Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Oaks Contender: Dreaming of Julia

Oaks Contenders feature the fillies I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Oaks. Each horse spotlighted in an Oaks Contender will join the 2013 PTG Oaks Contender roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in an Oaks Contender may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Oaks trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

With some paragraphs drawn from "Juvenile Spotlight: Dreaming of Julia and Stopshoppingdebbie," dated 8/12/12

The image of the great Rachel Alexandra soaring to a 20 ¼-length victory in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (GI) is still fresh in the minds of racing fans. That race would be her last start in the white and green silks of Dolphus Morrison; for the rest of her racing career, the brilliant filly would carry the gold and maroon colors of Stonestreet Stable. But her doube-digit-length triumphs were not over. She would win the Mother Goose Stakes (GI) by 19 ¼ lengths and the Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) by 10 ½ lengths.

After the birth of Rachel Alexandra’s second foal, a filly by Bernardini, the Thoroughbred world worried that Rachel would be lost forever after she suffered complications from foaling. But during her recovery, a filly like her in many ways has stunned the racing world, mesmerizing enthusiasts with her prowess.

That filly is Dreaming of Julia. Carrying the same Stonestreet silks that Rachel Alexandra did in her final nine starts, Dreaming of Julia flashed brilliance as a juvenile and has carried it over to her three-year-old campaign, approaching the spring classics with remarkable momentum.

Dreaming of Julia
Photo by Terri Cage
Amidst Stonestreet’s domination of two-year-old filly maiden special weights at Saratoga during the summer of 2012, Dreaming of Julia turned in perhaps the most impressive maiden victory of any Stonestreet filly, leading me to draw the conclusion that she could be Stonestreet’s best from the stable’s contingent of maiden-breaking fillies. Breaking from the seventh gate in a six and one-half-furlong maiden special weight event, Dreaming of Julia was pushed to the lead by John Velazquez and quickly overtook Bustle to take the lead as the two-year-old fillies raced down the backstretch. By the time she’d set a 22.03 first quarter, Dreaming of Julia had an approximate one-length lead on the others as she began to enter the far turn. Despite a rally from Form Fitting around the turn, Dreaming of Julia maintained her advantage on the field as she galloped into the stretch with a confident Velazquez aboard.

Dreaming of Julia quickly opened up on the field, drawing away with sufficient handling from Velazquez. Form Fitting remained as the clearly second best horse, but it was even more obvious who the best horse in the field was: Dreaming of Julia. With absolute ease, the bay filly crossed the wire an astounding 10 ½ lengths ahead of her rivals.

Crushing her rivals by 16 ¼ lengths in her stakes debut in the one-mile Meadow Star Stakes at Belmont Park, Dreaming of Julia extended her record to a perfect three-for-three with a win in the Frizette Stakes (GI). However, this was her hardest-fought victory to date, as the Todd Pletcher trainee had to battle My Happy Face down the long Belmont homestretch to gamely prevail by a head.

Shipped to Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), Dreaming of Julia raced several lengths off the pace in the early stages of the race but gained ground down the backstretch, allowing her to press the pace. Perhaps fatigued from her taxing performance in her previous start and the long trip across the nation, Dreaming of Julia ran well but did not fire like usual, finishing third.

Dreaming of Julia after her third-place finish in the
2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Photo by Terri Cage
Away from the races until late February of this year, Dreaming of Julia made her sophomore debut in the Davona Dale Stakes (GII), a mile and one-sixteenth event at Gulfstream Park. Pressing the pace set by dominant allowance winner Live Lively, Dreaming of Julia performed respectfully but was only second-best on the day.

Little did anyone know at the time, the Dreaming of Julia of old was lurking in the shadows, prepare to tackle her next target, the Gulfstream Oaks (GII). Facing Live Lively yet again, Dreaming of Julia broke sharply from the starting gate in the nine-furlong contest – her longest test yet. Sitting behind Live Lively, Dreaming of Julia galloped along comfortably in second throughout the race. As the field rounded the far turn, Velazquez gradually set to work aboard the filly, who responded with a noteworthy turn of foot. Passing Live Lively, who had captured her previous three starts by a combined 13 ½ lengths, as if she was standing still, Dreaming of Julia swept into the homestretch with authority, drawing off in a Rachel Alexandra-esque manner to capture the race by a jaw-dropping 21 ¾ lengths. Her final time of 1:48.97 was not only the fastest time for the Gulfstream Oaks since 2006, but was nearly a full two seconds quicker than the final time of the Florida Derby (GI) contested later on the card.

The new Derby points system will keep Dreaming of Julia out of the Kentucky Derby (GI), which comes as a disappointment to many, as she could have been a very tough competitor in the Run for the Roses. Instead, Dreaming of Julia will aim for the Lilies for the Fillies, or the Kentucky Oaks (GI), run a day before the Derby.

But intriguingly, Dreaming of Julia is Triple Crown nominated, meaning she could make an appearance in the Preakness or Belmont. Should she follow in the footsteps of Rachel Alexandra, she could face the males in the second jewel of the prestigious three-race series. Perhaps she could even emulate another Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of A.P. Indy – Rags to Riches – and go against the boys in The Test of Champions.

Regardless of what Dreaming of Julia’s future plans are, it would be no surprise to see the well-bred three-year-old continue her brilliance. This filly possesses a pedigree I could praise all day. Not only is she sired by the stallion I most admire in modern-day bloodlines, but her pedigree is like an array of Thoroughbred royalty. There’s one aspect in Dreaming of Julia’s pedigree that many will likely overlook: the filly possesses both Hasty Matelda and Somethingroyal – the same mares that were the subject of Penny Chenery’s famous coin toss – in her pedigree. A daughter of A.P. Indy, Dreaming of Julia of course traces back to Somethingroyal through the mare’s greatest offspring, Secretariat, who is the broodmare sire of A.P. Indy. Interestingly, Dreaming of Julia is a direct descendant of Hasty Matelda, who is her seventh dam.

As mentioned, Dreaming of Julia is sired by A.P. Indy, one of the greatest horses to ever stand at stud. He has sired twenty-six grade one winners so far, including Bernardini, Flashing, Mineshaft, Little Belle, Music Note, and Rags to Riches. He is also a highly successful sire of sires – having produced such stallions as Bernardini, Congrats, Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, Pulpit, and Stephen Got Even – and broodmare sire – having sired the dams of such horses as Bluegrass Cat, Mr. Sidney, Plum Pretty, Royal DeltaSuper Saver, and Wait a While.

A.P. Indy
Photo by Terri Cage
The dam of Dreaming of Julia is the multiple grade one-winning Dream Rush. Though a successful sprinter, Dream Rush is a daughter of Wild Rush – who, though also successful at short distances, was capable of winning up to a mile and three-sixteenths. Wild Rush is of course a son of Wild Again, the winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). Wild Again is the broodmare sire of such grade one winners as Cheiron, Emma’s Encore, Macho Again, Mea Domina, Pyro, and Wild Spirit.

With a dam line full of black-type, Dreaming of Julia’s sixth dam is Gay Matelda, a winner of many important stakes races and the dam of the group stakes-winning Reine Mathilde, as well as the stakes-winning horses Not a Mistake and Shelter Half. Gay Matelda is of course a daughter of Hasty Matelda, who won the Matron Stakes.

Dreaming of Julia and Todd Pletcher at the 2012 Breeders' Cup
Video by Mary Cage

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