Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, April 3, 2015) – An evenly matched field of 11 is entered in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn. The 1 1/16-mile Fantasy kicks off Oaklawn’s annual Racing Festival of the South, which features at least one stakes per day over the final week of the meeting.The nine stakes races, highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, are worth a combined $3.3 million.
Weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time this season Saturday. Probable post time for the Fantasy, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:09 p.m. (Central).
Program odds reflect how competitive the race is – on paper. Feathered is the 3-1 morning line favorite, followed by Sarah Sis (7-2), Achiever’s Legacy (5-1) and Oceanwave (5-1). Harlans Belle (20-1) is the second-longest price in the program, but trainer Brad Cox said he believes his lightly raced filly, still eligible for an entry-level allowance race, fits with the competition.
“That’s the way I’m thinking,” Cox said. “An allowance race would be the logical spot, I guess, but I think the mile and a sixteenth is going to help this filly. She’s a nice a filly. She’s improved every start, and I’m actually looking forward to getting on a fast track. Three starts, three starts in the mud.”
While Harlans Belle will be making her stakes debut Saturday, the Fantasy brings back Sarah Sis, Oceanwave and Pangburn, the 1-2-3 finishers, respectively, from the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7.
Sarah Sis had finished second in three previous stakes attempts, including a head loss to champion Take Charge Brandi in the $100,000 Martha Washington Jan. 31, before her breakthrough victory in the Honeybee, the final major local prep for the Fantasy.
Trainer Ingrid Mason said Saturday’s rail draw isn’t ideal for Sarah Sis, but it’s a better than breaking from the far outside.
“You never want to be in the gate that long, but beggars can’t be choosers,” Mason said. “You’ve got to take what you get.”
Mason called the Fantasy “a very competitive race” and the biggest test in Sarah Sis’ six-race career.
“The one thing I can say is Take Charge Brandi beat many of the horses in the race, and my filly had a shot to beat Take Charge Brandi,” Mason said. “I think she fits in the race.”
Regular rider Julio Felix has the mount on Sarah Sis, who is scheduled to carry equal top weight of 121 pounds.
Oceanwave was beaten 1 ½ lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee, the stakes debut for the gray daughter of Harlan’s Holiday. Oceanwave had won her previous two starts for trainer Wayne Catalano, including a first-level allowance/optional claimer Jan. 22.
“Doing well,” Catalano said. “Couple of new shooters, so it’s good race.”
Pangburn adds blinkers for trainer Kenny McPeek. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas removes blinkers from the exceptionally fast Super Saks.
Feathered was narrowly beaten by Take Charge Brandi in last year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and $350,000 Starlet Stakes (G1). But the Indian Charlie filly is coming off a fourth-place finish in her 3-year-old debut, a March 6 entry-level allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Todd Pletcher has given the mount to Ricardo Santana Jr. Saturday.
Sweet Opportunity, who beat Harlans Belle by 1 ¼ lengths in a March 13 entry-level allowance race, is entered for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. She will be returning to stakes competition for the first time since finishing third in the $100,000 Trapeze Stakes Dec. 14 at Remington Park. Sweet Opportunity is scheduled to break from post 2 under regular rider Luis Quinonez.
“It’s a very competitive field,” Von Hemel said. “Just try not to be stuck outside, and we’re not, so we’ll see what she can do from there.”
Lady Tapit, Purr, Achiever’s Legacy and Include Betty are also entered. Lady Tapit will be making her stakes debut for trainer John Sadler. Include Betty won the $50,000 Suncoast Stakes Jan. 31 at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Tom Proctor. Purr ran fourth in the Honeybee.
Achiever’s Legacy has competed against some of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies on the West Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
“We hope the speed stays in,” co-owner Richard Robertson said. “Our filly is a stone closer.”