Stonestreet Stables' homebred filly Dreaming of Julia, the remarkable 21 3/4-length winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II), drew post 8 of 11 sophomore fillies and was installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs.
Dreaming of Julia, a daughter of A.P. Indy out of the grade I-winning Wild Rush mare Dream Rush, is one of four Oaks contenders entered by trainer Todd Pletcher April 30. He will also send out the undefeated Unlimited Budget (7-2) from post 4, Princess of Sylmar (20-1) from post 6, and Silsita (20-1) from the rail. Dreaming of Julia will be ridden by jockey John Velazquez in the 1 1/8-mile race.
"It's a blessing and a curse all at the same time (to have four horses in the field)," said Pletcher. "Certainly we want to be in this position, but when you start more than one horse, you're going to have owners that are not going to be happy with the result. As a trainer, you want to keep your owners happy, but in this case it's going to be hard to do."
In spite of his dilemma, Pletcher feels especially good about the chances of Dreaming of Julia, who was given the best Thoro-Graph speed figure in history in the Gulfstream Oaks March 30. Compiled by Jerry Brown, Thoro-Graph figures are used as a gauge of performance based on a number of factors.
"The Gulfstream Oaks showed how good she can be, but there's no mistaking the Gulfstream Oaks for the Kentucky Oaks...this will be another step toward defining her career," Pletcher said. "We already know she's a super filly, a grade I-winning filly, but in order to solidify that status, you've got to win grade I races like the Oaks."
Since 1930, there have been just four fillies to win the Kentucky Oaks from the 8 hole: Seaside Attraction (1990); Sun and Snow (1975); Hail to Patsy (1969); and Wistful (1949).
Dreaming of Julia will enter the Oaks with a record of 4-1-1 from six starts, for earnings of $787,000.
Also entered in the Oaks are 2-year-old champion Beholder, who drew post 3 and is the co-second choice with morning-line odds of 7-2 for her first start since dominating the April 6 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I); eight-length Sunland Oaks winner Midnight Lucky, who leaves from post 2 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert at 9-2 on the morning line; and undefeated Gazelle Stakes (gr. II) winner Close Hatches, with 6-1 morning-line odds for another Hall of Fame member, trainer Bill Mott.
Flashy Gray, Seaneen Girl, Pure Fun, and Rose to Gold complete the field. The last mentioned filly drew post 9, the same position from which Believe You Can won the race last year. Trained by Sal Santoro, Rose to Gold will be ridden by three-time Kentucky Derby (gr. I)-winning jockey Calvin Borel, who was recently named to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
"I'm confident ... she can handle it from that outside post," said Santoro of the daughter of Friends Lake, who has morning line odds of 15-1. "(Calvin) Borel is the master at that, so I'm going to leave it up to him how to make that decision, but I'm really not worried about it. I watched the filly train this morning and she's on her game. I don't know if (drawing the 9 post) this is going to be detrimental at all. Talk to me after the race on Friday and I'll let you know.
"That's horse racing—(post positions) are all the luck of the draw," Santoro added. "The really great horses overcome them."
Rose to Gold, who brought just $1,400 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February mixed sale, won the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (gr. III) as a juvenile and added scores in the March 9 Honeybee (gr. III) and April 10 Fantasy (gr. III) to her résumé this year. Owned by Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, she holds a record of 5-1-0 from seven starts, for earnings of $717,889.
Esther Marr contributed to this story.
$1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I, approximate post time 5:45 p.m. EDT), 3YO fillies, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1. Silsita, Gary Stevens, Todd Pletcher, 20-1
2. Midnight Lucky, Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert, 9-2
3. Beholder, Garrett Gomez, Richard Mandella, 7-2
4. Unlimited Budget, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 7-2
5. Seaneen Girl, Rosie Napravnik, Bernard Flint, 20-1
6. Princess of Sylmar, Mike Smith, Todd Pletcher, 20-1
7. Pure Fun, Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek, 30-1
8. Dreaming of Julia, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 3-1
9. Rose to Gold, Calvin Borel, Sal Santoro, 15-1
10. Flashy Gray, Junior Alvarado, 15-1
11. Close Hatches, Joel Rosario, Bill Mott, 6-1