Grace Hall tops Grade II Delaware Oaks
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and the Elkstone Group’s Grace Hall top the Grade II Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park this Saturday. The mile-and-a-sixteenth $400,000 filly classic has attracted a field of seven.
In her most recent, the locally-based daughter of Empire Maker, who broke her maiden at Delaware Park in her career debut on July 11, 2011, finished third in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4. The winner of the Kentucky Oaks, Believe You Can, and the second-place finisher, Broadway’s Alibi, also broke their maidens at Delaware Park in 2011.
“It really is a small world, I mean who would have thought the three fillies that broke their maidens at Delaware Park would have come back the following year and ran one-two-three in the Kentucky Oaks,” said Grace Hall’s trainer Anthony Dutrow. “It is a small world. In the Kentucky Oaks, we did not have any excuses. She went into the race very well and obviously she ran well against the best fillies in training.”
Previously, Grace Hall won the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks by 6½ lengths on March 31. In her only other outing this year, she finished second in Grade II Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 25. In her most recent workout, she breezed four furlongs at Delaware Park in :47 on July 8.
“Grace Hall is doing great,” Dutrow said. “She could not be doing better. We feel she is coming into the Oaks in excellent shape in every way. She was very impressive in her last workout on Sunday.”
Last year, after breaking her maiden in her career debut at Delaware Park, Grace Hall followed with a victory in the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga, a win in the $75,000 Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware Park and a second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. She has a career record of four wins, two seconds and a third from seven starts, with earnings of $900,000.
Dutrow has also entered Green Lantern Stables Wicked Mizz in the Delaware Oaks. In her most recent, the daughter of Mizzen Mast notched a 2¼-length in the $75,000 Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware Park on June 9. Previously, the Florida-bred ran second in the $75,000 Limit Stakes at Aqueduct on March 14. She sports a career record of two wins, a second and a third from four starts, with earnings of $92,000.
Dutrow was not surprised by her effort in the Go For Wand Stakes. His only surprise was her paying $16.20 for win.
“We thought Wicked Mizz was improving and was going to run a good race that day,” said Anthony Dutrow. “She had good form, she was lightly raced, but I am not sure why she did not have more bet on her.”
After the Delaware Oaks both horses could be pointed for stakes at Saratoga later this summer.
“If everything goes as planned, Grace Hall will point for the Alabama at Saratoga,” Dutrow said. “As far as Wicked Mizz, she has a lot to prove, and we are hopeful she will.”
Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the 2010 Delaware Oaks and the 2011 Delaware Handicap with Blind Luck, has entered Steve Beneto’s Via Villaggio. After 11 starts in California, the Delaware Oaks will be the East Coast debut for the daughter of Bernadini. In her most recent, the Kentucky-bred ran third in the Grade II Hollywood Oaks on June 23. Previously, she won the Grade III Railbird Stakes. She has a career record of three wins, three seconds and three thirds from 11 starts, with earnings of $139,070.
“She seems to be coming around now and she has run nice races in her last two,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “Her last two races were on artificial surfaces, but we want to try her on the dirt. I would rather try her on the dirt instead of the turf. Most of the races for her at Del Mar would be on the turf, as matter of fact of all of them. I know we are meeting a tough filly (Grace Hall), but I wanted to try Via Villaggio in this spot. The timing and the conditions fits with what I want to do with her now. So if she does run well on the dirt, then it would open up a lot more options for her.”
In 2008, Hollendorfer won his first Delaware Handicap with Hysterical Lady.