HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—Fiona’s Magic and Into Champagne, separated by a half-length in the Davona Dale (Grade 2) four weeks ago, graded stakes-placed Scalable and Ways and Means, and stakes-winner Power Squeeze, riding a three-race win streak, help comprise a competitive edition of the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks presented by FanDuel TV this Saturday (G2).

The 54th running of the mile-and-one-sixteenth Oaks for 3-year-old fillies co-anchors a blockbuster card with a premier Triple Crown prep in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa (G1).  The 14-race card features 10 stakes, including five Graded stakes, with $2.425 million in purses.  First race post time is 11:30 a.m. EDT.

Following the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) on Feb. 3 and one-mile Davona Dale (G2) on March 2, the Oaks completes Gulfstream’s winter series of stakes for 3-year-old fillies and offers 200 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) to the top five finishers on a 100-50-25-15-10 basis.

Stonehedge’s Florida homebred Fiona’s Magic has been first or second in all five of her starts. Her wins include a narrow decision over previously undefeated Into Champagne in the Davona Dale. It was her second start of the year after running second behind multiple stakes-winning Florida-bred R Harper Rose in the Forward Gal.

“She’s going into the race well. She came out of her last race really good and she’s been training really nice,” trainer Michael Yates said. “We’ve pretty much followed the same [plan] going into this race as I did into the last race. We breezed [her] in company and thought [she] worked really well.”

As she had in her previous three starts, Fiona’s Magic raced on or near the lead in the Davona Dale, her longest trip to date. Pressured throughout the race with her lead dwindled to a head at the top of the stretch, she dug in through the lane between horses. Her prior two wins had come by nine-and-a-half combined lengths, including a seven-length maiden triumph in mid-November.

“I thought it was an excellent race,” Yates said. “She showed some grit. She had to dig down to get it done.”

Fiona’s Magic will be stretching out for the sixth straight race in her two-turn debut.

Jorge Ruiz has the call for the first time from post eight of nine, rated at 6-1 on the morning line.

“Obviously I’ve been impressed with her because she’s been going up in class and further out in distance every race,” Yates said. “It’s hard not to like that.”

Fiona’s Magic is by Journeyman Stud’s St Patrick’s Day out of Mollie’s Magic, by Factum and has won three of five career starts with two seconds while earning $250,910.

Six Column Stables, Randall Bloch, Jim Gladden, Mike Davis and Michael Steele’s Into Champagne lost for the first time in three starts in the Davona Dale. She graduated by six-and-three-quarter lengths last June at Ellis Park, then went unraced for 206 days before returning with a length-and-a-quarter triumph in the $100,000 Glitter Woman going six furlongs at Gulfstream on Jan. 7.

“I’m really happy with her this time coming into this race,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “After the last race I just had to take my time with her and that’s why I waited two months. But she came out of that last race going forward, so I was very happy with her.”

After breaking outwardly at the start of the Davona Dale, Into Champagne raced four wide around the turn and was kept outside by regular rider Julien Leparoux in the stretch. She moved to within a head of the lead entering the lane before settling for second, a length-and-three-quarters ahead of previously unbeaten Leslie’s Rose.

Into Champagne is by Into Mischief out of Bedord Land, by Speightstown and she has earned $169, 960 in her three races.

Leparoux has the call again from post five on Into Champagne.

Wilkes previously won the Oaks in 2019 with Champagne Anyone, who also had Six Columns and Bloch as part of the ownership.

The 8-5 program favorite for the Gulfstream Park Oaks is Klaravich Stables Inc.’s homebred Ways and Means, unraced in 211 days after finishing second by a half-length as the favorite in the seven-furlong Spinaway (G1) Sept. 3 at Saratoga, a month following her 12 ¾-length debut triumph there. The bay daughter of Practical Joke shows eight timed breezes since early February at Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., the most recent a four-furlong move in :48 Sunday, second-fastest of 44 horses.

By Practical Joke out of the Warrior’s Reward mare Strong Encentive, Ways and Means has earned $117,000 in her two starts.

Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Ways and Means from post four.

Rounding out the field for the Gulfstream Park Oaks are Power Squeeze with Daniel Centeno named to ride, Do Gooder and jockey Javier Castellano, John Velazquez rides Gun Song, America’s Vow has Paco Lopez up and Scalable carries Jose Ortiz in the irons.

Return to the March 25 issue of Wire to Wire