Stonestreet Stables' homebred Dreaming of Julia left her connections dreaming of victory in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) when she devastated the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II) March 30 at Gulfstream Park with a 21 3/4-length romp, leaving five opponents in the dust. (VIDEO)
The 3-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy out of the grade-I winning Wild Rush mare Dream Rush earned 100 points on the road to the Kentucky Oaks with her powerhouse win under Racing Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, vaulting to second on the leaderboard for the filly Classic with 132 points overall. Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) victress Unlimited Budget is the current leader with 160 points.
"Awesome," owner Barbara Banke said of Dreaming of Julia. "She's a homebred; I have her mother, I have her brother... she's awesome. I think that's enough points (to get to the Kentucky Oaks) and that's her plan. We'll see how she comes out (of the race); she looks good now and hopefully we're en route to Louisville."
Dreaming of Julia was undefeated in her first three starts capped by a Frizette Stakes (gr. I) victory last October at Belmont Park for trainer Todd Pletcher, then registered her first defeat with a third-place finish in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park in November. She made her sophomore debut in the Feb. 23 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) but finished second by 1 1/2 lengths in that 1 1/16-mile event to Live Lively, who returned to set the pace in the Gulfstream Oaks.
Off alertly at the break and favored at odds of 8-5, Dreaming of Julia settled second outside Live Lively as that one showed the way through opening fractions of :23.43 and :47.18. Live Lively had opened a 1 1/2-length lead by the half-mile marker and still maintained a half-length advantage after three-quarters in 1:11.16. But Dreaming of Julia was poised to strike from the three path and moved to gain command approaching the final turn.
"She was a superior horse today," said Velazquez. "We just wanted to get there, sit comfortably, and let her know what she needed to do. We planned the same thing last time. We didn't want to overdo it and go on with the other horses. At one point I had to put a little pressure on. The difference this time was she was much more ready than the first time she ran, which made it easier."
From the head of the stretch to the wire it was a one-horse show as Velazquez allowed the brilliant bay filly to rumble, clocking a mile in 1:36.12 and finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.97 under a hand ride. Live Lively held for second while Cue the Moon finished four lengths behind her in third.
Trainer Mark Hennig said Lively Lively did not turn in her best performance when being distanced so significantly by the winner.
"I'm disappointed," he remarked. "I saw Dreaming of Julia in the paddock and she looked more composed than she did last time. I thought she'd step up. Ours was a bit more stirred up going to the gate. I don't really have an explanation, we just got outrun. It was not her best effort."
"That was pretty impressive," Pletcher said. "She seemed like she's trained up to that (last) race and she ran a good race last time, but obviously today she was impressive. I felt better that we were able to put ourselves in a good position pretty comfortably and had our sights on that filly (Live Lively). She was travelling really well; she was good today.
"I think Live Lively ran really good last time and I had a lot of respect for her coming in," the trainer continued. "Emollient is a good filly. I've seen her run really well, so I would never have expected a dominating performance like that."
Bred in Kentucky, Dreaming of Julia now has a 4-1-1 record from six starts with earnings of $767,000.