Horse racing fans were spoiled in the 1970’s, basking in three Triple Crown winners (Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed), shooting stars like Ruffian and Spectacular Bid and the gallant exploits of the mighty Forego. Somewhat overshadowed by this bounty of Thoroughbred greatness was a filly whose eight race win streak encompassed not one but two Triple Crowns. Her name was Davona Dale, and she wore the famous red and blue silks of Calumet Farm.
Ask any horse racing fan to list the greatest fillies of all time and they’ll give you Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Ruffian, Personal Ensign, Winx, Derby winners Genuine Risk and Winning Colors, maybe a turfer like Goldikova, Miesque and All Along but very rarely will you see the name “Davona Dale” on that list. Perhaps it was the timing – her career began in October of 1978, after the memorable Affirmed/Alydar rivalry and peaked in 1979 during Spectacular Bid’s own Triple Crown attempt. Perhaps it was her shortened four year old season, again eclipsed by another horse, this time Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk. Whatever the reason, Davona Dale’s sweep of both the National Filly Triple Crown (Kentucky Oaks, Black-eyed Susan, Coaching Club American Oaks) and the New York tiara (Acorn, Mother Goose, CCOA) was nothing short of spectacular.
Owned by Calumet Farm, Davona Dale was a homebred by Best Turn and out of Royal Entrance. A pretty bay filly with intelligent eyes, Davona Dale was sweet-natured and kind. She shared not only the same owner as Alydar but also the same jockey, Jorge Velasquez, and trainer, John Veitch. Unlike Alydar who Veitch claimed was the source of his hair loss, the filly was a dream to train and as the distances grew longer, she only got better.
A big, long-striding filly, Davona Dale only raced twice as a two year old, winning both. After a fourth place finish in the Tropical Park Derby against colts and a second to Candy Éclair in the Shirley Jones, Davona Dale embarked on what would become an incredible eight race win streak at six separate racetracks. After turning the tables on Candy Éclair in the Bonnie Miss, Davona Dale then added the Debutante and Fantasy Stakes to her tally. Next, it was off to Churchill Downs for the prestigious Kentucky Oaks, which she won by four and a half lengths. Two weeks later she added the Black-eyed Susan to her crown and a mere eight days after that, she romped in the Mother Goose by ten. The mile and a half Coaching Club American Oaks proved to be no challenge for the stamina-packed filly and she crushed her competitors by eight lengths. With her victory in the CCOA, Davona Dale had accomplished what no other filly before had done before and none have achieved since – win both filly Triple Crowns. She had avenged her stablemate Alydar’s loss in the previous year’s Triple Crown, twice over.
It was Saratoga, the famous Graveyard of Champions, that proved to be her undoing. After a second place finish to It’s In The Air in the Alabama, Davona Dale was entered against colts in the Travers. But it wasn’t just any Travers, it was General Assembly’s Travers where he seemed to channel the spirit of his great sire, Secretariat, humiliating the field to the tune of fifteen lengths. Davona Dale struggled home a badly beaten fourth. In her final start of the year, the Maskette she finished a disappointing fourth. Nevertheless, she was awarded the Eclipse Award for Champion Three Year Old Filly of 1979.
Plagued by ankle and tendon injuries, Davona Dale had an abbreviated four year old campaign. After finishing third in an allowance race, she rebounded with a win in the Ballerina Stakes. It appeared that the Davona Dale of old had returned and the fans made her the favorite for what would be the filly race of 1980 – the Maskette. These were the days before the Breeder’s Cup so there was no BC Distaff or any designated championship filly race. But in 1980 the Maskette became the Distaff, luring a dream lineup of Bold N Determined, Genuine Risk, Love Sign and Davona Dale. Sadly, the Davona Dale who competed in the Maskette wasn’t the same Davona Dale who had rattled off those eight consecutive victories the previous year, folding in the stretch to finish fourth. The victor was the aptly named Bold N Determined who held off a game Genuine Risk by a nose. Davona Dale retired after the Maskette with a race record of 11 wins, 2 seconds, and a third in 18 starts, earning $641,612.
Davona Dale was a disappointment as a broodmare, producing no stakes winners. She had a total of twelve foals with six winners, three of them stakes-placed. Her best offspring was Le Voyageur who finished third in the 1989 Belmont behind Easy Goer. She was inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame in 1985 and died in 1997.
Our own Jonathan Stettin has fond memories of Davona Dale and saw her race live many times. Check out the excerpt below from Jon’s bio on the site and click on the link to read the whole story.
After studying the Form all morning, Jonathan’s opinion differed from the masses. It wasn’t just any opinion either; He was beaming with confidence. He believed the problem was not in beating Davona Dale with Harbor View Farms It’s In the Air, which the Form told him was faster and would have the lead all the way around, but how to have enough money to bet to make it count.
“You don’t see many fillies run in the Alabama and come back and run in the Travers…” Jonathan Stettin #P6K
Photo: Bob Coglianese, NYRA