Whatever your initial reaction, don’t confuse the headline with hyperbole. Not when 10 of the 14 entrants are stakes winners, six of the graded stakes variety. And of the four remaining fillies, two are stakes placed.
At the very least, its the deepest Fantasy Stakes in recent memory. Given its scheduled place on the calendar in a normal year, this would be a significant stepping stone to the Oaks.
This year, the Fantasy for sophomore fillies is the Oaks. Better if the distance were a mile and an eighth instead of a mile and a sixteenth, but that’s picking at nits. This is one hell of an intriguing horse race as it has everything; quality and quantity.
If often happens with races that appear to be loaded with speed, mindful riders sometimes overcompensate for what they see on paper, carefully rating their mounts early in an effort to secure the best position. An instinctively aggressive rider still could steal away on a loose lead.
While it’s hard to know exactly where all this gas will come from, you can bet that the heat will be turned on to the red zone. While the four fillies drawn widest lack the credentials of the high profile entrants, it appears some will need to get away quickly or get hung out to dry on the first turn.
Looking at the race from the outside in, Ring Leader, back at two turns with the promise of a fast track an aggressive Joe Talamo on the re-ride and a sensational bullet trial from the gate, looks like a leaver from post eight. Tough spot? Sure. But a 30-1 early line on this miss is laughable.
Lake Avenue (15-1), making her third start off the layup for Bill Mott, has two recent short speed drills at her Payson Park base, is nicely drawn in #4 and reunites with Johnny Velazquez who will look to establish position, of course.
Stablemate Harvey’s Lil Goil (12-1) earned a layover Thoro Graph figure winning Aqueduct’s Busanda by 7-1/2 lengths last out, better than the fastest figure earned by SoCal speedster Venetian Harbor, a winner of her last two starts by an aggregate 19-1/4, including including the G2 Las Virgenes. Neither Mott filly likely will be as high as their early lines indicate.
While Swiss Skydiver (6-1) won the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on the engine, she is highly versatile and with Brian Hernandez subbing for Paco Lopez, the surmise is that she will not be handled as aggressively as she was last time. She’s tractable and is nicely drawn in slip #3.
This brings us to the two favorites, now filly Venetian Harbor (2-1) in post 2 with Flavien Prat for Richard Baltas, and the juvenile filly champion, British Idiom (5-2), sure to benefit from her 3YO debut as a runnerup finish to streaking Finite in Fair Grounds’ G2 Rachel Alexandra.
While never a serious win threat in the lane, her effort was a good one to build on. Showing freshness, she was forced to go wide rounding the first turn and stayed in the 3-path and wider throughout.
The champ deserves good marks for winning the place battle despite being a tired filly in the final furlong. She has has eight works since FEB 29 and has been on schedule throughout the month of April.
At the moment, fillies we have open for the top slot are the two favorites, Swiss Skydiver, and Lake Avenue. See tomorrow’s Feature Race Analysis for a final betting breakdown.