January 27, 2023

Julia Shining uncorks late rally for Demoiselle

Julia Shining wins the Demoiselle Stakes (Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk/Coglianese Photos)

A full sister to champion and recent Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Malathaat, Julia Shining spun widest of all leaving the far turn and closed last-to-first to earn her first stakes win in Saturday’s $250,000 Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct. The Stonestreet Farm homebred scored by a neck after a determined finish over the sloppy track, improving to 2-for-2 for Todd Pletcher, and Luis Saez was up on the promising two-year-old filly.

Julia Shining still has some learning to do, displaying signs of immaturity in both starts, but the talent is present. Off as the .55-1 favorite among seven runners, the bay was exiting an eye-catching debut win at Keeneland in which she raced erratically during the opening stages before closing from far back to win going away by 2 3/4 lengths.

The daughter of Curlin stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Demoiselle, stopping the teletimer in 1:53.05, and Julia Shining picked up 10 points winning the Kentucky Oaks qualifier.

“Clearly she has tons of natural talent and is still putting it all together,” Pletcher said. “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.”

Affirmative Lady also cornered wide from off the pace and got the jump on the winner, striking the front in deep stretch, but Julia Shining had too much momentum on the far outside.

Julia Shining did not get away smoothly from the starting gate and was being hustled while racing toward the back on the first turn. Tribal Queen sprinted forward at the break to show the way on a short lead, establishing early splits in :24.61, :49.35, and 1:14.31 before giving way under pressure while turning for home.

The race appeared wide open in upper stretch, and Julia Shining began to uncork her rally after losing ground angling extremely wide. She made up a lot of ground in the final furlongs to prevail.

“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,” Pletcher said. “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.”

Affirmative Lady, off at 7-1, held second by three-quarters of a length over late-running Gambling Girl at 9-1. Royal Spa, La Vita Sofia, Foggy Night, and Tribal Queen came next under the wire.

Kentucky-bred Julia Shining is the second foal to race from the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia. Malathaat, the presumptive champion older dirt female this season, was named champion three-year-old filly after winning the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Alabama (G1), and Ashland (G1) last year, and the six-time Grade 1 winner has earned more than $3.7 million.

The best is probably yet to come with Julia Shining.

“She’s still learning,” Saez said.