By Katie Petrunyak
Compared to an exquisite painting by her owner Barbara Banke, Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy) has been regarded as racing royalty from the very beginning. Now 13 years old, the Grade I winner reigns as monarch of Stonestreet's world-class broodmare band, and this spring, she was crowned 2022 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
Thanks to the efforts of her two Curlin daughters Malathaat and Julia Shining, Dreaming of Julia has already put together a produce record for the books, yet Banke and her team at Stonestreet are hopeful that their star mare is just getting started.
“I think Dreaming of Julia is our top mare,” Banke said. “Every year we look forward to seeing her baby and she does not disappoint. Every year, there is something really special from that mare.”
With three of Dreaming of Julia's fillies still awaiting their moment in the spotlight, Banke has the opportunity to dream big with a mare that very well could have wound up in a different breeding program had it not been for Banke's steady confidence from day one.
Foaled at Stonestreet in early March, Dreaming of Julia was the first foal out of Grade I victress Dream Rush (Wild Rush), who Stonestreet was the underbidder on at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November Sale but then purchased privately two years later when she was carrying Dreaming of Julia.
“Dreaming of Julia was beautiful from the first minute we saw her and she stayed beautiful,” Banke recalled. “She was elegant and really aristocratic-looking.”
As the A.P. Indy filly progressed as a yearling, Banke could not be swayed by the commercial attention that this youngster would attract in the sales ring. She decided that the filly would be a birthday gift to herself and would remain in the Stonestreet program.
Flash forward several years and Dreaming of Julia was concluding a successful racing campaign for Stonestreet and Todd Pletcher. A 'TDN Rising Star' on debut, Dreaming of Julia's career was highlighted by three straight victories as a juvenile, which she won by a combined 27 lengths and culminated with a Grade I score in the Frizette S., as well as a stunning 21 3/4-length romp in the GII Gulfstream Oaks as a sophomore.
“She was brilliantly fast and had a tremendous stride,” Banke said of the racehorse she named after her daughter. “She just ate up the ground. And she has a great mind, the nicest horse in the world. All of those things combined to make her a great racehorse.”
Many of the characteristics that defined Dreaming of Julia's career could also be used to describe her daughters Malathaat and Julia Shining–the first a champion for Todd Pletcher and the second a Grade II winner now in training as a sophomore for the same Hall of Fame trainer.
Pletcher reflected on the shared qualities of his former stable star Dreaming of Julia and her daughters.
“First and foremost, they all have natural talent,” he explained. “They all have very good minds and are very willing, straightforward-training horses.”
Pletcher has now worked with four fillies out of Dreaming of Julia, starting with her first extremely promising daughter Golden Julia (Medaglia d'Oro) who died tragically in a stall accident before she made it to the starting gate.
The next foal sold to Shadwell Estate Co. for $1.05 million as a yearling in 2019. Malathaat's tremendous campaign was marked by Eclipse Award honors at three and four and led Banke to decide that, “We're not going to sell any more fillies out of Dreaming of Julia.”
“Malathaat was special from the first time we breezed her,” Pletcher said of the six-time Grade I winner and Kentucky Oaks victress. “She was just different. She was gifted and she continued to get better. A really intelligent filly to be around and a sweetheart in the barn, she was a pleasure.”
Going out a champion in the 2022 GI Breeders' Cup Distaff, Malathaat retired to Shadwell's broodmare band and visited Spendthrift's leading sire Into Mischief. She is the first of Dreaming of Julia's daughters to launch a breeding career.
While Malathaat is the most decorated of her dam's offspring for now, it is her younger sister Julia Shining–who is also by Stonestreet's two-time Horse of the Year Curlin–that Pletcher said reminds him most of Dreaming of Julia.
Like her elder sister and dam, Julia Shining was named a 'TDN Rising Star' on debut last fall at Keeneland. She went on to win the GII Demoiselle S. to conclude her juvenile season, but settled for third in both starts this year and did not earn enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks.
Stonestreet Training Center's Ian Brennan, who worked with Dreaming of Julia herself when she was learning the ropes as a racehorse just over a decade ago, spoke highly of Julia Shining but said that the filly was always likely to get better with time.
