(Trainer Todd Pletcher / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher could have as many as three chances to secure his fifth win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales, at Saratoga Race Course.
Pletcher previously won the 10-furlong test for sophomore fillies with Princess of Sylmar , Stopshoppingmaria , Malathaat  and Nest  and has entered Julia Shining, Gambling Girl and Chocolate Gelatoas he looks to win this event for the third straight year.
The regally-bred Julia Shining [post 3, Luis Saez, 5-1 ML], by Curlin and out of the Pletcher-trained Grade 1-winning A. P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, is a full-sister to dual Champion Malathaat.
A Kentucky homebred for Stonestreet Stables, Julia Shining made a visually-appealing debut, rallying from 11th to win by 2 3/4-lengths traveling seven furlongs in October at Keeneland over next-out winner and eventual stakes-winner Positano Sunset.
She followed with a neck score in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle in December at Aqueduct Racetrack, overcoming a bobbled start and a sloppy and sealed main track. Julia Shining has finished third in both of her starts this season, most recently landing three-quarters of a length back of returning rival Defining Purpose in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Ashland on April 7 at Keeneland.
Julia Shining has breezed extensively over the Spa main track, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.71 on August 5.
“She should love the mile and a quarter,” Pletcher said. “It’s not exactly the way we mapped it out going from the Ashland to here, but we got a couple of good solid breezes into her, so we’re hoping we have her ready.”
Pletcher said Julia Shining will improve with age and racing.
“I still feel like she’s physically maturing,” Pletcher said. “She’s starting to fill out into her frame a little bit. She’s another one similar to Malathaat that will continue to improve with maturity.”
Repole Stable’s multiple graded stakes-placed New York-bred Gambling Girl [post, 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 8-1 ML] boasts a record of 11-2-3-3 for purse earnings of $544,910, more than doubling her $200,000 purchase price at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale.
Gambling Girl captured the state-bred Joseph A. Gimma sprinting seven furlongs in September at Belmont at the Big A and two starts later closed to complete the trifecta in the Demoiselle. She remained in training and finished second in the open-company Busanda traveling nine furlongs in January at the Big A before shipping to Oaklawn Park and finishing a deep-closing fourth behind her victorious returning rival Wet Paint in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Honeybee over a sloppy and sealed main track.
Gambling Girl returned to New York and finished a game second in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Gazelle on April 8 at Aqueduct and narrowly missed a 13-1 upset when closing to finish second, beaten a neck by Pretty Mischievous, in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Gambling Girl was freshened ahead of a third-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22 here, landing 8 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Wet Paint, who was a neck better than another returning foe in Sacred Wish.
Pletcher said the Dialed In bay should appreciate the added furlong.
“She’s doing well. She had a bit of time off between the Oaks and the Coaching Club. Hopefully, that race under her belt with move her forward,” Pletcher said. “That’s [the 10 furlongs] a big part of how we scheduled it out and gave her a bit of extra time between starts because we wanted to run twice here.”
Bred in the Empire State by Gallagher’s Stud, Gambling Girl is out of the three-time winning Empire Maker mare Tulipmania, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Straight Story. Her third dam, Felicita, produced multiple Grade 1-winner and 2014 Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady.
Repole Stable’s Chocolate Gelato [post 6, Jose Ortiz, 15-1 ML] could be a pace presence in a loaded field of 10 fillies as she looks to make her first start since an even fourth in her seasonal debut in the six-furlong Jersey Girl on June 11 at Belmont Park.
“I need to have a conversation with Mike Repole about it. We entered Chocolate Gelato to take a look and see what the pace scenario looks like,” Pletcher said. “It came up a larger field than we expected and it looks like there’s a little more pace than we thought there might be. We’ll see.”
The Practical Joke dark bay captured the one-turn mile Grade 1 Frizette in October at Belmont at the Big A ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Keeneland. The $475,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase has banked $299,350 through a record of 5-2-0-1.
Pletcher will have a pair of starters in Junipermarshmallow and Soviet Excess in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies.
St. Elias Stables’ Kentucky homebred Junipermarshmallow [post 5, Jose Ortiz, 12-1 ML] is perfect through two starts, rallying to best eventual dual stakes-winner Botanical in her October debut traveling 1 1/16-miles over firm Keeneland turf. She followed with another visually appealing score in the 7 1/2-furlong Wait a While in December at Gulfstream Park.
The stakes score garnered a 72 Beyer Speed Figure, but Pletcher said he likes the way Junipermarshmallow won and noted a strong five-eighths work in 1:02 flat Sunday over the Oklahoma training turf here.
“I thought it was impressive that she was able to win her first two starts like that,” Pletcher said. “I thought her breeze here on the turf leading up to this was very impressive. We’re coming in off a bit of a break, but she’s doing very well.”
Junipermarshmallow is out of the Danehill Dancer mare Elitiste, who is a half-sister to four-time Group 1-winner Alpha Centauri as well as Group 1-winners Alpine Star and Discoveries. She is a direct descendant of Hall of Famer Miesque.
Wertheimer and Frere’s stakes-placed Kentucky homebred Soviet Excess [post 6, Dylan Davis, 15-1 ML] sports a record of 6-2-2-1 for purse earnings of $101,700.
The Uncle Mo bay finished a close second at third asking to next-out graded stakes-winner Queen Picasso in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight in March over the Gulfstream Park turf. She followed with a maiden score traveling one mile and 70 yards over the Gulfstream synthetic before besting winners in a return to turf at 7 1/2-furlongs over the Hallandale Beach oval.
She enters from an even third in the one-mile Wild Applause finishing two lengths back of runner-up and returning rival Tax Implications.
“She’s pretty consistent and shows up every time. We’d expect her to put forth a good effort again,” Pletcher said.
Soviet Excess is out of the stakes-placed Tapit mare Westit. Her third dam, Ocean Drive, produced the Pletcher-trained multiple stakes-winner West Ocean.