04/02/2014 4:03PM

Oaklawn Park: Van Dyke returns home to ride in Fantasy

Shigeki Kikkawa
Drayden Van Dyke, 19, is a graduate of Lake Hamilton High School in Hot Springs, Ark.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The Southern California-based apprentice Drayden Van Dyke traveled to his hometown of Hot Springs, Ark., last month and came within a length of winning his first graded stakes race when he guided Please Explain to a third-place finish in the Honeybee at Oaklawn. He returns to the track Saturday to again team with the filly in the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy.

Please Explain was one of eight entered Wednesday in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies that is led by Grade 2 winner Stopchargingmaria. The Fantasy opens the annual Racing Festival of the South, a series of nine stakes run over the final week of the meet that ends April 12. The Fantasy also is a steppingstone to the Kentucky Oaks, and the first four finishers Saturday will earn preference points for the classic on a sliding scale of 100-40-20-10.

Van Dyke, a 19-year-old born in Kentucky and raised in Arkansas, has established himself as one of the nation’s more promising apprentices since launching his career last November. He’s not only riding on the tough Southern California circuit, but on Tuesday at Turf Paradise, he had a three-bagger, among his wins the opener with the $22 horse Senate Rules. Last month’s visit to Oaklawn was special for Van Dyke, a graduate of the local Lake Hamilton High School.

“It was cool,” Van Dyke said. “It was my first time coming back home as an actual jockey. It was cool to see all my friends and to see them rooting me on.”

Please Explain put in a determined bid through the stretch in the Honeybee, a race in which she had a tough trip, said Van Dyke. For the Fantasy, the pair will break from post 6.

“She comes from out of it,” Van Dyke said. “I had to squeeze up the rail the whole time last time, didn’t have the perfect trip. The main winner, who got taken down, actually swerved in front of me. It was just a troubled trip throughout, and hopefully we’ll get a better one this time around.”

Van Dyke’s father, Seth, is a retired jockey who continues to work in racing, said Sarah Wolfe, who is Drayden Van Dyke’s agent. Wolfe has been at Oaklawn working to secure additional mounts for Van Dyke on the Fantasy undercard and has lined up runners in the second and 10th races. Van Dyke rides Please Explain for Niall Racing and trainer Tom Proctor, who gave Van Dyke his break by letting him exercise horses at Glen Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla.

The Fantasy field, from the rail out with riders, is Sugar Shock, Channing Hill; Haveyougoneaway, Jareth Loveberry; Euphrosyne, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Mufajaah, Joe Johnson; Kiss Moon, Terry Thompson; Please Explain; Stopchargingmaria, Ramon Vazquez; and Courageous Julie, Jon Court.

Kiss Moon will add blinkers for trainer David Vance.