Stonestreet Stables' homebred Dreaming of Julia is the 1-2 morning line favorite in a light edition of the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, where just four other 3-year-old fillies will challenge June 22.
Coming off a troubled fourth-place finish in the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks for trainer Todd Pletcher, Dreaming of Julia could use the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose to return to the form that saw her romp by 21 ¾ lengths on March 30 in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Oaks. That victory earned the daughter of A.P. Indy a 114 Beyer figure, which not only ranks fourth in 2013 among all Thoroughbreds at distances of 1 1/8 miles and beyond, but is tops among sophomores. It is eight points better than the Triple Crown best, the 106 recorded by Oxbow for his wire-to-wire Preakness win.
"I don't really think she lost any credibility in the Oaks because she was annihilated at the start, and if that wasn't bad enough, she got stopped later in the race," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Mother Goose four times, most recently in 2011 with Buster's Ready. "I thought she ran very well in the race, considering everything she tried to overcome, and we're hoping to get her back on course."
MOTHER GOOSE STAKES DRAW
Out of Grade 1 winner Dream Rush, Dreaming of Julia is 2-for-2 at Belmont, where she won the Frizette Stakes and the Meadow Star Stakes as a 2-year-old. She drew post 2 and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Dreaming of Julia carries 121, as do all others in the Mother Goose, race 10 on an 11-race card with a scheduled post time of 5:49 p.m. EDT.
Juddmonte Farms' Acorn Stakes runner-up Close Hatches is 7-2 on the morning line. She was 8 1/4 lengths behind runaway winner Midnight Lucky in that May 27 test going a mile after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks. Prior to the Kentucky Oaks, the First Defence filly won three straight for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott including the April 6 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack. Joel Rosario rides from post 3.
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's Marathon Lady and West Point Thoroughbreds' Toasting exit a 2-3 finish behind Fiftyshadesofhay in the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. A daughter of Graeme Hall trained by Steve Hobby, Marathon Lady opened up by 3 ½ lengths midstretch, but was collared by the winner inside the sixteenth pole and lost by a neck. Toasting, a Congrats filly trained by Tom Albertrani, prompted the pace in the Black-Eyed Susan but could not go with the top two and finished 4 ¾ lengths back of Marathon Lady.
Marathon Lady, 5-1 on the morning line, has not been worse than third since breaking her maiden at Oaklawn Park in February. She was runner-up in the March 23 Fathead Bourbonette Oaks on the Polytrack at Turfway Park, and ran third in Oaklawn's April 10 Fantasy Stakes. Robby Albarado gets the mount from the rail.
"I think she's progressing and moving forward with each race," Hobby said. "She's maturing all the time, and getting bigger and stronger. Of course, beating Dreaming of Julia is going to take some doing -- she'll probably have to beat herself -- but it's a grade I race and a small field, so why not take a chance?"
Toasting, who will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 4, was third in the Frizette won by Dreaming of Julia last year. Prior to completing the Black-Eyed Susan trifecta, she finished third in the March 11 filly division of the OBS Championship Stakes. Her most recent win was a Feb. 15 romp by 5 ½ lengths going the Mother Goose distance on a sloppy, sealed track at Gulfstream Park.
"She ran a good race in the Black-Eyed Susan, she was a good third," said Albertrani, who sent Toasting out the morning of June 19 for a four-furlong breeze in :49.96. "It looked like the blinkers helped a little bit and put her a little closer into the race, and she seems to have bounced back OK."
Rounding out the field is Darley's homebred Sister State, who broke her maiden by two lengths at Belmont May 3 going a mile but faded to eighth and last in her most recent start, a May 26 allowance at the same distance. The 20-1 outsider breaks from post 5 under Irad Ortiz Jr.
"Her last race looks worse on paper than it actually was," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We think she'll improve off that. We'd be over the moon to hit the board, and this is too good of an opportunity to pass up."