06/23/2013 9:46AM

The Wide Open 3-Year-Old Filly Division

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Not content to take firm charge of a strong 3-year-old filly division when presented with the opportunity in Saturday’s Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, Dreaming of Julia instead delivered a dud performance, a soundly beaten, no excuse second at 1-5. And now, the 3-year-old filly championship will rely as much on what happens the second half of this year as the 3-year-old male championship will, which is to say, a lot.

But before talking about what might happen, we should first give full credit to Close Hatches, who produced the best performance of her career in the Mother Goose. Close Hatches, who won the first three starts of her career, including a perfect trip win in the Gazelle, was outrun when seventh in the Kentucky Oaks, and was a soundly beaten second herself last time out in the Acorn Stakes. On Saturday, however, Close Hatches left Dreaming of Julia and three others reeling with an outside move to take control on the far turn, and she poured it on through the stretch, leaving the distinct impression that there is more where this came from.

As for Dreaming of Julia, she just didn’t want to seem to participate when the running got serious on the far turn, and that she managed to get second was mainly a matter of winning a war of attrition with the overmatched Marathon Lady. That said, I don’t think Dreaming of Julia is really 7 1-4 lengths (the distance between them Saturday)  worse than Close Hatches, just like I didn’t think she was 21 3-4 lengths better than the late Live Lively, the distance Dreaming of Julia beat that one in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. The real Dreaming of Julia is somewhere in between those extremes. But the real Dreaming of Julia also has a propensity to take an afternoon off here and there, and that’s a big reason why the 3-year-old filly division is up for grabs.

Princess of Sylmar, who finished second to Close Hatches in the Gazelle, won the Kentucky Oaks, the division’s defining race to this point, but in a 38-1 upset. Princess of Sylmar didn’t have a published workout for a month after that, although she has worked steadily this month, and the burden remains on her to prove her Kentucky Oaks win wasn’t a fluke.

Beholder, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, was very game finishing a narrowly beaten second in the Kentucky Oaks after contesting a fast pace. But she just had her first work since on Friday, so she is at least a little ways off from racing.

My inclination is to tab Midnight Lucky as the current leader of the division. Midnight Lucky, whose only loss was a disappointing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, was certainly flattered by the Mother Goose result. In Midnight Lucky’s last start, she won the Acorn by 6 1-4 lengths over Close Hatches. The thing is, Midnight Lucky is targeting the Prioress and Test Stakes. Those are sprint stakes, and do not fit the classic profile of a 3-year-old filly champion that often includes success in distance races like the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose, CCA Oaks, and Alabama. But this classic profile might not apply this year. It is easy to envision a scenario where Midnight Lucky keeps sprinting, and maybe even wins the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, which could be easy pickings depending on what happens with Groupie Doll. And that could be enough for a title, especially if none of her contemporaries goes on a run in the more traditional stakes, or if the distance 3-year-old fillies are found wanting against older mares in the fall.

A few other quick thoughts on Saturday: Doinghardtimeagain, decisive winner of Saturday’s Hollywood Oaks, is very solid, but does seem a notch below the best 3-year-old fillies … Add Atigun to the list of horses I can sense I’m going to lose money on this year. He had a traffic-filled trip in the Colonial Turf Cup, and is a lot better than his seventh place finish looks on paper … I don’t know what her ceiling is (who does?) but Fiftyshadesofgold is a running fool. To draw off and win the Debutante at Churchill by eight lengths, with another five lengths separating the second and third finishers, after contesting an opening quarter in 21.37, is fine work.

Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
I could never forget what Mike Puype did in 2011 with Turbulent Descent after she won the 8 5f Santa Anita Oaks in stakes record time beating Zazu. The same Zazu had beaten her and Plum Pretty in the Las Virgenes at a mile. Baffert took Plum Pretty to Sunland and she romps against dogs in a confidence builder and Puype declares Turbulent Descent a sprinter and says it's a no go for the Kentucky Oaks. TD was 2-2 at the farthest distance she ever ran, 8.5f, and never ran 9f. Guess who won the Kentucky Oaks? Plum Pretty, a punching bag for TD with Zazu finishing 3rd. Come Eclipse time TD got nothing after ginishing up the track in the 2011 BC F&M Sprint. It's the weirdest thing I've seen in a long time. Instead trying to build his horse's stamina he completely wrote off any chance of her liking a route of ground. This is why certain trainers will always be second rate. Some knowtoo much for their own good.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Midnight Lucky is a very special filly.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
Beholder ran better than she had any right to in the Oaks. I had dismissed her as a top horse, certainly as a top distance horse, all spring due to her pedigree -- but having seen her Oaks performance, I think she should come back to be at the very top of her class.
Nick Pavletic More than 1 year ago
Pay close attention to this statement: BEHOLDER will win the BC Ladies Classic at Santa Anita. Mandella has no other set goal for this filly! She won the BC juvenille fillies last year with no 2 turn form. She loves front biased SA and will be a price on that day. Don't forget!!!!
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
Pure FUn is and was a horse to watch before ankle injury ...
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
I give credit to MIdnight Luckies connections , he is in fact a sprinter at best and more horses should run to there proper distances ,,,,,, as I would hate Lucky at a further than a mile , I love his prospects at shorter .
Margi Foley More than 1 year ago
This is the second time in this blog that you've referred to a filly as a "he". Just wondering what's up with that? It really doesn't do too much for the credibility. Just sayin'.....
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
Do you think i don't know Midnight Lucky is a filly or just typo.....If u have a comment about the thoroughbred game , please reply , you have no idea who i am in regard. Thanks fir your incite Margi
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
But you get the point. Stop being the grammar police and enjoy the sport. There are many positive things to focus on that would be more deserving of your time.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Who cares? You get the point.
Sherwin Root More than 1 year ago
What happened to Live Lively?
Michael Watchmaker More than 1 year ago
She broke down in a work and had to be euthanized.
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
Another sprinter pushed to the limit , distances!!!!
jttf More than 1 year ago
since mott has won the b.c. ladies classic 3 straight times. close hatches has a shot. midnight lucky is a no lasix horse also, that can still improve. just hope she can handle the 6 furlong works, healthwise. if spellbound can recover from her ankle chip. she should be a good one for the future. beholder has a lot of talent, but gets too worked up before the race.
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
Agreed gotta admit Beholder looks very live
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
I think the record has a scratch in it.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
I think maybe your record has a scratch in it
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Close Hatches looks like a one turn, NY runner, hasn't shown she can travel...yet. DoJ other than the one race, isn't any faster than any of the others and acts a little like Game on Dude prior to this year, does not like being headed or between other horses. Beholder will be back and be TOUGH.
Alessandra Jimmy Williams More than 1 year ago
Close hatches is a pineapple , field was a joke and he moved to lead early and Julia sat too far off weak pace / field ..... Put one cheap speed horse in race and hatches would of folded like a cheap suit .
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
It seems as if most of these fillies need to carry their track along with them. Churchill and Gulfstream form doesn't always translate to New York obviously and with these fillies it's probably going to be a different winner in each race from here on out.