03/29/2012 2:53PM

Gulfstream: Grace Hall should appreciate longer distance of Gulfstream Oaks

Barbara D. Livingston
Grace Hall will be favored to snap a two-race losing streak in the Gulfstream Oaks.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Grace Hall did everything expected of her but win the Grade 2 Davona Dale when she launched her 3-year-old campaign here at Gulfstream Park earlier this winter. On Saturday, the runner-up in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies will be favored to get back to the winner’s circle when she takes on seven other 3-year-old fillies in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks, which highlights the undercard on the 13-race Florida Derby day program.

Grace Hall launched her career with three consecutive victories for trainer Anthony Dutrow that included a 1 3/4-length triumph in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Spinaway. She ended her 2-year-old season chasing home division champion My Miss Aurelia in the BC Juvenile Fillies. Grace Hall has spent the winter at Palm Meadows, where everything has gone according to plan thus far, according to Dutrow, whose first major objective this season for his filly is the Kentucky Oaks.

Grace Hall was the 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale but ultimately fell short by a neck to the 64-1 Yara following a near race-long duel.

“Outside of losing, I was extremely happy about everything she did in the Davona Dale,” said Dutrow. “And I couldn’t dream for things to have gone any better since that race. We’re very happy drawing a little further outside for this race, it looks like we should be sitting well on the outside with something to run at. Naturally, I’m a little worried about her having to go a mile and one-eighth for the first time but her pedigree says the extra distance should be a good thing.”

The competition in the Oaks will be even stronger than in the Davona Dale for Grace Hall, who not only must square off again against Yara and third-place finisher Captivating Lass but also against the undefeated and untested Zo Impressive.

“The horse who beat us last time has to be respected and so does the grey filly of Mrs. [Charlotte] Weber,” said Dutrow, referring to Zo Impressive. “I’ve seen her train and watched her race and she’s very good. But we really couldn’t be happier with our filly and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody coming into the race.”

About the only thing for certain about the Oaks is that Yara will not be 64-1 again when she breaks from the rail under jockey Jesus Castanon following her game but unexpected victory over Grace Hall in the Davona Dale. Unexpected by all, that is, but her trainer, Jose Garofalo.

“It will be a different situation this time. Everybody will be paying attention to my filly now,” said Garofalo. “I knew the Davona Dale was tough but I had confidence in my horse because of the distance and the extra half-furlong on Saturday should be even better for her.”

Zo Impressive, a daughter of Hard Spun, has won her first two starts by a combined 10 3/4 lengths, including an entry-level allowance race with relative ease over In Lingerie, a Todd Pletcher-trained filly who returned to dominate the Bourbonette last weekend at Turfway Park.

“It’s a big step up but we’ve got to give her a chance and the way Todd’s filly won the other day has to give us even more confidence,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains Zo Impressive for Live Oak Plantation. “Hopefully she’ll take another step up this week and can make it to the Kentucky Oaks.”

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