Oaklawn’s final week of racing kicks off Wednesday, April 11 with the start of the Racing Festival of the South and the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies. The 1 1/16-mile race drew a field of eight fillies hoping to follow in the footsteps of past winners and champions Rachel Alexandra and Blind Luck, led by the locally based Amie’s Dini.
Amie’s Dini closed out her juvenile year with a 6 ¾-length romp against allowance competition at Churchill Downs last November and has danced every stakes dance this meet with a victory in the $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes and seconds in both the Dixie Belle and Honeybee (G3) Stakes. In the Honeybee, the Bandini filly faced the highly regarded On Fire Baby and proved a serious foe when she fought back valiantly when headed before reluctantly giving way in the final strides after setting all the pace. She drew the outside post with regular rider Jon Court.
Amie’s Dini is likely to vie for favor with the Todd Pletcher-trainee Wait Til Dawn, who enters the Fantasy off a victory in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs March 10. Prior to that race, she broke her maiden impressively by 2 ¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park. The Giant’s Causeaway filly will break from post two and will be ridden by jockey Javier Castellano.
The Fantasy field also includes Off Limitswait ti, a Bill Mott-trainee, who is also entered in Saturday’s Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, two fillies from the barn of Bob Baffert and impressive Oaklawn winners Illegally Blonde and Kittty Kat Karly.
The complete field for the Fantasy Stakes, in post-position order, with riders: Mamma Kimbo, Mike Smith; Wait Til Dawn, Javier Castellano; Kittty Kat Karly, Luis Quinonez; Livi Makenzie, Greta Kuntzweiler; Jemima’s Pearl, Joe Talamo; Off Limits, Junior Alvarado; Illegally Blonde, Terry Thompson and Amie’s Dini, Jon Court.
Baffert Sending Five for Racing Festival of the South
Trainer Bob Baffert, who has already won three stakes races this meet, is going to attempt to win three more by taking two shots at Wednesday’s Fantasy Stakes with Jemima’s Pearl and Mamma Kimbo, one shot at Friday’s Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) with Plum Pretty and two shots in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister and Secret Circle. Team Baffert is set to arrive Tuesday on a Tex Sutton flight from Southern California.
Secret Circle, winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, entered the year not on anyone’s top 20 Kentucky Derby list, but should he add to his victories in Oaklawn’s $250,000 Southwest (G3) and $500,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) by winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), he could arrive in Louisville as one of the favorites for the “Run for the Roses.” His main competition in the 1 1/8-mile race could be his stablemate Bodemeister, who most recently finished second to Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) in just his third career start.
Peachtree Farm’s Plum Pretty could have a tough task in Apple Blossom where she is expected to make her seasonal debut against 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. The 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner has not started since finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) last November. Just before that start she won the Cotillion Stakes (G2) at Parx.
"I just hope the weights are as even and light as possible,” said Baffert jokingly. “I think we should get 10 pounds from (Havre de Grace) I'm not worried about it."
Baffert said he is excited about both his fillies in the Fantasy Stakes, although both will be making consider steps up in competition. Jemima’s Pearl, who raced in Ireland as a juvenile, was purchased privately by Baffert and most recently won an optional allowance race at Santa Anita in her debut for her new connections. Mamma Kimbo will be making her second career start in the Fantasy after winning her career debut Feb. 18 at Santa Anita by 5 1/4 lengths.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith to Ride Oaklawn’s Final Four Cards
Jockey Mike Smith, who rode at Oaklawn early in his Hall of Fame career, is returning to Hot Springs for all four days of the Racing Festival of the South, the final week of the 2012 live season. And, depending on how the next two days go for him in California, he could very possibly hit the 5,000 win milestone here. He currently has 4,997 wins and six mounts at Santa Anita between Friday and Saturday.
According to Smith’s agent Brad Pegram, he will ride Mamma Kimbo in Wednesday’s Fantasy for Baffert and Salty Strike in Thursday’s $75,000 Carousel Stakes for trainer Kenny McPeek. He is still working on securing Smith’s other mounts for the rest of the week.