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Dreaming of Julia dominates Gulfstream Park Oaks
Stonestreet Stables' homebred Dreaming of Julia vied with Live Lively for favoritism in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks, but on track there was no challenge as the bay filly drew off to a devastating 21 3/4-length score over that rival to give John Velazquez his third win on the day.
Eventually sent off as the 8-5 choice, Dreaming of Julia followed Live Lively as the 9-5 second pick headed to the front when the gates opened. The three-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy settled just behind and to her opponent's outside through splits of :23 2/5, :47 and 1:11, but began making up ground and soared past Live Lively as the pair entered the turn.
From there the only question was how far she would win by, and Dreaming of Julia answered with an emphatic 21 3/4 lengths under a hand ride to finish nine furlongs on the fast track in 1:48 4/5.
Dreaming of Julia more than made up for her 1 1/2-length loss to Live Lively as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in sophomore debut on February 23. This time around, the Todd Pletcher trainee was easily best and rewarded her backers' faith with payouts of $5.20, $2.60 and $2.20.
"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," Pletcher stated following Dreaming of Julia's tour de force.
"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," he added. "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 traveling really well; she was good today."
"There's not much to say, she was a superior horse today," Velazquez agreed. "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."
Live Lively was best of the rest by four lengths over Cue the Moon, who returned in this spot following a neck second in the Grade 3 Tempted last November at Aqueduct. Kimberly Jean filled out the top four in her stakes debut, while Emollient and Original Script completed the order under the wire.
"I'm disappointed," admitted Live Lively's trainer, Mark Hennig. "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 out run. It was not her best effort."
Dreaming of Julia was a finalist for an Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old filly following a season that saw her romp by double-digit lengths in her maiden debut and the Meadow Star prior to a head score in the Grade 1 Frizette last fall. The Kentucky-bred miss ran third to Beholder in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Eclipse voting, and many felt vindicated for that decision after she chased Live Lively home in second in the Davona Dale.
After Saturday's display Dreaming of Julia may well end up going off favored in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 3, for which she earned 100 points in the new Road to the Kentucky Oaks point system. She's now banked $767,000 in her career from a 6-4-1-1 scorecard.
Dreaming of Julia is living up to her promise as a daughter of multiple Grade 1 victress Dream Rush. That Wild Rush mare competed strictly in the sprint ranks, though, taking such events as the six-furlong Prioress and seven-furlong Test, both Grade 1s.
Dreaming of Julia's fifth dam is the Grade 2-scoring *Vaguely Noble mare Reine Mathilde.