Looking for a Long Shot as Fantasy Stakes Could Provide Surprise in Final Oaks Prep

The road to the Kentucky Oaks reaches its final stop Friday at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/16 mile Fantasy Stakes (G3) is a $400,000 race and the last chance for 3-year-old fillies to pick up points to the May 5 classic Kentucky Oaks.  

The 45th running of the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn awards 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Oaks points to the top four places. The Fantasy Stakes has been a rich source of Kentucky Oaks winners with eight to date: Davona Dale (1979), Bold ‘n Deterimined (1980), Heavenly Cause (1981), Tiffany Lass (1986), Lite Light (1991), Blushing K. D. (1997), Rachel Alexandra (2009), and Blind Luck (2010).  Rachel Alexandra would then go on to win the Preakness Stakes — the only Fantasy Stakes winner to then win a Triple Crown race.

A total of 12 horses passed the entry box, and there appears to be the lack of a real standout in this year’s Fantasy Stakes. A number of front runners or fillies that do their best running quite close to the lead could set up a faster pace. The top betting choices are Benner Island (5/2), Vexatious (7/2) and Spooky Woods (4/1). Next in line are Kell Paso (6/1), Chanel’s Legacy (8/1) and Torrent (10/1).

But a long shot has our interest as Ever So Clever (20-1) has had a trio of solid works following her 5th place finish in the Honeybee (G3) behind winner It Tiz Well. Trainer Steve Asmussen has been high on this filly by Madaglia d’Oro, and Ever So Clever hit the board in a pair of Grade II races over this distance at Churchill Downs last year at competitive prices. She has showed the ability to close well, even after a tough trip in the Golden Rod (G2) last November at Churchill. If you’re looking for an overlay and a potential big score, Ever So Clever should be in your wagering portfolio and exotic options in the Fantasy, as the pace and her ability to fire suggests a solid effort and potential upset as she settles well off the pace breaking from the far outside.

Benner Island may be the one to beat, as her 2nd place closing finish in the Honeybee has drawn interest. But she has been inconsistent, and recall Benner Island was 22-1 in that race, and clearly there is no value and frankly no interest in this caliber horse at such favoritism. The race setup may seem right, but new jockey Ricardo Santana only adds to the wagering interest with his recent hot riding at Hot Springs.

Vexatious is on our list to include and drops a bit in class after running after heavy favorite Farrell last out at in the Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) before being nosed out for place honors. This Giant’s Causway filly has solid speed with the ability to stalk and pounce. Her pedigree suggests she wants even more distance, so the 1 1/8 mile Kentucky Oaks will be favorable if she can finish top 3 in the Fantasy and add to her current 20 point Oaks leaderboard total.

Continuing an interest in looking for a longshot, Sunland invader Kell Paso has 2 wins and 2 place finishes in four starts. Three of those are in minor stakes races, and she has never raced outside of New Mexico. She is one that will also race near the front, and while Kell Paso may encounter some faster fillies up front, she has been game in the late stages of her races.

Friday, April 14: Oaklawn Park

Race 8, Fantasy Stakes (G3), three-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 4:42pm CST

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