02/20/2014 3:45PM

Gulfstream Park: Both Pletcher fillies prime contenders in Davona Dale


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Odds are trainer Todd Pletcher will be getting his picture taken following the conclusion of Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. But which 3-year-old filly will Pletcher be posing with in the winner’s circle after the Grade 2 stakes? Will it be the undefeated Onlyforyou or the multiple graded stakes winner Stopchargingmaria?

The Pletcher duo figure to vie for favoritism in the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale, which drew a field of eight that also includes the multiple graded stakes-placed Aurelia’s Belle, the graded stakes-placed Penwith, and stakes winner Holiday Magic.

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If jockey Javier Castellano is a barometer, Onlyforyou gets the edge. Castellano, who is currently well on his way to winning his third straight local riding title, has been the regular rider for both fillies but will be aboard Onlyforyou in the Davona Dale. John Velazquez, who rode Stopchargingmaria when she won her debut last summer at Saratoga, has the mount back again Saturday.

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Onlyforyou is virtually untested in three starts, each of her victories coming by margins ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 lengths. Two of those tallies came here, including a wire-to-wire, 2 3/4-length triumph over Aurelia’s Belle going seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Forward Gal on Jan. 25.

Onlyforyou will attempt to stretch out around two turns for the first time.

“She’s given every indication that the distance will not be an issue. I’m confident she can handle a mile and a sixteenth,” Pletcher said. “She won her first two races from off the pace. Last time, there wasn’t any speed in the race and we didn’t want to take away what came naturally. She can sit off the pace if someone wants to go to the lead, but stretching out from sprints, she should be prominently placed.”

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Stopchargingmaria has not raced since winning the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle by a neck following a stretch duel with Got Lucky and Penwith. In her previous try, Stopchargingmaria drew off to a 10-length victory in the Grade 3 Tempted.

“She’s trained really well, like always,” Pletcher said. “She’s an uncomplicated, straightforward filly. She shows up for every work, every race. She’s lightly made. Hopefully, she’s ready to go a mile and one sixteenth off the layoff. It’s a juggling act, trying to get her fit and not getting her tucked up.”

Aurelia’s Belle gave Onlyforyou a run for her money through midstretch before proving no match in the Forward Gal while easily best of the others. She had finished a distant third behind Pletcher’s filly Sweet Whiskey in the Grade 3 Old Hat in her 3-year-old debut.

Like Onlyforyou, Aurelia’s Belle will be trying to stretch around two turns for the first time.

Penwith returned from her near-miss in the Demoiselle to open her 3-year-old campaign with a hard-fought nose victory going a mile under entry-level allowance conditions here Jan. 2. She will race on Lasix for the first time.

“She’s had plenty of time off since her last start because there was really no place else to run her and the timing is good for this race,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “The further the better for her, so obviously the distance won’t be an issue and hopefully she’ll be able to work out a good stalking trip behind some of the other speed horses in the field.”

House Rules is coming off an impressive 5 3/4-length maiden win going a mile here five weeks ago. She has shown steady improvement for trainer Allen Jerkens as she continues to gain experience. House Rules blew out for the Davona Dale on Thursday, working an easy half-mile from the quarter pole around the clubhouse turn in 50.66 seconds.