ATHENA LOOKS FOR THIRD WIN OF THE MEET
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 6, 2017) – Mary Grum’s Athena is the 2-1 program favorite for the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older filly and mare sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the 6-furlong Carousel, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:09 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m., with the infield open, weather permitting.
Athena, a 5-year-old daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, will be seeking her third consecutive victory at the meeting for trainer Helen Pitts.
Athena beat Marquee Miss by a neck in a Jan. 13 allowance/optional claiming sprint, then won the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes Jan. 28. Following the American Beauty, Pitts said, Athena was sent to Kentucky and freshened for approximately a month. She has had two half-mile works leading up to the Carousel (March 24 and April 1). Both were in :49.20.
“You always want to do what’s right for them,” Pitts said. “Hopefully, I’ve done the right thing to get me through the rest of the year and hopefully just to get her back in the racing game.”
Athena is scheduled to break from the extreme outside, post 7, under Joe Rocco Jr. and carry equal top weight of 122 pounds. She broke from the rail in her 2017 debut and from the extreme outside, post 6, in the American Beauty.
“She’s won from both, but I do like the outside better,” Pitts said.
The balance of the Carousel field from the rail out: D R C’s Pretty Sky, Geovanni Franco to ride, 115 pounds, 10-1 on the morning line; Chanteline, Luis Contreras, 122, 5-2; Natural Wonder, Jon Court, 115, 15-1; Illussion Artist, Richard Eramia, 115, 8-1; Marquee Miss, Ramon Vazquez, 115, 3-1; and Pleasant Tales, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 6-1.
Marquee Miss is seeking her third Oaklawn stakes victory after winning the $100,000 Dixie Belle and $100,000 Martha Washington last year at 3 for trainer Ingrid Mason and owner Joe Ragsdale of Tulsa, Okla.
Marquee Miss crossed the wire second in the American Beauty, beaten three-quarters of a length by Athena, but was disqualified and placed last of six for lugging in repeatedly through the stretch.
Mason equipped Marquee Miss with a different type of bit for the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes March 4, and the daughter of Cowboy Cal maintained a straight course in a third-place finish behind Kathballu and Natural Wonder.
Marquee Miss was beaten a length in the 5 ½-furlong Spring Fever. Mason said she believes the additional sixteenth of a mile will benefit Marquee Miss, particularly if she has a good trip.
“Just got in a pressure cooker the whole race, and that’s my pet peeve,” Mason said of the Spring Fever, adding she doesn’t want to see Marquee Miss between horses. “If she happens to break, either go or come back. Don’t put yourself in a pressure cooker.”
The speedy Chanteline exits a front-running 4 ¾-length allowance/optional claiming victory March 19 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Illussion Artist (4 for 6 lifetime) makes her Oaklawn debut for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox and owner Steve Landers, a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission. She hasn’t started since finishing second to recent Oaklawn winner Big World in the $100,000 Premier Night Distaff Stakes Feb. 11 at Delta Downs. The mile race was restricted to Louisiana-Downs. She is unbeaten in three career sprint starts in open company.
“It’s tough to find races for her right now,” Cox said. “Is she a 6-furlong horse? I don’t know. Is she a mile and sixteenth horse? I don’t know. I think she falls somewhere in between and there’s just not a lot of options for her out there.”
Pleasant Tales hasn’t started since winning a Feb. 19 allowance/optional claimer for trainer Dallas Stewart.