By Michael Adolphson for woodbine.com
TORONTO, August 29 – Dreaming of Anna was flashy from the beginning. She had speed to burn and the ability to stretch it out. On top of that, she had a pedigree that was second-to-none and a class about her that captured the imagination.
Physically, she was a true lady. Friendly in nature, she was physically nearly perfect. Delicate in the head and neck and a perfect balance of strong and refined in the shoulders and hind quarters, she was Florence Griffith-Joyner meets Florence Henderson in equine form.
The kind-natured filly brought many thrills to trainer Wayne Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese and none of them would have happened if a key stop in Canada did not occur early in her career.
After opening her career with an easy victory going 4 1/2 furlongs at her Chicago base of Arlington Park, the homebred daughter of Rahy out of Justenuffheart — a half-sister to Kitten’s Joy — was taken to Colonial Downs in greater Richmond, Virginia, for its Tippett Stakes, one of the first turf stakes of the year for 2-year-old fillies. Again, she was a force. The chestnut filly broke on top and never looked back, scampering off to a powerful 7 1/4-length triumph over eight other fillies.
Catalano knew he had something.
“From the beginning she was good,” he said. “She was always a beautiful filly. A real pretty girl. And boy was she fast and she could carry it!
“We knew she was very talented, but we really wanted to try her against the best, but back then there was no Breeders’ Cup for (2-year-old) turf fillies.”
Catalano, always one to place his horses conservatively, had to figure out a way to get his filly from a 5 1/2-furlong turf race in late July to a 1 1/16-mile dirt race the first weekend of November, the Grade 1 $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.
Enter: Woodbine and its world-class turf course.
“We weren’t sure what to do with her until we saw the race against the boys. It was a mile and on the grass and I thought — hey, if we run her there and aim toward the Breeders’ Cup, it would be the right distance to get her there. We knew she was a grass horse, but sometimes those grass horses, they run good on their first time on the dirt, so this was the best spot.”
Dreaming of Anna went on to win the Juvenile Fillies… (Breeders’ Cup Photo)
The one-turn mile on Woodbine’s unique turf course was also key for Dreaming of Anna, as she progressed in trip and bridged the gap to a two-turn race at slightly over a mile. Catalano, though, had his fair share of detractors.
“A lot of people didn’t think we could do it,” he said. “Not just getting to the Breeders’ Cup with a grass filly, but doing it on only one race off a layoff and seven weeks (break leading into the Breeders’ Cup). But, I thought it was the best way to do it and we did it — and she beat the boys at Woodbine on the way. Woodbine was great and they have the great turf course. She liked that course.”
Dreaming of Anna made her mark on Canadian soil from the get-go. Slowing down markedly from the 21 and 22-second splits of her first two runs, the talented charge relaxed and displayed maturity while vying for the lead in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes. Headed for the first time in her career, she cared little and quickly put away her rivals turning for home. Closing her final quarter-mile in a wicked 23 seconds flat, she scampered away from the boys by 3 1/4 lengths over Marcavelly, who would go on to become a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf.
Dreaming of Anna, herself, would immediately go on to wire the Juvenile Fillies, defeating top future multiple Grade 1 winner Octave and garnering herself an Eclipse Award for outstanding 2-year-old filly in America. In the end she would have a record of 10 wins, three seconds and a third from 17 starts, win nine stakes on five different tracks and land six graded events.
“Luckily I would go on to win the (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf) when they made one, with Stephanie’s Kitten,” Catalano reflected. “That race wound up being a million and the Juvenile Fillies was two (million), so I wound up making more money than I would have.
“Dreaming of Anna was very special,” Catalano concluded. “She was my first of three Breeders’ Cup winners and really helped put me on the map. She helped out my career a lot, but she was also such a nice filly to train. She did what you asked of her. I wish I had a barn full of her.”
Steeped in tradition, Woodbine’s world-famous turf races have been captured by some of the greats of the sport including recent Woodbine Mile champs Tepin and Wise Dan; the Hall of Fame mare All Along who captured the International in a standout campaign; and the incomparable Secretariat, who concluded his historic career with a runaway score in the 1973 edition of the International. Join us as we profile Titans of the Turf, highlighting those who have triumphed on the Woodbine green.