01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Dreaming of Julia

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photo by: Tom Keyser

It is often said that to get ahead, who you know can be as, if not more, important than what you know. From the outset, before she ever was seen on a racetrack and demonstrated what she was made of, Dreaming of Julia was connected in all the right ways.

By 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, and the first foal of multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Dream Rush, Dreaming of Julia certainly had the pedigree to set her apart. She was bred and is owned by the Stonestreet Stable of the Estate of Jess Jackson, which is now operated by his wife, Barbara Banke. Stonestreet, of course, campaigned in partnership three straight Horses of the Year (Curlin in 2007 and 2008, and Rachel Alexandra in 2009), as well as the 2011 champion 2-year-old filly, My Miss Aurelia.

In part because of his success with Rags to Riches, another daughter of A.P. Indy and who edged none other than Curlin in the 2007 Belmont Stakes, Dreaming of Julia was placed in the care of Todd Pletcher, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010. And as is so often the case with Pletcher’s charges, she was partnered with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Well connected, indeed.

But all the premier connections in the world won’t get a horse to the level of Eclipse Award finalist if there isn’t an abundance of talent to go along with the package. And notwithstanding her third-place finish behind Beholder and Executiveprivilege in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her final start of 2012, Dreaming of Julia proved to be wealthy in the talent department as well.

Dreaming of Julia was a sensation from the beginning, winning her debut at Saratoga by more than 10 lengths despite going a 6 1/2-furlong distance that figured to be, at least in view of the top side of her pedigree, well short of her best.

“She had trained very well and very professionally, was good from the gate, showed tactical speed for a filly bred to go longer,” Pletcher said as he readied Dreaming of Julia for her second start in the Meadow Star Stakes at Belmont Park. “We fully anticipated that she would run well, and she did that, or exceeded our expectations.” The Meadow Star was at a one-mile distance that figured to be much more to Dreaming of Julia’s liking, and she responded with a 16 1/4-length romp in strong time that was likely the year’s best performance by a 2-year-old filly east of California.

“Super-impressed,” Banke said right after the race. “I think she’s a really good filly, so we’re going to have lots of fun with her.”

It’s debatable whether Dreaming of Julia’s closer-than-expected win in the subsequent Grade 1 Frizette, or the loss in the Breeders’ Cup were a load of laughs, but there were extenuating circumstances in both races. Dreaming of Julia had to be used early in the Frizette to keep pacesetter My Happy Face honest – “I couldn’t let that horse go on the lead all by herself,” Velazquez explained – and she raced against the grain of a track kind to speed in the Breeders’ Cup.

There should, however, be many fun days ahead for Dreaming of Julia. As Pletcher noted early in her career, she is a filly “we anticipate improving with distance and time.”