Friday, October 12, 2012

Breeders' Cup Flashback: Dreaming of Anna

By Mary Cage

Racing fans love stories that tug on the heartstrings, especially when those stories are coupled with a gritty, yet dainty and appealing athlete. Make that athlete a horse that can overcome obstacles and make its connections’ dreams come true and you have a story that will leave fans captivated. But the best part is when one of these stories is true, and Dreaming of Anna’s story is.

Dreaming of Anna was destined for success and this was clear even as a foal. A fierce little chestnut, Dreaming of Anna’s bloodlines – by successful sire Rahy and out of a multiple stakes-winning mare – hinted that she would be something special. A homebred for Frank Calebrese, this precocious filly was named after Calebrese’s deceased sister, Anna Anderson.

She immediately lived up to expectations. Debuting at her connections’ home track, Arlington Park, Dreaming of Anna led from start to finish in a four and one-half furlong maiden special weight over the dirt surface, finishing four lengths clear of her competitors. Bred for turf – her dam, after all, was a half-sister to the 2004 Champion Turf Male, Kitten’s Joy – Dreaming of Anna made her stakes debut on the grass next out, romping in the Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs.

The plan was to run Dreaming of Anna in the Washington Breeders’ Cup Lassie Stakes (GIII), but she scratched out of that race due to a sloppy track, opting for a race a week later at Woodbine instead, the Summer Stakes (GIII). Here, the surface was to her liking; she would be running over a firm turf course. However, she had to face the males, something quite rare among two-year-old fillies. In fact, she was the sole filly even nominated to the Summer Stakes.

Facing the males was not a problem for Dreaming of Anna. She easily defeated them by 3 ¼ lengths. It was on to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs below the iconic Twin Spires.

Dreaming of Anna’s trainer, Wayne Catalano, had never won a Breeders’ Cup race. In fact, prior to Dreaming of Anna, he’d only had one Breeders’ Cup starter: Tamweel, fourth-place finisher in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI). As for Dreaming of Anna’s owner, Frank Calabrese, Breeders’ Cup day happened to be his seventy-eighth birthday. Needless to say, it was a big day.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) was the first race on the 2006 Breeders’ Cup card. Facing the best two-year-old fillies in the nation, as well as a foreign invader, the quick, light-footed Dreaming of Anna had a tall task ahead of her, but despite the high stakes, there was a certain something about this beautiful filly: she was fierce.

Dreaming of Anna sprinted out of the starting gate as if she had been shot from a cannon, immediately going to the lead with Rene Douglas aboard. Appealing Zophie caught up to her as they passed the finish line for the first time, but Dreaming of Anna maintained her lead as the field rounded the clubhouse turn, racing several paths off the rail.

Dreaming of Anna held a half-length advantage over Appealing Zophie as the fourteen fillies entered the backstretch, setting an initial quarter-mile in 23.72. Calebrese’s homebred remained at ease as she led her rivals down the backstretch, her chestnut legs carrying her over the track effortlessly as Rene Douglas sat aboard her. Through a half-mile in 47.96, Dreaming of Anna continued to lead comfortably, keeping a length between her and the others.

The others seemed to be catching up with her as the field traveled around the far turn, but Dreaming of Anna kicked clear at the top of the stretch, holding off the charge of her opponents. Octave grew closer to her and despite every chance to gallop past her, Dreaming of Anna dug in, using everything within her to repel the challenge of Octave. With impressive acceleration, the dainty chestnut filly drew clear, galloping effortlessly to a 1 ½-length victory.

Dreaming of Anna was honored as 2006 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly and though she never won another grade one event, she went on to have a very successful career on the turf, winning four graded stakes and two ungraded stakes, as well as placing in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (GI).

Though Dreaming of Anna’s racing career is over, we don’t have to let go of her just yet. She is now enjoying life as a broodmare and her first foal, an up-and-coming stakes-placed filly, is in training for the same connections as her dam. Her name? All Her Class – just like the call Trevor Denman made as Dreaming of Anna coasted to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies: “Dreaming of Anna digs deep. She calls on all her class…”

We can only hope that Dreaming of Anna’s offspring are at least half as tenacious as she was.

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