02/21/2013 2:33PM

Gulfstream Park: Live Lively may be viable alternative to Davona Dale favorite Dreaming of Julia


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Dreaming of Julia is the marquee name in Saturday’s $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the main reason the Grade 2 stakes drew a field of only five 3-year-old fillies. But the heavy favorite could have her hands full with the up and coming Live Lively, a lightly raced but extremely promising daughter of Medaglia d’Oro who will try to stretch her speed out around two turns for the first time.

The 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale serves as a prep for Gulfstream Park’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Florida Oaks, on March 30.

Live Lively has posted back-to-back victories for owner Lee Lewis and trainer Mark Hennig since opening her career finishing third going 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont in late June. Live Lively kicked off her 3-year-old campaign here on New Year’s Day with an eye-catching, wire-to-wire, 11-length entry-level optional $75,000 claiming win during which she posted quarter-mile and half-mile fractions of 22.42 and 44.96 seconds before completing seven furlongs in 1:23.14 while winning with something left.

“Obviously, Dreaming of Julia is the horse to beat but we’re excited to run our filly in this race,” said Hennig. “Everything has gone really well in her preparation since her last start. This is a natural stepping-stone for her, and we’re just hoping we get a good result.”

Hennig said he purposely waited for the Davona Dale rather than giving Live Lively another prep in the Forward Gal.

“I didn’t want to put too much sprint on her mind by going in the Forward Gal,” said Hennig. “She’s obviously quick enough and our ultimate goal has been to stretch her out. I was actually surprised to see how much speed she showed last time. I don’t think she’ll have a problem handling the two turns, and the fact we got a short field, considering her relative inexperience, is to our advantage. But like with anything else you try for the first time, you never know until they’ve done it.”

Live Lively will break from post 4, directly outside Dreaming of Julia, with regular rider Joel Rosario aboard.

Dreaming of Julia will carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Davona Dale, conceding six pounds to her four rivals, by virtue of her victory in the Grade 1 Frizette at 2. She has not started since finishing third, 5 1/4 lengths behind Beholder, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“Considering how speed-favoring the track was and how far back early she was, I thought she actually ran very well in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains the homebred Dreaming of Julia for Stonestreet Stables. “I was a little surprised the field came up so short for this race but she is training well and when she’s good, she’s very good.”

Like Live Lively, Private Ensign, Lady Banks, and Twice Told Tale all have won their last two starts.

Private Ensign is the only member of the field aside from Dreaming of Julia with experience around two turns, having won her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles in her 2-year-old finale.

Lady Banks ships in from New York off a two-length victory in the six-furlong Ruthless Stakes on Jan. 12.

Twice Told Tale is perfect in two starts over the track, overcoming a slow start to register a half-length victory in a first-level optional $75,000 claiming race at six furlongs in her first try against winners on Jan. 21.