Frank Calabrese’s homebred Dreaming of Anna kicked off her 4-year-old campaign with a photo finish that was almost too close to call when she outbobbed 6-5 favorite Lear’s Princess in the $150,000 Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 16.
Making her first start since a second-place finish in the Oct. 13 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland, the 2006 Eclipse Award winner was sent off as the 9-5 second choice in a field of eight. Breaking on top, she took up her typical frontrunning position over the 1 1/16-mile turf route and set a solid pace under jockey Cornelio Velasquez. The other runners strung out behind her with Beautiful Venue, Pretoria Light, and Lear’s Princess tracking through a quarter in :24.30, a half in :48.85, and three-quarters in 1:13.04.
Lear’s Princess, whose last victory came over 3-year-old Champion filly Rags to Riches in the Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, turned in an impressive performance of her own as she stalked the pace under jockey Eibar Coa. Dreaming of Anna increased her advantage to 1 ½-lengths as they turned for home and ran the mile in 1:36.36, but the 4-year-old daughter of Lear Fan was closing quickly on the outside. Meanwhile, jockey Garrett Gomez sent Arthur Hancock’s Meribel to a late rally up the inside, and Pretoria Light passed Beautiful Venue.
The front two went beneath the wire separated by only a nose, and the photo went to Dreaming of Anna in a final time of 1:42.38. Lear’s Princess was ¾-lengths ahead of Meribel. Pretoria Light was fourth. Beautiful Venue, Jaunty Gale, Patricia, The Real Future, and 99-1 shot Tiger Belle completed the field.
"I talked to reporters from the local news yesterday, and I told them this race ought to be a $500,000 grade I with the company it attracted," said trainer Wayne Catalano. "(Lear's Princess) beat one of the best fillies in the country and the other horse (Meribel) is no slouch either. (Velasquez) didn't start riding until the eighth pole and they were closing fast on her, but in the end the champion filly prevailed. She was very game to the wire and beat an extremely good horse. She won her Eclipse Award for a reason."
According to Catalano, Dreaming of Anna may race again at Tampa Bay sometime in the future.
"I'm gonna let her cool out and see how she comes out of this race," he said. "She ran very well and there's another turf race coming up, so we might run again here. I'll talk to Mr. Calabrese and map out a plan - the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) is the ultimate goal, so we'll figure out what to do and hope we get there."
Dreaming of Anna returned $5.60, $3.20, and $2.40 to win, Lear’s Princess and jockey Eibar Coa paid $2.80 and $2.20 to place, and Meribel and Gomez brought $2.20 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by the owner out of the Broad Brush mare Justenuffheart, Dreaming of Anna is a daughter of Rahy. Her career record now totals 8-2-1 from 12 starts, with seven of those victories being stakes wins, and earnings of $1,748,172.
Take the Ribbon and Lil’s Lassie scratched.