Curtis Mikkelsen’s Cajun Delta Dawn snuck up on the bettors, as well as her rivals, while winning the first four starts of her career, including the first two legs of the 2016 Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series at Gulfstream Park. The 2-year-old daughter of Kantharos has done nothing but win, but the David Fawkes-trained filly has achieved all of her success as an underdog of sorts.
Cajun Delta Dawn will be the horse to beat in her bid for a FSS Sweep Saturday at Gulfstream, but it will be the first time that she goes to post as the favorite, should the bettors finally make her their choice over 12 others to win the $ 500,000 My Dear Girl.
“This time, I think she’ll be the favorite. I hope that doesn’t jinx her,” said Fawkes with a chuckle.
The 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl will be Cajun Delta Dawn’s first test around two turns, an assignment made more difficult Wednesday when she drew the No. 13 post. Cajun Delta Dawn is the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
After winning her first three starts by a combined margin of less than a length, Cajun Delta Dawn broke through with a dominating five-length victory in the $ 300,000 FSS Susan’s Girl, in which she demonstrated more early interest and won comfortably by open lengths under Juan Leyva.
“Juan and I were talking before the race, and I said, ‘Don’t change anything.” He said, ‘But maybe they won’t go.’ I said, ‘Maybe you don’t want to be on the front end necessarily,’” Fawkes said. “She broke good, and he let her go. I think she was very comfortable there. She drew off and she hadn’t been doing that. That was the first time she drew off.”
In her June 10 debut, she dueled with the 3-5 favorite and gutted it out to prevail by a neck at 5-1 in a five-furlong maiden special weight race. Sent to post as a 18-1 longshot for the 4 ½-furlong Cassidy Stakes July 2, Cajun Delta Dawn saved ground while stalking the pace before driving along the rail to score by a half-length. In the six-furlong $ 200,000 FSS Desert Vixen Aug. 6, the 3-1 second choice chased the early pacesetters before launching an outside drive that carried her to another game victory by a neck. In the $ 300,000 FSS Susan’s Girl Sept. 3, the Florida-bred filly asserted herself as the 5-2 second choice.
Should Cajun Delta Dawn prevail in the My Dear Girl, she would become only the second filly to emerge from the FSS series undefeated, joining Awesome Feather, who swept the 2010 series before capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and an Eclipse Award.
Cajun Delta Dawn’s early success had taken Fawkes somewhat by surprise.
“She did surprise me, especially the second race. A maiden (win) is one thing, but when you come back and win a stake like that in her second start, that was impressive,” Fawkes said.
“With her mindset, it won’t be a problem at all,” said Leyva, who has been aboard the undefeated filly for all four starts. “Every race I’ve ridden her, she’s done everything I’ve wanted her to do.”
Fawkes also entered William Rainbow’s Surprise Wedding in the My Dear Girl, encouraged by her handy debut victory in a $ 50,000 maiden claiming event Aug. 24, when the daughter of Hi Cotton overcame a troubled start to draw off by 4 ¾ lengths under Eddie Castro.
“I thought she’d win for fifty, but she was really impressive. There was a maiden special weight race a week later, and she would have won that race,” Fawkes said. “I told the owner that we should really take a chance and run her.”
Stormy Embrace, U S Diva and Sweet Tooth Haven, who finished 2-3-4, respectively, behind Cajun Delta Dawn in the Susan’s Girl are slated to return in the My Dear Girl.
Pinnacle Racing Stable’s Sweet Tooth Haven had earned 1-2 favoritism in the Susan’s Girl on the strength of a most impressive Aug. 20 debut. The Stanley Gold-trained filly registered a front-running victory by 4 ¾ lengths while running six furlongs in 1:10.70.
The daughter of Vineyard Haven was taken just off the pace set by Cajun Delta Dawn in the Susan’s Girl and went on to race evenly in a fourth-place finish.
“I just think the race strategy was not proper. We got beat by a horse that won wire to wire and who was slower than our horse. I think we shouldn’t have taken her out of her game. She had only run one time and she went wire to wire,” said Gold, who has saddled a record 18 Florida Sire Stakes winners. “She was 15 (speed-figure) points faster than the horse that won the race wire to wire, and we took her off the pace for the first time in her life. She didn’t respond the way we were hoping she would. It was all new to her. It’s all hindsight. I know there’s more horse there, and she’s trained well and I think she’ll go the mile and a sixteenth.”
Edgard Zayas has the return mount aboard Sweet Tooth Haven.
Matalona Thoroughbreds’ Stormy Embrace rated off the pace before making an extended rally to finish second, 3 ¾ lengths ahead of third-place finisher U S Diva. The Kathleen O’Connell-trained filly had previously captured a $ 50,000 maiden claiming event by 9 ½ lengths and finished sixth in the Desert Vixen following a troubled start. Luca Panici is scheduled to ride the daughter of Circular Quay for the first time.
U S Diva closed steadily under jockey Jesus Rios to finish third in the Susan’s Girl. The Daniel Pita-trained filly previously had captured her debut in a maiden special weight race and finished third in the Desert Vixen.
Donald Dizney’s Dude Fantasy, a debut winner at Gulfstream Sept. 2, is on a long list of newcomers to the FSS series. The Ralph Nicks-trained daughter of First Dude, who will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, captured her six-furlong debut by 1 ½ lengths.
“I like her chances. She’s very smart and she ran very professionally first time,” Nicks said. “She is a filly that came in and never made any mistakes. She’s been very professional from Day 1. Whatever you asked her to do she did it well.”
Dizney is also scheduled to be represented by Fleet Dude, a Brad Cox-trained daughter of First Dude who graduated at Indiana Grand in her second career start.
Steven Throne’s Larryandpearlslucy, a debut winner at Mountaineer Park last time out for trainer Alex Rendon, has also shipped to Gulfstream for the lucrative FSS finale.
Katinka, Katira, Stop the Drama, Hello Juliet and Grandma Maria round out the field.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2016 Paulick Report.