Oaklawn’s road to the Kentucky Oaks draws to a close Saturday, April 1, with the Fantasy Stakes (G3). The 1 1/16 mile race drew a field of 10 sophomore fillies to compete for a $600,000 purse and 100-40-30-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Oaks points for the first five horses across the wire. It is the final race in Oaklawn’s three-race Kentucky Oaks prep series that began with the Martha Washington and continued with the Honeybee (G3).
The Fantasy has a star-studded winners’ list. Two 21st century super-fillies who beat males in the Preakness (G1) have won the Fantasy: Rachel Alexandra (2009) won both the Kentucky Oaks and the Preakness after winning this race at Oaklawn, while Swiss Skydiver bounced back from a second in the Oaks with a victory over eventual Horse of the Year Audible in Baltimore. Others among its most important winners include Davona Dale (1979), Tiffany Lass (1986), Lite Light (1991), Escena (1996), and Eight Belles (2008).
Race Date: Saturday, April 1, 2023
Post Time: 5:35 p.m. Central Standard Time
Distance: 1 1/16 miles
Age/Sex: three-year-old fillies
Where to Watch: TVG.com and FanDuel Racing
This is the full field for the 2023 Fantasy Stakes, ordered by post position. It includes trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds for each horse.
|1||She’s Lookin Lucky||Matt Shirer||Cristian Torres||5-2|
|2||Grand Love||Steve Asmussen||Tyler Gaffalione||8-1|
|3||Towhead||Mike Maker||Isaac Castillo||10-1|
|4||Taxed||Randy Morse||Rafael Bejarano||30-1|
|5||Take Charge Briana||D. Wayne Lukas||Reylu Gutierrez||20-1|
|6||Wet Paint||Brad Cox||Flavien Prat||8-5|
|7||Pate||Mike Maker||Florent Geroux||20-1|
|8||Royal Spa||Rodolphe Brisset||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||4-1|
|9||Olivia Twist||Todd Fincher||David Cabrera||20-1|
|10||Condensation||Chris Hartman||Francisco Arrieta||10-1|
Most of the Fantasy Stakes field raced in the Honeybee. Six of the ten runners made their last start in that race, headed up by sharp winner Wet Paint. Second–place Condensation, third-place Grand Love, fifth-place Towhead, eighth-place Olivia Twist, and ninth-place Taxed come straight out of that race into the Fantasy. Take Charge Briana, seventh in the Honeybee for old-school trainer D. Wayne Lukas, finished second in an allowance race three weeks after the Fantasy and then comes into this.
The only other runner who comes out of a stakes race is Pate, who most recently finished second in the Dixie Belle, a sophomore fillies’ sprint at Oaklawn in February. Royal Spa comes out of a first-level allowance win, though she has one previous graded try; She’s Lookin Lucky was second in an allowance last out, and makes her stakes debut in the Fantasy.
These are the contenders in the 2023 Fantasy Stakes, organized by post position:
She’s Lookin Lucky: She romped against a field of off-turf maidens at Fair Grounds two back, winning by 13 lengths. She came back in a first-level allowance at Oaklawn on March 5, tracking the pace and finishing a clear second. Her tactical speed is a plus, though both the lack of stakes experience and the relatively inside post in a large field are concerns, especially if she goes off anywhere near the shockingly short morning-line price.
Grand Love: She has not won since her debut in a maiden sprint at the Spa last summer. However, she has hit the board in two of three starts since, all of which have come at two turns. She could take a step forward in her second start off a winter lay, but she also has to handle a relatively inside post in a big field and turn the tables on an extremely talented foe in Wet Paint, who she was no match for last out.
Towhead: With nine starts, she is one of the more experienced horses in the field, and she has shown good form on both turf and dirt. That includes a first-level allowance win two back at Oaklawn. However, that came with Lasix, and she wasn’t quite as potent last out in the Honeybee without it. Perhaps some of that was the sloppy surface; with better footing expected Saturday, perhaps she can stalk the pace and stay on for a share.
Taxed: She had to drop in for a tag to break her maiden last November at Churchill; her current connections dropped a slip and have run her in three stakes at Oaklawn since. She chased on for second in the Martha Washington two starts back, but regressed with a ninth-place finish in the Honeybee next out. A better track condition and some time to rebound could get her closer to the form she showed in the Martha Washington; if that happens, she could grab a share of the minors again.
Take Charge Briana: With ten starts, she is the most experienced horse in the race, and she is the only runner from the Honeybee who made a start in between that race and this one. That start was a perfectly good one for the level; she rallied from last in a small field and was outfinished by just a neck. However, this is a bigger and tougher field, and she has yet to ever look a threat in Oaks-trail company, meaning she would be a surprise.
Wet Paint: She has been the queen of the Kentucky Oaks trail at Oaklawn, winning both the Martha Washington and the Honeybee. She looks to complete the sweep in the Fantasy, and she is a late-running type who has finished well even without a swift pace to chase. Her racing record is strange in that she still hasn’t tried fast dirt in five starts: she tried turf and Tapeta once each, but her three wins have all come on wet dirt. That raises some questions, though with rain on Friday, there still may be some moisture Saturday.
Pate: This long shot takes a class test, trying graded company for the first time, and also goes past six furlongs for the first time in her career. However, she switches to the barn of Mike Maker, well known for stretching horses out, and her pedigree supports the extra distance. She also gets a switch to rider Florent Geroux, who shows up strong in big races. Make sure to get a look at her, especially with the layoff of almost two months, but there’s upside on paper.
