Hamm, Dayoutoftheoffice is also nominated to the Davona Dale. She broke her maiden sprinting 4 ½ furlongs last May at Gulfstream, then won the Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga and beat Vequist in the Frizette before suffering her first loss when second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Others prominent among Davona Dale nominees are Ken McPeek-trained stablemates Simply Ravishing and Crazy Beautiful, 1-2 finishers in the Alcibiades (G1) last fall at Keeneland; trainer Todd Pletcher’s undefeated duo of Zaajel, winner of the Jan. 30 Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream, and Malathaat, yet to race at 3 after capturing the Tempted and Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct; and stakes winners Adios Trippi, Competitive Speed, Curlin’s Catch, Dreaming of Drew, Gulf Coast, No Mo’ Spending, Oliviaofthedesert and Quinoa Tifah.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, pointing Holy Bull (G3) winner Greatest Honour to the Fountain of Youth, also has Performer among 18 nominees to the $200,000 WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) for 4-year-olds and up on the main track. Grade 1-placed Performer’s two Grade 3 wins include the Fred Hooper Jan. 23 at Gulfstream.
Claimer-turned Grade 1-winner Math Wizard is also nominated, along with multiple graded-stakes winner Tax, cross-nominated in the Mac Diarmida but yet to run on turf; Eye of a Jedi, second in the Hooper and Harlan’s Holiday (G3) this winter; Sunshine Classic winner Last Judgment; Mr Freeze, winner of the Fayette (G2) and second in the Pegasus World Cup last year; 2020 Hooper winner Phat Man and War Stopper.
Twenty-nine older horses were nominated to the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) going 1 3/8 miles on the turf, 11 of them by Mike Maker, who captured the past two editions of the race with Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) winner Zulu Alpha. Among his contingent are Grade 1 winner Aquaphobia; Bemma’s Boy, winner of last year’s Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream; Cross Border, most recently third in the Pegasus Turf Jan. 23; and Tide of the Sea and Temple, 1-2 in Gulfstream’s W.L. McKnight (G3) Jan. 23.
Pletcher nominated Pegasus Turf winner Colonel Liam and War Stopper, a two-time winner on dirt during the Championship Meet. Multi-millionaire Sadler’s Joy won the Mac Diarmida in 2018 and most recently ran fourth in the McKnight to open his 8-year-old season. Graded-stakes winners Admiralty Pier, Admission Office, Eons and Spooky Channel are also on the list of nominees.
Colonel Liam is also one of 23 horses nominated to the $125,000 Canadian Turf (G3) for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles, along with Largent, the Dec. 12 Fort Lauderdale (G2) winner, and 2020 Appleton (G3) winner Social Paranoia, who respectively ran second and fourth behind their stablemate in the Pegasus Turf.
Fillies and mares 4 and up will contest the $125,000 The Honey Fox (G3) going one mile and the $125,000 The Very One (G3), contested at 1 3/16 miles. Got Stormy, a multiple Grade 1 winner of more than $2 million, and Marshua’s River (G3) winner Zofelle top 27 Honey Fox nominees, while the 22 The Very One noms include Always Shopping, who became a graded winner on turf and dirt with her victory in the Jan. 23 La Prevoyante (G3) going 1 ½ miles.
Aside from the Fountain of Youth, sophomores will share the spotlight in the $100,000 Herecomesthebride (G3) for fillies and the $100,000 Palm Beach, both at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Gulfstream stakes winners Con Lima, Quinoa Tifah and Spanish Loveaffair are among 20 Herecomesthebride nominees, while the Palm Beach attracted 22 nominations led by Kitten’s Joy (G3) winner Chess’s Dream.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Fire At Will and Tarantino, second in the Holy Bull (G3) in his dirt debut, are also nominated to the Palm Beach but are being pointed to the Fountain of Youth.
Photo: Vequist (Janet Garaguso)