02/18/2015 12:00PM

Davona Dale’s mile ideal for Eskenformoney

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Eskenformoney is 2 for 2 going a mile, the same distance as Saturday's Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Starlight Racing is hoping that its undefeated Itsaknockout will move one step closer to another Kentucky Derby opportunity for the ownership group with a big performance Saturday in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. A few hours earlier, Star Ladies Racing will have plenty to root for when its up-and-coming Eskenformoney tries to put herself in the Kentucky Oaks picture with a strong effort in the Grade 2 Davona Dale.

Star Ladies was the brainchild of Laurie Wolf and Barbara Lucarelli, whose husbands, Jack Wolf and Don Lucarelli, spearhead Starlight Racing. Eskenformoney is from the first crop of fillies whom Laurie Wolf, Barbara Lucarelli, and their seven partners purchased and got to the races last year.

“We’re a sorority of ladies, and we only race fillies,” said Laurie Wolf, who along with Barbara Lucarelli co-manages Star Ladies. “Obviously, Eskenformoney has been a pleasant surprise the way she’s developed lately. She’s our first major stakes runner, and I’m really excited for all the partners. We’ve been lucky to have been associated with some great fillies, like Ashado, with Starlight but haven’t had one in quite some time, so it’s nice to be on that side of the fence again with this filly.”

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Eskenformoney, a daughter of 2010 Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya, needed six tries to win her maiden, by 9 3/4 lengths, here Dec. 10. She came back five weeks later with an even stronger performance, drawing away to a 3 3/4-length allowance victory, with both of those wins coming at the one-mile distance of the Davona Dale.

“It certainly seems the light has finally gone on for her,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains for both Starlight and Star Ladies. “She’s 2 for 2 going a mile, and it certainly helps with the step up in class that she had a very good foundation at 2. This filly seems to be developing in the same manner as Eskendereya, who got better the summer and fall at 2 and was at his best in his 3-year-old year.”

Eskenformoney is one of three fillies Pletcher entered in the Davona Dale, along with Enchantress and Genre, although he said he likely will run only two of the three. Enchantress finished eighth in the Grade 2 Forward Gal here last month, while Genre is coming out of a fourth-place finish behind Eskenformoney in her 3-year-old debut.

Pletcher, who has won the Davona Dale three times, including last year with Onlyforyou, said he’s hoping Enchantress can trip out better Saturday than she did in the Forward Gal, where she paid the price after contesting a lively pace.

“She was under the gun from the outset and was never able to get into the clear,” Pletcher said of Enchantress. “We feel like her wins both here and at Keeneland were a more accurate assessment of her actual ability. We just need to get the right kind of setup for her.”

The Davona Dale is coming up as equally competitive if not more so than the Fountain of Youth and, like the Forward Gal, figures to feature another honest pace, with the undefeated Jacaranda, Ekati’s Phaeton, and Grade 2 winner Cavorting signed on, along with Enchantress.

Trainer Bill Kaplan once again expects Ekati’s Phaeton to be forwardly placed Saturday. She joined Enchantress to battle for the early lead in the Forward Gal and was the only member of the first flight still in the picture at the end, finishing a solid fourth behind the late-running Birdatthewire and runner-up Lassofthemohicans, both of whom also return in the Davona Dale.

“I thought my filly ran extremely well under the circumstances in the Forward Gal, and I don’t think a mile is beyond her capabilities,” said Kaplan.

Gorgeous Bird blew out an easy half-mile in 52 seconds at Palm Meadows on Wednesday for the Fountain of Youth. The work was the third in 12 days for Gorgeous Bird, an impressive allowance winner in his 3-year-old debut. He also posted a bullet 59.60-second five-furlong clocking Feb. 13. A homered son of Unbridled’s Song, Gorgeous Bird is trained by Ian Wilkes for the Marylou Whitney Stable.