Royal Spa: This lightly-raced daughter of Violence makes just her fourth start. She comes in off of a sprint allowance victory at Oaklawn, and has high-percentage connections at the Oaklawn meet. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset doesn’t tend to click nearly as well in graded races, running only 2 for his last 51, though one of those successes was 2022 Fantasy winner Yuugiri. It is also a bit of a concern that she weakened late in her only two-turn try in the Demoiselle (G2) last year, but 1 1/8 miles is a lot to ask a juvenile, and this is a little shorter.
Olivia Twist: She romped in her first three career starts at Remington Park for trainer Todd Fincher, but has been outclassed in two starts since at Oaklawn Park. She did show when winning the Trapeze that she has some tactical pace, but whether it is the class of horses at Oaklawn or the fact that she has had to run without Lasix, she just hasn’t been able to get it together on the Oaks trail, and there is no indication she will here.
Condensation: She set the pace in the Honeybee, got tired late, but still held on for second over Grand Love. It was her first time trying 1 1/16 miles, and she was running on a sloppy track; now she has that experience and should be fitter for her second try at the distance. Races earlier in her career suggest she could handle an outside stalking trip instead of a straight-frontrunning one, and she still should be a price for strong connections who can get ignored by people who only pay attention to big national names, trainer Chris Hartman and jockey Francisco Arrieta.
Fantasy Stakes winners tend to come out of the Honeybee. Out of the last ten winners, seven last raced in that local prep. Fantasy Stakes runners don’t have to have won the Honeybee, though, to be live on the win end. Rose to Gold (2013) and Terra Promessa (2016) did win the Honeybee, but five other recent Fantasy winners did not. That includes Sugar Shock (second, 2014), Ever So Clever (fifth, 2017), Sassy Sienna (third, 2018), Pauline’s Pearl (second, 2021), and Yuugiri (third, 2022).
Lady Apple (2019) also took her final prep for the Fantasy at Oaklawn; that came with an allowance win, though she had graded experience at age two. Only two recent winners of the Fantasy last raced at tracks other than Oaklawn. Include Betty (2015) was most recently fifth in the Florida Oaks (G3) on turf, while Swiss Skydiver (2020) came out of the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Note that the Gulfstream Park Oaks is typically run too close to the Fantasy to be a prep, but the Fantasy was delayed in 2020 due to COVID.
The Fantasy Stakes is the 10th of 13 races on Saturday’s flagship card at Oaklawn. The card also features the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby, a 100-point prep for the Run for the Roses that drew a field of 11. The card also includes two other stakes races, the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older dirt milers and the $200,000 Hot Springs for sophomore dirt milers. The fields and purses are huge all day long, meaning great betting opportunities, so stay plugged into FanDuel and TVG all day to place your bets and watch the races!
Back in 1905, the Hot Springs Mayor declared a half-day holiday for the opening of Oaklawn Park, with over 3,000 people attending the track on its first day of racing. The holiday heralded the beginning of a tradition that has lasted for over a century!
Due to political issues, no racing took place at Oaklawn between 1907 and 1916 but after a sustained period of action the now-famous Fantasy Stakes was inaugurated in 1936 with a purse of $5,000 offered to entrants.
By 1952 Oaklawn could boast daily attendances of almost 8,000 people and an average daily handle of well over $400,000, figures which rose by the turn of the decade to 10,000 and $500,000, respectively, with the Fantasy Stakes purse increasing to $50,000 by 1965.
The track continued to go from strength to strength, and during a 50-day meeting in 1970, an average of 11,000 people were attending daily, with over $43,000,000 wagered over the course of the meet.
In the mid-70s, Oaklawn gave birth to the Racing Festival of the South, with pari-mutuel wagering amounting to a cool $80,000,000 that season, and by the 80s, over a quarter of a million people were attending the festival each year. By then, the purse for the Fantasy Stakes was up at $500,000, and a new single-day attendance record was set with 71,000 showing up to see Rampage win the big race in 1986.
Ten years later, Fantasy Stakes day saw a total handle of over $10.5 million, and by the turn of the millennium, Oaklawn was still seeing increases in attendance and wagering, meaning the track stands as one of the best in the country at present.
Q: When is the Fantasy Stakes?
A: The 2023 Fantasy Stakes will be run Saturday, April 1 at 5:35 p.m. Central Daylight Time. It is the 10th of 13 races on the card.
Q: Where is the Fantasy Stakes?
A: It takes place at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Fantasy Stakes?
A: Steve Asmussen leads all trainers with four wins in the Fantasy Stakes, most recently in 2021 with Pauline’s Pearl. He enters Grand Love in the 2023 edition.
Q: Who is the favorite for the 2023 Fantasy Stakes?
A: Wet Paint, who won both the Martha Washington and the Honeybee, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Fantasy Stakes. Off of those wins, she should hold as a heavy favorite in the race.
Q: Who is the best Fantasy Stakes jockey?
A: Chris McCarron leads all jockeys with four victories in the Fantasy between 1984 and 1992, including with eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Very Subtle in 1987. Ricardo Santana, Jr. already has three wins in this race, and seeks to tie McCarron’s record with Royal Spa this year.
Q: Who won the 2022 Fantasy Stakes?
A: Yuugiri won the 2022 Fantasy Stakes for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and jockey Florent Geroux. Brisset goes for a repeat with Royal Spa, who will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr., while Geroux rides Pate for Mike Maker.
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Horses being ridden by work riders during a Singapore Turf Club trackwork session on May 15, 2014 in Singapore.Neville Hopwood | Getty Images Sport | Getty Imag
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