Both the Kentucky Derby trail and the Kentucky Oaks trail meet their ends this weekend. This piece shines a light on the Fantasy Stakes (G3), the final points prep for the Kentucky Oaks. In addition to previewing the Fantasy Stakes, we also look at the final Kentucky Derby points preps in separate pieced: the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn and the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
This year marks the 46th running of the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn. At stake this year are a share of a $400,000 purse, as well as 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Oaks points to the top four places. The race has been run at 1 1/16 miles and restricted to three-year-old fillies since its inception in 1973. It has been either a Grade 1 or a Grade 2 for most of its history, though it was downgraded to a Grade 3 starting in 2013. Even so, this final prep race at Oaklawn has been a rich source of Kentucky Oaks winners. It has produced eight to date: Davona Dale (1979), Bold ‘n Deterimined (1980), Heavenly Cause (1981), Tiffany Lass (1986), Lite Light (1991), Blushing K. D. (1997), Rachel Alexandra (2009), and Blind Luck (2010). Rachel Alexandra would then go on to win the Preakness Stakes — the only Fantasy Stakes winner to then win a Triple Crown race.
Rachel Alexandra asserts her supreme class in the 2009 edition of the Fantasy Stakes.
Friday, April 13: Oaklawn Park
Race 7: Fantasy Stakes (G3), three-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 4:34pm CDT
AMY’S CHALLENGE ran a big race in the Honeybee, first time going a route of ground. She flew early, opened up, and just failed to hold late. AMY’S CHALLENGE should be on the lead again here; though some others in this field have shown speed, no one is a one-way frontrunner, and no one is fast enough to go with her early even if she doesn’t open up. Her final tune-up was exactly what this space wanted to see: smooth, strong, and faster than it looked. Though AMY’S CHALLENGE loses her regular rider Jareth Loveberry to injury, she gets about as good a replacement as she possibly could: Mike Smith, a top-class rider who has shipped in and taken his share of big-race scores at Oaklawn. The biggest question with AMY’S CHALLENGE is the weather, as she has never raced on an off track. But, there is some pedigree for her to handle it, as one of her dam’s victories came over off dirt. Speed has been good enough at this distance at Oaklawn that as long as Smith uses it wisely, someone is going to have to run big to catch AMY’S CHALLENGE here.
Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out HARBOR LIGHTS here. She was well beaten in her only stakes outing so far, but that came last year, in just her second career start. She has a bit more underneath her now. Her allowance win last month, in her first start off a long winter lay, suggests that HARBOR LIGHTS is in good form at three. Any step forward from that outing puts HARBOR LIGHTS right among the best here, and the stalk-and-pounce style was a positive. Though there’s plenty of “miler” in her pedigree, the fact that her allowance win came at a mile and a sixteenth is a positive, since she returns to that distance here.
To close this out? There are a couple of salty contenders here. PRINCESS WARRIOR has been keeping classy company, but has thus far not shown her best in dirt routes. WONDER GADOT has danced every dance and has a solid off-track pedigree, but has been a perennial underneath type all year long. She appeals underneath, but not so much on top. COSMIC BURST, on the other hand, has a lot going for her. The biggest question — and, why she’s relegated to third — is track condition. Her one sloppy-track try was a well-beaten third in the Martha Washington. But? That was also her first start off a freshening, and her start wasn’t great. Third off the lay and with a fantastic mud pedigree, COSMIC BURST deserves another shot here, and with a better start it wouldn’t be a big surprise for her to throw down with AMY’S CHALLENGE once again.
#6 AMY’S CHALLENGE (5/2)
#2 HARBOR LIGHTS (6/1)
#4 COSMIC BURST (7/2)
Longshot: It’s rare enough to visit the Mac Robertson barn once in a graded stakes, but today, we’ll visit twice. He also entered #3 TAHOE DREAM (20/1) in the Fantasy, and she has upside here. She will have to improve in this, her stakes debut, but she has several reasons to be competitive at long odds here. TAHOE DREAM didn’t graduate until her fourth start, but her maiden score came in her first route race, and she followed it up with a two-turn victory against winners next out. Her running style is a positive; her maiden win came stalking rather close to the pace, whereas her N1X came settling farther off a contested pace. This gives her options in a race in which her stablemate AMY’S CHALLENGE will likely set the fractions, but the pace behind her is a little muddled. TAHOE DREAM also has wins over both dry and muddy Oaklawn courses, meaning the wet weather won’t derail her if it comes.
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