Edited Gulfstream Staff Release – John Ropes’ Dorth Vader won’t be able to sneak up on anyone when she runs in next Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) presented by FanDuel TV, certainly not after pulling off a startling 46-1 upset victory in the March 4 Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Not only did she win the seven-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the daughter of Girven also thoroughly dominated her rivals by 4 ¾ lengths, providing veteran Florida trainer Michael Yates with the first graded-stakes success of his career in the process.”
“It was very rewarding. I was happier for the team that helps me do it on a day-to-day basis. We have a smaller number of horses and we’re chasing Ferraris with Chevrolets a lot of times,” Yates said. “It’s exciting to get horses that can compete at that level. We don’t have that many opportunities at that level. It’s very rewarding.”
Dorth Vader was rated third at 4-1 on the morning line for the Gulfstream Park Oaks after drawing Post 8 in a field of eight fillies.
A highly respected breeder, owner and trainer, Yates has enjoyed considerable stakes success during his career, primarily with Florida-bred horses racing in Florida-bred and Florida Sire Stakes races. He had reason to believe Dorth Vader would add to that success during her early training.
“She had worked well prior to her first race. I was obviously excited to get her started and then she stumbled really bad coming out of the gate and lost all chance. Miguel [Vasquez] was on her for her first start. She was in an outside post and went to her nose and he took care of her. She tired, but she came out of it well and trained well, and I ran her back kind of quick,” Yates said. “I might note the owner questioned me about that. I think my response was, ‘I’m accustomed to making unpopular decisions.’ Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m not.”
Dorth Vader proved her trainer right while graduating in her second start two weeks later Aug. 21 in a 5 ½-furlong maiden race for Florida-breds at Gulfstream. After missing the first two legs of the Florida Sire Stakes series for 2-year-olds, Dorth Vader was then entered in the final leg, the $400,000 My Dear Girl, at the Gulfstream Park Oaks distance of 1 1/16 miles. She finished a distant third.
“We were kind of up against it with the calendar. With every Florida-bred that looks like they can compete in those races, as long as your horse is sound and doing good, you have to try. She obviously wasn’t very mature at the time. She really wasn’t ready for the mile and a sixteenth in my opinion, but she ran creditable that day and got a nice check,” Yates said. “I would have liked to have gotten her started a little early and had her a little more up to the task for the three races. But they way things turned out – everything happens for a reason.”
Dorth Vader went on to win the seven-furlong Juvenile Filly Sprint for Florida-breds at Gulfstream and the six-furlong Sandpiper at Tampa Bay Downs in her next two starts, before prepping for the Davona Dale in the seven-furlong Gasparilla, in which she faded to sixth after being involved in pace duel. She bounced back in spectacular fashion in the Davona Dale, earning 50 qualifying points for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The Gulfstream Park Oaks, one off 10 stakes on a card headlined by the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, will offer and additional 200 points for the first five finishers with 100 going to the winner.
Miguel Vasquez has the return mount aboard Dorth Vader, who is eligible to share in $50,000 bonus offered the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, and an addition $50,000 bonus offered to Florida Sire Stakes-eligible horses.
Dorth Vader will have the opportunity to avenge her loss in the My Dear Girl Saturday. Atomically, who was 11 lengths clear off the Yates trainee in the FSS final, is scheduled to seek a return to winning form in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Purchased privately by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Bernard, and Harry Colburn following her FSS win, Atomically finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland in her next start. She came back to finish third in the Feb. 4 Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream.
“She’s doing well. We’re looking forward to getting her around two turns. She’s had some success at Gulfstream in the past, so we’re hoping she can make another move forward,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She’s a very laid-back filly, very easy to train, very straightforward. She just kind of does her job, does what you ask her to do. She’s a pretty honest filly.”
Pletcher will also saddle WinStar Farm LLC and Siena Farm LLC’s Miracle, a New York-bred daughter of Mendelsohn. Miracle’s first four starts came against state-breds, winning at first asking before placing in three straight one-turn New York-bred stakes. She stepped into graded-stakes company in her 2023 debut Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds, where she set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra (G2) before finishing second, less than a length behind victorious Pretty Mischievous.
“She’s coming off a very good effort at Fair Grounds and she has trained well for this,” Pletcher said.
Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard Atomically, who is rated second at 7-2 on the morning-line, while Irad Ortiz Jr. is named to ride Miracle, the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
AMO Racing USA’s Affirmative Lady will enter the Gulfstream Oaks off a maiden victory, but the Graham Motion trainee also brings a solid stakes resume into the race. The daughter of Arrogate finished third and fourth in a pair of one-turn maiden races to start her career before finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct Dec. 3, beaten by just a neck. She came back to finish third in the 1 1/8-mile Busanda Jan. 14 at Aqueduct before graduating at Gulfstream Park in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race by 2 ¼ lengths Feb. 26.
Luis Saez has the return call aboard the $400,000 purchase at the 2022 OBS April sale.
Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swibank Stables and partners’ Sacred Wish, a four-length maiden winner at Oaklawn in her second career start, is scheduled to make her first start for trainer George Weaver in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Diamond 100 Racing Club LLC and partners’ Infinite Diamond, who finished fourth in the Davona Dale, R T Racing Stable’s Just Katherine, who graduated in her third career start at Gulfstream March 4; and BC Racing LLC’s Flakes, a winner of two of three starts; round out the field