Dreaming of Julia, 21 ¾-length winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (Grade II), and undefeated Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner Unlimited Budget arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday at 6:50 p.m. EDT and will continue their preparations for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) beneath the Twin Spires.
Dreaming of Julia (ranked No. 3 on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” Leaderboard) and Unlimited Budget (No. 2) arrived from their winter base at Palm Meadows in good order and are stabled in Barn 34 for trainer Todd Pletcher, who said his Oaks contenders will be joined at Churchill Downs by Revolutionary (ranked No. 4 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” Leaderboard) on Friday and Verrazano (No. 2) on Sunday.
“I thought (Dreaming of Julia) would run well, but I don’t think you ever expect one to run like that,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully she can repeat it. (Unlimited Budget) had a great winter and she’s been moving forward. Every race has been a little better.”
Silsita, winner of the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) by a nose over Marathon Lady, also arrived at Pletcher’s Churchill Downs barn Monday evening to be prepared for a run in the Kentucky Oaks. Pletcher, who won the Oaks in 2007 with Rags to Riches and in 2004 with Ashado, said the fillies could breeze over the Churchill Downs oval Sunday.
Joining Pletcher’s Oaks contenders on the trip from South Florida were Palm Beach (GIII) runner-up Charming Kitten and Palace Malice (No. 32), third in the Risen Star (GII) and most recently seventh in the Louisiana Derby (GII). Both colts are scheduled to run in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (GI).
“Kitten’s Joys seem to love Keeneland and (Charming Kitten) actually ran OK there in the Breeders’ Futurity, but got into some trouble at the top of the stretch,” Pletcher said. “I think he’s a better horse now then he was then.
“We like (Palace Malice) a lot and he’s trained really well all winter. He was a little unlucky at the Fair Grounds and I think he deserves another chance. He was purchased at Keeneland last year and breezed well over the (Polytrack) surface there. Our motivation is to try to earn points to get in.”
The Blue Grass awards points to the Top 4 finishers on a 100-40-20-10 scale as part of the Second Leg of the Championship Series. Charming Kitten and Palace Malice likely would earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) starting gate with a Top 2 finish. A third-place finish for Palace Malice would likely put him “on the bubble” with 30 points.
Charming Kitten and Palace Malice both galloped at Churchill Downs on Tuesday and will ship to Keeneland on Saturday morning.
Other notable Monday arrivals for Pletcher include Abraham, third in the Sunland Derby (GIII), Rampart (GIII) runner-up Authenticity, 2011 Demoiselle (GII) winner Disposablepleasure, 2012 Derby Trial (GIII) winner Hierro, Hutcheson (GII) runner-up Forty Tales, Suwannee River (GIII) winner Channel Lady and stakes winners Stopshoppingmaria and Fusaichiswonderful.
Pletcher added that Forty Tales is under consideration for the Coolmore Lexington (GIII) at Keeneland on April 20 and the rest of his Monday arrivals are being pointed toward Derby week stakes at Churchill Downs. Pletcher also reported that Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary was expected to arrive at Churchill Downs from WinStar Farm on Friday.
Pletcher was scheduled to return to New York for the remainder of the week, but said he’d be back in Kentucky on Saturday for the Blue Grass and expected to remain here through the Kentucky Derby.
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