“Julia Shining was big and pretty, a beautiful mover with a lot of class,” he recalled. “You could tell that she was long and narrow, so with time she was just going to get better and better. Even back to her first work on the farm, you could tell that there was a lot of ability there but that she would just get better with time. When you look at Julia Shining now, she has filled out a bit more and I do think her best is in front of her.”
Pletcher is also a firm believer that the best is yet to come for his trainee. Asked if Julia Shining has already realized her true potential, Pletcher responded emphatically.
“Not at all,” he said. “She's still putting it all together. I think the blinkers helped last time. She's the type that will get better with time and I don't think we've seen her peak yet. Hopefully she can stay in training as a 4-year-old and she'll be even better then.”
Pletcher added that Julia Shining is enjoying a brief freshening and will return to the starting gate later this summer.
Dreaming of Julia has three more daughter in the pipeline who could potentially add to their dam's legacy in the coming years.
The next filly set to begin her racing career is an unnamed 2-year-old by Medaglia d'Oro who just arrived in Pletcher's barn at Saratoga a few weeks ago.
“She's doing great,” Pletcher reported. “So far everything is straightforward. She's very professional, like this whole family has been.”
According to Pletcher, while his team is still getting acquainted with the juvenile, if all goes smoothly he could anticipate a debut in Saratoga later this summer.
Brennan said that he believes this juvenile might come out swinging a bit earlier than her older sisters.
“The 2-year-old is a little more precocious than the others,” he shared. “She's maybe not quite as big as Julia Shining, with more of Medaglia d'Oro in her. She's very, very smooth. They're all very smooth.”
Continuing to draw comparisons between Dreaming of Julia and her daughters, Brennan added, “Just a ton of class with the whole family. They cover a lot of ground with a lot of power behind. They're all very easy to handle. If anything, they just need a bit of time to fill out and mature. Even though they're precocious enough at two, they all just get better with time.”
Dreaming of Julia's yearling of this year is a full-sister to Malathaat and Julia Shining.
“She is spectacular but once again, she is not in the sale,” Banke prefaced. “She will be going to Ocala for training sometime soon. This will now be the third Curlin filly out of Dreaming of Julia and hopefully there will be others in the future. The brains and the speed of Curlin and Dreaming of Julia are a really good match.”
This spring, another auspicious individual arrived at Stonestreet when Dreaming of Julia produced her first foal by Into Mischief. The filly arrived on April 25.
Just this year, Into Mischief has produced two Grade I winners from similar matings with Kentucky Oaks victress Pretty Mischievous, who is out of GISW Pretty City Dancer (Tapit), and Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. winner Atone, who is out of a daughter of A.P. Indy.
Dreaming of Julia was bred back to Curlin.
“One of these days, we might even get a colt,” Banke said with a laugh.
In Banke's eyes, Dreaming of Julia has been deserving of every accolade she has received, but the leading owner said that celebrating the mare's Broodmare of the Year distinction was a rewarding chapter in Dreaming of Julia's story.
“We always thought that she should be considered as a Broodmare of the Year just on the basis of Malathaat,” she explained. “But with Julia Shining and her wins to follow, she's definitely Broodmare of the Year.”
Banke is already scouting out which of her productive broodmares might be deserving of the same award some day. She said Glinda the Good (Hard Spun) is a top candidate. The Stonestreet homebred is the dam of champion and now leading second-crop sire Good Magic and her produce record also includes a 2-year-old full-sister to Good Magic that Banke just named Penny Royal, as well as a Quality Road yearling filly and an Into Mischief colt foaled Mar. 16 this year.
With a breeding program like Stonestreet's, the stars might just align for the operation to land another award-winning producer in the future. Pletcher emphasized just that point.
“I think any time you have a Broodmare of the Year, that's an accomplishment,” he said. “It's really a tribute to Barbara and her entire team to have a mare like that. I think it exemplifies Stonestreet's entire mating plan of buying a filly like Dream Rush with loads of speed and then putting Dreaming of Julia to a stallion like Curlin with loads of ability and stamina. It's a tremendous achievement on their part and it tells you how special of a breeding program they have developed.”