Dreaming of Julia Turns in Stunning Triumph in Gulfstream Oaks
Trainer Todd Pletcher has saddled countless horses for some mighty amazing performances during his career, but the nine-time defending Gulfstream Park training titlist couldn’t pretend that he wasn’t a bit stunned by Dreaming of Julia’s breathtaking triumph in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
Dreaming of Julia, at 8-5, was slightly favored over Live Lively, the 9-5 second betting choice who had defeated her by 1 ½ lengths in the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 23. However, Dreaming of Julia easily outran her rival and her trainer’s expectations while drawing off to victory by 21 ¾ lengths under a hand ride from jockey John Velazquez.
“We felt she was training as well as ever and she was coming up to it in good order. But, honestly, I can't say I was expecting that kind of victory,” said Pletcher, who has virtually clinched a 10th straight training title at the Hallandale Beach track.
Just as she did in her Davona Dale victory, Live Lively went right to the front to set the pace around the first turn and along the backstretch, stalked by the long-striding Dreaming of Julia. Full of run, the Pletcher-trained 3-year-old filly swept past the pacesetter with surprising ease.
“I kind of took a survey and it didn’t look like anyone else was running at that point, so it was kind of a good feeling,” said Pletcher who earlier saddled Travelin Man for a victory in the $75,000 Sir Shackleton and Ciao Bella for a triumph in the $150,000 Rampart (G3).
Dreaming of Julia quickly opened up a clear lead that she would extend to the wire, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48/97.
"There's not much to say, she was a superior horse today. 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,” Velazquez said. “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."
Lively Lively, who had won three in a row after finishing third in her career debut, held second money, four lengths clear of third-place finisher Cue the Moon under jockey Rajiv Maragh.
“I'm disappointed, I saw Dreaming of Julia in the paddock and she looked more composed than she did last time. I thought she'd step up,” Live Lively’s trainer Mark Hennig said. “Ours was a bit more stirred up going to the gate. I don't really have an explanation, we just got out run. It was not her best effort."
Dreaming of Julia has demonstrated the ability to dominate her opposition in the past, capturing her first two career starts last year by nearly 27 lengths. She then demonstrated the ability to win a close battle, scoring a Grade 1 victory in the Frizette by a head. She closed out her 2-year-old campaign with an even third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita, then lost her 3-year-old debut in the Davona Dale.
Saturday, the daughter of A.P. Indy reverted to her dominant ways while earning $180,000 for the Stonestreet Stables LLC.
“That was pretty impressive. She seemed like she’s trained up to that (last) race well and she ran a good race last time, but obviously, today, she was impressive,” Pletcher said. “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.”
Dreaming of Julia will be pointed for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 3, said Pletcher.