(Julia Shining wins the G2 Demoiselle Stakes / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Put to a drive on the backstretch by jockey Luis Saez, odds-on favorite Julia Shining didn’t make it look easy but got the job done nonetheless in the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, narrowly defeating the maiden Affirmative Lady in the nine-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies.

The Demoiselle, run for the 101st time, kicked off a sequence of four graded stakes races on the program led by the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets. As part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, the Demoiselle also awarded qualifying points of 10-4-3-2-1 to its top-five finishers.

In victory, Julia Shining, a full-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning Champion Malathaat, replicated her older sister’s success in this event in 2020.

A runaway maiden winner at Keeneland’s Fall Meet, Julia Shining was making just her second career start in the Demoiselle for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and Stonestreet Stables, who also bred the Curlin filly. Dealing with rainy conditions over a sloppy and sealed track, her inexperience was really put to the test after she broke near the back of the field of seven as Tribal Queen went out to lead through honest splits of 24.61 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.35 for the half.

Trainer Todd Pletcher — Julia Shining (1st):

“She was clearly not handling things [down the backstretch] and Luis was trying to encourage her to improve position and finally did it around the quarter pole,” said Pletcher. “Once she found a rhythm down the lane, she started to close and Luis said she kind of got her head in front and then wanted to wait a little bit.

“Clearly she has tons of natural talent and is still putting it all together,” the trainer added. “We knew from her debut that she didn’t like the kickback, and you add the sloppy track into that today, so that was our biggest concern was trying to get her into the clear. Unfortunately, the only way to get her into the clear was to go pretty wide, but she’s got so much natural stamina that we felt the mile and an eighth was really going to play to her strengths.”

The win was Julia Shining’s second from two career starts, with her earnings now at $194,075. She returned $3.10 on a $2 win wager as the heavy favorite.

Jockey John Velazquez — Affirmative Lady (2nd):

Trained by Graham Motion for AMO Racing USA, Affirmative Lady fought doggedly under Hall of Famer John Velazquez but remained a maiden when the dust settled. Her runner-up finish in the Demoiselle actually represents her best placing to date, with the gray Arrogate filly having previously gotten a third and a fourth to begin her career at Keeneland.

“The dirt was hitting her and I saved ground the best I could,” said Velazquez. “I put her in the clear and I heard the winner all the way from the half-mile pole right outside of me. I knew it was one of Todd’s, either or. I’m thinking that I’ll just hold my position where I was and hopefully when they come to me, she goes. She put up a good fight though. I’m very proud of her.”