“She’s 12 in front! She’s 15 lengths in front! She’s going to win by 20! Dreaming of Julia devastates the Gulfstream Oaks!!!”
With each word, Gulfstream Park announcer Larry Collmus became more animated in his race call of Dreaming of Julia’s tour-de-force in the Gulfstream Oaks. Just how good was the performance by the three-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy?
She ran nearly two full seconds faster than the horse many are picking to win the Kentucky Derby, Orb did while winning the Grade 1 Florida Derby a few races later on the card.
Figures guru, Jerry Brown of Thoro-Graph, assigned Julia the fastest figure he has EVER given out.
One of the also-rans in this race, Emollient has already returned to romp in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes in her very next outing.
All this begs the question; can Dreaming of Julia possibly be beaten in the Kentucky Oaks?
Well of course she can be beaten. Every horse can lose, and here are half a dozen pretty good reasons to believe it may happen on May 3…
Princess of Sylmar – She busted through maiden, allowance, Busanda and Busher wins both literally and figuratively. Winning those four in a row by an average of nearly ten lengths, she showed the ability to overcome slow pace, as well as, creating her own holes to run through. Princess of Sylmar was the Northeast’s top sophomore filly. That is until Close Hatches came to town for the Gazelle. On paper, Princess of Sylmar’s second place finish in New York’s Kentucky Oaks prep may seem to have been a slight disappointment, but if you consider that the dynamics of the race were clearly on the side of the winner that day, you, like me, think this filly is sitting on a big race, second time out after a freshening.
Midnight Lucky - Her debut performance in February was a real eye-opener, to say the least, but that was only in a 6 ½ furlong maiden race at Santa Anita. Her next start, in the Sunland Oaks, was even better. It was so good that I have no qualms in saying she was the best horse that ran in New Mexico that day … Sorry [Govenor] Charlie. Still, going from unraced to Kentucky Oaks champion, in a span of about 2 ½ months, would seem an extremely tall order. I realize what she is up against, but yet I cannot dismiss the daughter of Midnight Lute. She simply looks that good. Reports from Churchill Downs on her are great. Maybe Dreaming of Julia is not even the most talented filly in the race.
Rose to Gold - Given a series of stamina building works by trainer Sal Santoro, the daughter of Friends Lake rebounded from a disappointing loss with an impressive gate-to-wire victory in the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and then followed it up with a facile score in a wet-track edition of the Fantasy Stakes. Clearly she was better than the rest of the three-year-old fillies in Arkansas, but can she really handle this bunch? She's already proved an incredible bargain, and win, lose, or draw in the Kentucky Oaks, Rose to Gold is a remarkable story. As for winning next week, I don’t think she needs the lead to win, and I know Calvin is high on her. The answer might just be yes.
Beholder - Any doubt as to whether or not last year’s Queen of the juvenile fillies would be able to get it done at three were erased by a pair of dominating grade 1 performances. Her wins in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks were thorough and more than restored any luster lost after a season opening defeat. While I reserve my doubt as whether or not she can wire this good a bunch of fillies away from Santa Anita, I certainly can understand why so many smart people consider her one of the fillies to beat in the run for the lilies. I expect her to be the one they all have to catch on the far turn.
Unlimited Budget – Admittedly this undefeated daughter of Street Sense was one that did not catch my immediate fancy, but to say that she has done nothing wrong in her four-race career would be an understatement. From a romping win in her career debut, to a powerful win in the Fair Ground Oaks, she makes it a little bit easier to believe in her with each start. Joining Dreaming of Julia and Princess of Sylmar from the Todd Pletcher armada, this one will not be top choice on the big day, but on the other hand, it should come as no surprise if she continues to do what she has been doing all along … winning.
Close Hatches – Speaking of undefeated fillies, this good looking daughter of First Defence is perfect in three starts. I was really impressed with her rallying victory in her career debut, and in her next two starts, she showed good speed around two-turns. Bill Mott has three good sophomore fillies, in her, Flashy Gray, and Emollient, and I’m beginning to reverse field in my thinking of which one is the best of the bunch. It certainly might be her. Despite having a tactical advantage in the Gazelle, she demonstrated tons of class in turning away a filly that I really like rather easily. She would probably be the most surprising to me of the seven mentioned here, but we still do not know for sure just how good she really is.