There were plenty of excuses for Wonder Wheel. The Tampa Bay track is notorious for being a strip that some horses take to with gusto and others loathe, and water from recent rain had made it still more unpredictable. A speed bias appeared to be in play, and it was Wonder Wheel’s first race of the season after a growth spurt that left the big filly a bit gangly and still catching up on herself. Julia Shining was also making her first start of the season and had no experience at Tampa Bay Downs. Dreaming of Snow, on the other hand, had three previous races over the track and routinely trained there, and her jockey, Samy Camacho, had ridden every race on the card prior to the Suncoast and knew exactly how the track was playing.
On the other side of the coin, Dreaming of Snow had to work nearly every step of the way; while she assumed the lead early, she was pressured throughout. She never opened up a lead of more than a length, and the favorites had every chance to catch the leader if they could. They could not. If anything, Dreaming of Snow appeared to have extended her lead at the finish after Wonder Wheel seemed ready to go on by in the last 40 yards, and this in Dreaming of Snow’s first effort around two turns. The time for the mile-and-40-yard race was 1:40.18.
Dreaming of Snow is the fifth stakes winner sired by Ocala Stud stallion Jess’s Dream, a son of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra who won his maiden effort impressively but never raced again. A US$60,000 purchase from the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March sale of 2-year-olds in training, she is out of unraced Snow Fashion (by 2008 Remsen Stakes, USA-G2, winner Old Fashioned, by Unbridled’s Song), whose son Montauk Daddy (by Daddy Longlegs) is stakes-placed and has earned over US$407,000. The mare’s most recent foals are the two-year-old The Big Beast colt Snowname and the yearling Valiant Minister colt Keep On Snowing.
Snow Fashion, in turn, is out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Snow Lass, who won a restricted stakes at Tampa Bay as a 3-year-old and is a full sister to multiple turf stakes winner Atlantic Frost. Snow Lass’s dam Keri’s Snowman (who never raced) is a full sister to Grade 3 winner Palliser Bay and is by multiple Grade 3 winner Frosty the Snowman (by His Majesty), who set a world record of 1:44-2/5 for a mile and one-eighth over Woodbine’s turf course. The next dam in the tail-female line is Caro Keri (by Caro), a half sister to Grade 3-placed Hushi (by Riverman) and a great-granddaughter of 1959 American champion handicap female Tempted.
For leading Tampa Bay trainer Gerald Bennett, now 78 years old, Dreaming of Snow’s win over two of the most heralded members of her division is cause for dreams of his own. The filly earned 20 points toward a Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1) berth with her win in the listed stakes, and the grit and determination she showed in the stretch will serve her well as she tries to go forward. She will need to show that she can be competitive with good fillies away from her home base if she is to go to Kentucky, but if she progresses as Bennett now dares to hope she can, she may turn out to be one of the feel-good stories of 2023.