Backers of odds-on favorite Malathaat might have been mentally ripping up their tickets as the unbeaten filly wasn’t traveling at all in Saturday’s $150,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2). But once Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez steered her to the outside in the Aqueduct slop, the Todd Pletcher trainee gained traction, and confidence, to collar Millefeuille in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) scoring race.
Malathaat’s difficulty in the conditions was apparent early. In her career debut at Belmont Park, and her 7 3/4-length rout in the Nov. 6 Tempted here, the Shadwell Stable runner had been involved in the pace. Not so in the Demoiselle, her first race on an off track.
Although breaking well from her rail post, Malathaat did not make the lead. The 0.45-1 favorite instead settled behind stablemate Traffic Lane through fractions of :23.69 and :48.50, but without any zest. As Velazquez niggled her along down the backstretch, Malathaat was not responding. She was actually losing ground on the inside, while the pace-prompting Millefeuille was moving sweetly to take over and open up through 6 furlongs in 1:13.33.
After Malathaat dropped back to fifth on the far turn, Velazquez had room to extricate her from the rail. The $1.05 million daughter of Curlin and Grade 1 star Dreaming of Julia then showed a glimmer of life in the clear. Finally striding out down the lane, Malathaat rumbled into contention. Millefeuille, who had been three lengths in front at the eighth-pole, found the favorite drawing alongside and forging past in the waning yards.
Three-quarters of a length up at the wire, Malathaat clocked 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.36 to bank 10 points toward the Kentucky Oaks.
“Her class was what kept her going and got her there on time,” said Velazquez, who has ridden a record seven Demoiselle winners according to NYRA. “She was never comfortable and not running into a spot I wanted. She never really put that much effort into keeping a spot. Finally, when I tipped her out heading to the quarter-pole, she started running.
“When I got her out, she put her ears up. Little by little, when she got to the other horses, she started going.”
“She wasn’t comfortable inside,” said Pletcher, likewise the all-time top Demoiselle trainer with six wins, three ridden by Velazquez. “I think she was unsure of the footing early on. In her first two starts, she had easy trips without much dirt in her face. I was worried at multiple points of the race. Sometimes drawing the rail is great and this time it seemed to have backfired on us a couple of times. In the final eighth of a mile, she was able to get into her comfort zone and rhythm and that’s when she showed what she’s all about.
“She did it with her ears pricked, so in the end, it was impressive that she could do that. Some lesser quality horses might have thrown in the towel at some stage, but when she got rolling, she was impressive.”
The 3.15-1 second choice Millefeuille had 4 1/2 lengths to spare from third-placer Malibu Curl, also daughters of Curlin who gave their Hall of Fame sire a sweep of the trifecta. Both maiden winners last out, Millefeuille scored 4 points and Malibu Curl received 2 points. Cafe Society got 1 point in fourth. Traffic Lane gave way to a distant fifth, trailed by the 32-1 longest shot on the board, Celestial Cheetah.
Now a perfect 3-for-3, Malathaat has bankrolled $172,150. Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings in Kentucky, she commanded $1.05 million as a yearling at Keeneland September.
Malathaat hopes to have a stronger finish to her career than dam Dreaming of Julia, who also swept her first three starts including the 2012 Frizette (G1) for Pletcher. Herself a Stonestreet homebred, Dreaming of Julia lost four of her final five starts, but placed at a high level in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Davona Dale (G2), and Mother Goose (G1). Her lone win of 2013 was a doozy – a 21 3/4-length drubbing in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
“I see some similarities (with Dreaming of Julia),” Pletcher said. “They are both nice fillies to be around and very professional in the mornings and very sweet around the barn. They are very easy to take care of and they both have shown they want to run long. Dreaming of Julia was a really high-quality filly and I think this filly is of the same ilk.”
Dreaming of Julia is an A. P. Indy half-sister to multiple Grade 3 victress Dream Pauline (by Tapit) and stakes-winning sire Atreides (by Medaglia d’Oro). Their dam is multiple Grade 1 heroine Dream Rush, by Wild Rush.