04/05/2013 3:49PM

Oaklawn: Festival of the South fields coming into focus

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Rose to Gold, winning the Honeybee Stakes, will break from post 3 as the probable favorite in Wednesday's Fantasy Stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – It is officially Festival time at Oaklawn.

The field for the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy, which on Wednesday will be the first of eight stakes to be decided over the final week of the meet, was drawn Friday. A few hours prior, Oxbow breezed six furlongs in his final major prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby. And later the same afternoon, trainer Ian Wilkes was awaiting the weights for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, which is likely to draw his Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Fort Larned.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

The Racing Festival of the South features a series of major stakes run over the final week of the Oaklawn meet, which will extend through Saturday. There will be five graded races during that period, with the full balance of eight stakes worth $2,925,000. The Arkansas Derby on April 13 is the highlight, while the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares will anchor the penultimate card of the meet April 12.

The Fantasy is for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and drew seven horses, including top Kentucky Oaks prospect Rose to Gold. The race will go as the eighth on what is the lone Wednesday card of the meet. The Fantasy has a post of 4:44 p.m. Central.

Rose to Gold will break from post 3 under jockey Calvin Borel, and she should go favored on the strength of her wins in the Grade 3, $150,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn on March 9 and the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Downs Princess in November. Marathon Lady enters off a nose loss in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway, while Manuka Honey cruised by more than seven lengths last out in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs.

The complete Fantasy field from the rail with riders: Inspired Exchange, Victor Lebron; Legal Mind, Terry Thompson; Rose to Gold, Borel; Hung the Moon, Luis Quinonez; Marathon Lady, Joe Bravo; Manuka Honey, Edgar Prado; and Liberty Girl, Alex Birzer.

Liberty Girl will be adding blinkers or trainer Eoin Harty.

Grade 2 Rebel runner-up Oxbow took to the Oaklawn track first set on Friday morning and worked six furlongs by himself in 1:14.60. Regular exercise rider Rudy Quevedo was up for the move, which came over a track rated muddy. Oxbow moved through his opening eighth of a mile in 12.40 seconds, according to Oaklawn head clocker Jim Hamilton, who continued to follow the horse through fractions of 24 seconds for his first quarter, 36 for three-eighths, and 48.60 for a half-mile. Hamilton had the horse’s final quarter in 25.80.

Gary Stevens has the mount on Oxbow for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Others expected for the Arkansas Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race to be drawn Wednesday in the grandstand during an 11:30 a.m. ceremony open to the public, include the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Den’s Legacy and War Academy. Den’s Legacy was third in the Rebel last out at Oaklawn while War Academy won a recent Santa Anita allowance with a Beyer Figure of 99. A flight from Southern California is scheduled to arrive Wednesday.

Overanalyze, the Grade 2 Remsen winner for trainer Todd Pletcher, is also pointing for the Arkansas Derby, while the race could also draw Falling Sky, the third-place finisher in the Grade 2 Tampa Derby. Texas Bling, who was fourth in the Rebel, is probable, while Carve is possible, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Carve is also a candidate for the $100,000 Northern Spur, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds to be run on the undercard of the Arkansas Derby.

Looking Cool, an allowance winner at Gulfstream Park, could go in either the Arkansas Derby or the Northern Spur, his trainer, Carl Nafzger, said Friday.

“We’re keeping our options open,” said Nafzger, who said the horse would be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.

The Arkansas Derby is to be broadcast on NBC Sports and HRTV, according to Oaklawn spokesperson Jennifer Hoyt.

Fort Larned tops Oaklawn Cap

Wilkes on Friday was waiting to see weights for the Oaklawn Handicap before confirming Fort Larned for the 1 1/8-mile race April 13, but said the horse was probable. Fort Larned is scheduled to fly in Monday from Florida, aboard a flight bringing a handful of other festival participants. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount Saturday.

Wilkes said Fort Larned’s final prep work for the Oaklawn is to be determined.

“We’ll see how he arrives,” he said. Friday. “I might do a little bit with him. A lot depends on how he ships.”

Other prospects for the Oaklawn include Alternation, Atigun, Cyber Secret, Taptowne, and Unstoppable U. Sabercat is possible, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Donoharm, winner of three of the four stakes run for older handicap horses this meet, will pass the Oaklawn. He is instead being pointed for the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 27, his trainer, Bret Calhoun, said Friday.

Justin Phillip leads Count Fleet

Justin Phillip, who earned a Beyer Figure of 101 for an allowance win at Oaklawn, is to make his next start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on the Arkansas Derby card, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Laurie’s Rocket, winner of the $75,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn on March 23, is a go for the Count Fleet, said his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

Delaunay, who has won five stakes in his last five starts, was nominated to the Count Fleet but will instead make his next start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Churchill Downs at seven furlongs May 4, his trainer, Tom Amoss, said Friday.

Gantry, another Count Fleet nominee who worked five furlongs in 57.80 seconds at Fair Grounds on March 27, is instead being pointed for the Grade 3, $175,000 Commonwealth at Keeneland on April 13, trainer Ron Faucheux said on Friday.

◗ The Apple Blossom is expected to draw Summer Applause, On Fire Baby, Grace Hall, Tiz Miz Sue, and Don’t Tell Sophia.

 

John Gamble More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to a great final week of racing at Oaklawn, the best managed facility in the country. (IMO)