03/13/2010 12:00AM

Diva Delite takes Florida Oaks

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Tom Cooley
With Rosemary Homeister Jr. riding, Diva Delite rallies to a two-length victory in the Florida Oaks.

OLDSMAR, Fla. - Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. did not quite follow the instructions trainer Dave Vivian laid out for her in the paddock before Saturday's at Tampa Bay Downs. And he couldn't have been happier she didn't after Diva Delite rallied to a two-length victory over C C's Pal in the Grade 3 test for 3-year-old fillies.

Vivian wanted Homeister to keep Diva Delite well off the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks. Instead, Homeister, sensing the leaders were going a little too slowly up front, had Diva Delite closer than expected. And she was right as Mallory Square, equiped with blinkers for the first time, set a relatively leisurely pace of 24.79 seconds, 50.03, and 1:14.48 for six furlongs. Homeister swung Diva Delite four wide leaving the turn while commencing her bid, in which she easily wore down the leader near the eighth pole and gradually edged clear to her fifth consecutive victory. C C's Pal, well placed just behind the leaders, slipped along the rail to finish second, a half-length in front of Mallory Square.

The Oaks lost its major attraction after trainer Wayne Catalano decided to scratch his Eclipse Award-winning filly She Be Wild as a result of Friday's heavy rain.

Diva Delite completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.10 and paid $5.80.

"I didn't want her that close to the pace," said Vivian, who owns Diva Delite along with his wife, Barbara, in partnership with Dominic Vittese. "I told Rosemary the further the back the better. I thought the horse from Gulfstream 9 [Cuff Me] would set a fast pace, but she didn't and Rosie was knowledgable enough to get a little closer down the backside. She rode her against the way I wanted her to ride, but I'm not on her back and she is. She rode a good race. A very good race."

Vivian said he would probably give Diva Delite, who had already won the Gasparilla and Suncoast stakes here earlier in the meet, a little break.

"She's run some hard races and been shipping back and forth from Calder," said Vivian. "We'll play it by ear. I think she's better than I think she is, but probably a notch below the kind of fillies who'll run in the Kentucky Oaks. I know she hasn't beaten anybody, but she's got black type, and that makes her worth something now."

Hillsborough: Phola cruises

Phola made short work of a scratch-reduced field of eight older fillies and mares, rallying from off the pace to an easy 4 1/4-length victory over Cure for Sale in the decided over a turf course upgraded from yielding to good during the course of the day. The Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Hillsborough lost much of its luster when the three morning line favorites, Tottie, Mushka, and Lady Shakespeare were all scratched.

Phola, a 4-year-old daughter of a Johannesburg, was returning to stakes company for the first time since her 3-year-old campaign. Unhurried early by jockey Ramon Dominguez, Phola commenced her rally along the inside around the second turn, swung wide to continue her bid into the stretch, readily overtook the leaders near the eighth pole, and drew off at will. Cure for Sale raced within striking distance, rallied four wide into the stretch, but proved no match for the winner while easily second best.

Phola is trained by Todd Pletcher for the partnership of George Saufley, J.J. Pletcher, William and Graydon Patterson and William Robbins. She covered the distance in 1:52.51 and paid $5.80 as the tepid favorite.

Turf Dash: Ness barn goes 1-2

Sneaking Uponyou defeated his stablemate Probation Ready by three lengths to win the $70,000 Turf Dash Stakes, Both horses are trained by Jamie Ness.

Sneaking Uponyou finished full of run down the center of the track to overtake the pacesetting Twiceasbeautiful at midstretch and was not threatened thereafter. Probation Ready, the 7-5 favorite, rallied from near the rear of the pack to finish a neck in front of Twiceasbeautiful to be second in a field of eight grass specialists.

Sneaking Uponyou, a son of Snuck In, ran five furlongs in 58.11 seconds and paid $17.