The Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes May 1 at Oaklawn Park drew a powerful group of 3-year-old fillies. A talented, full field of 14 was entered for the 1 1/16-mile dirt race, which was rescheduled to this date on the calendar that typically is reserved for the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing Churchill Downs to reschedule both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and the Kentucky Oaks, Oaklawn also restructured its stakes calendar and the Fantasy Stakes shift to this new date looks like it paid dividends in terms of quality of competition.
Make no mistake, this race already was a proven launching pad for talented sophomore fillies as stars like Our Mims, Davona Dale, Tiffany Lass, Rachel Alexandra, and Blind Luck won the Fantasy on their way to Eclipse Awards honors as champion 3-year-old filly. But this year’s field seems deeper and stronger than usual.
Let’s take a closer look at the 14 fillies entered for the 2020 Fantasy Stakes.
1. Ice Princess (20-1 morning-line odds): Only previous foray into graded stakes company came in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes last October – her lone defeat to date. She’s won both of her starts in 2020 impressively, including a stakes for New York-breds Feb. 23, but she needs to show she can handle this class level. She’s talented but doesn’t look fast enough on paper.
JOCKEY: Kendrick Carmouche; TRAINER: Danny Gargan
2. Venetian Harbor (2-1): Dominant winner of Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes Feb. 8 has won her last two by a combined 20 lengths. Equibase Speed Figures say she is the fastest of this group by a decent margin. A worthy favorite who has trained well for this race.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
3. Swiss Skydiver (6-1): Enters off a front-running win in Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks, but she’ll have to hustle to beat the speedy favorite to her inside to the front. She’s also run fairly well coming from off the pace and has proved capable at this level. A win candidate.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
4. Lake Avenue (15-1): Has not lived up to lofty expectations since winning Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes in December 2019, running unplaced as heavy favorite in season debut and third in Gulfstream Park Oaks. Hunch regally-bred filly fires a big one at nice price in third start of year.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bill Mott
5. Harvey’s Lil Goil (12-1): She enters this race off back-to-back open-length victories, including a 7 ¼-length runaway in the Busanda Stakes Feb. 2 that earned a career-top 100 Equibase Speed Figure. She was freshened after that race and returns here off a three-month layoff with a chance to be a serious factor from just off the pace.
JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Bill Mott
6. Kansas Kis (30-1): This Constitution filly stretched out to a mile for the Busher Invitational Stakes in her most recent start March 7 and led by 3 ½ lengths in deep stretch before fading late and finishing second by a nose. This is a stiff test of both class and stamina, and on paper she would need to take a significant step forward to be a win threat.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Raymond Handal
7. Shedaresthedevil (12-1): This filly stepped up to win the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes on this track and at this distance March 7, showing poise and determination in victory. From a speed-figure perspective, she looks like she’ll need to take another step forward but she’s in terrific form and racing on a track she likes.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Brad Cox
8. Ring Leader (30-1): Fifth in the Grade 3 Honeybee, Ring Leader’s three victories to date all have come at sprint distances. She figures to be a pace factor, but unless she gets an uncontested lead it would be difficult to envision a visit to the winner’s circle.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo; TRAINER: McLean Robertson
9. Lady Glamour (50-1): She finished in the top three in back-to-back stakes at Churchill Downs to close out her 2-year-old season, but was well-beaten in both races. She returned in the Purple Martin Stakes at three-quarters of a mile April 4 at Oaklawn and ran sixth, beaten by 12 ¾ lengths. The price should be right, but Lady Glamour appears a bit overmatched in this spot.
JOCKEY: Julie Burke; TRAINER: Kenny Smith
10. British Idiom (5-2): Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly after an unbeaten campaign, British Idiom disappointed in her 2020 debut when second by 4 ¾ lengths as the 9-10 favorite in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds. It could be she just needed the race from a fitness standpoint, but from a speed-figure angle she’s never run a really fast race. Play her on top if you really like her, otherwise I think she’s worth betting against at what figures to be a short price.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Brad Cox
11. Fire Coral (15-1): Lightly raced Curlin filly enters off two straight open-length wins on this track at this distance. She’s won from off the pace and while setting the temp, so there is some versatility to Fire Coral. The speed figures indicate she’ll need to improve stepping up in class for her stakes debut, but she’s clearly trending in the right direction.
JOCKEY: Tyler Baze; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
12. New York Groove (20-1): This one tries dirt for the first time after four victories to open her career on all-weather surfaces and then a disappointing last-place finish in the Grade 2 Florida Oaks when trying turf for the first time. She’s a multiple stakes winner on synthetic with speed figures comparable to every entrant not named Venetian Harbor. Worth a long look here.
JOCKEY: Stewart Elliott; TRAINER: Michael Trombetta
13. Lazy Daisy (20-1): Won the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs last September in her third start and has not raced since a troubled sixth, beaten by 23 ½ lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trainer Doug O’Neill is pretty solid off long layoffs like this, but against this group it’s a lot to ask. I’d venture the price will at least be very enticing and she’s a graded stakes winner.
JOCKEY: David Cohen; TRAINER: Doug O’Neill
14. Alta’s Award (12-1): Honeybee Stakes runner-up had won two straight before coming up three-quarters of a length short in her stakes debut. I would have liked her to improve off that good learning experience, but the post position draw did her no favors. She looks like a sure-fire future stakes winner, but I’m just not sure this is the spot for that breakthrough.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
THE PICK: Lake Avenue
LIVE LONGSHOT: New York Groove