Dreaming Of Julia: hot favourite for the Kentucky Oaks on FridayPICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Joe Ganley
Pletcher dreaming of Oaks triumph with Julia
Preview: USA, Friday 10.45pm BST
Churchill Downs: Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo fillies
BRITISH bookmakers are pricing up Kentucky Oaks favourite Dreaming Of Julia (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) as if the filly is the new Rachel Alexandra as she bids to continue her winning streak in Friday's $1 million Classic.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddles 25% of Saturday's Kentucky Derby field with five runners, settled for just four here - but that represents 40% of the runners in a race he has won twice before with Ashado (2004) and Rags To Riches (2007).
Rachel Alexandra was trained by Hal Wiggins when streaking home by a stunning 20 lengths at Churchill Downs in May 2009, after which she was sold to the late owner Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, for whom she won the Preakness Stakes en route to Horse of the Year honours.
The same organisation now own Dreaming Of Julia, who scored by nearly 22 lengths last time in a dazzling display in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks.
While the daughter of A.P. Indy is rated a 3-1 chance on the track's unreliable morning line, she is as short as 11-8 with Ladbrokes in Britain, despite her rivals including Breeders' Cup conqueror Beholder.
"The remarkable thing about her last race was she seemed to do it effortlessly," said Pletcher, speaking to the Blood-Horse.
"She didn't seem hard pressed at the end. John Velazquez was riding her hard into the lane and she kept opening up.
"Every indication she's given us is that she's trained just as well if not better for this race than she has for anything else she's ever done."
Dreaming Of Julia, who breaks from gate eight, is joined by three stable companions in the unbeaten Unlimited Budget (Javier Castellano), Silsita (Gary Stevens) and Princess Of Sylmar (Mike Smith).
Beholder (Richard Mandella/Garrett Gomez), who recorded an all-the-way victory over Dreaming Of Julia in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, comes in off another Grade 1 win at Santa Anita in the Las Virgenes.
Sunland Oaks winner Midnight Lucky (Bob Baffert/Rafael Bejarano) is following the same path as the 2011 winner Plum Pretty, who represented the same trainer. She won by 20 lengths in New Mexico, where Midnight Lucky scored by eight.
Juddmonte's Gazelle Stakes winner Close Hatches (Bill Mott/ Joel Rosario), who has the outside post, is also unbeaten. Her stablemate Flashy Gray was scratched on Wednesday with a bruised foot.
Also on Friday
Churchill Downs: La Troienne Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ f/m (6.26pm BST)
After a pair of wide-margin victories at the Fair Grounds, last year's Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can (Larry Jones/ Rosie Napravnik) returns to the scene of her finest hour.
Rivals include Apple Blossom winner On Fire Baby (Gary Hartlage/Joe Johnson), who has a couple of wins to her credit at this venue but isn't favoured by the weights and was only fifth behind the favourite a year ago in the Kentucky Oaks.
Churchill Downs: Alysheba Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ (8.52pm BST)
Oaklawn Handicap winner Cyber Secret (Lynn Whiting/Robby Albarado) faces a handful of high-profile rivals as he bids to complete a five-timer this term.
He breaks from the outside post against eight opponents including Hymn Book (Shug McGaughey/Garrett Gomez), Richard's Kid (Doug O'Neill/Kevin Krigger) and Take Charge Indy (Pat Byrne/Rosie Napravnik), all of whom have won at the top level.
Churchill Downs: American Turf (Grade 2) 1m½f, turf, 3yo+ (9.44pm BST)
Noble Tune (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano), runner-up to George Vancouver in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, heads a 13-runner field.