Behind a sustained late run through the far turn that saw her split horses entering the stretch, Clearview Stable’s Ever So Clever surged past rivals to register an upset victory April 14 in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
Twice placed in graded stakes entering Friday’s 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies, Ever So Clever would not be denied, as she rallied in the far turn and punched between rivals before sustaining a strong run to the wire to secure her first stakes, pulling away late for a 1 3/4-length score.
“She’s going to Churchill Monday, and it’s fun to have her there,” trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Ever So Clever became the 100th black-type stakes winner for her sire, who stands for $150,000 at Darley.
Asmussen, who also won the 2016 Fantasy with Terra Promessa—who ran a game second Friday in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1)—credited jockey Luis Contreras with a stellar ride from post 12. Contreras and Ever So Clever settled off the pace early, racing 10th, some 9 1/4 lengths behind early leader Chanel's Legacy, who completed a half-mile in :47.03 and enjoyed a clear lead through six furlongs in 1:11.18.
“Luis gave her a perfect trip," Asmussen said. "Nice filly. She broke fine from the 12 hole. He made an immediate decision, got over. She was probably only 6-7 off the lead around the first turn, two-wide and carrying him well. I thought it made the difference in the race.
“I felt very good about how the filly trained and that he had ridden her before. The filly has a great personality, and we’ve always felt this way about her. And for her now to win a nice graded stakes is what she deserves.”
As Chanel's Legacy reached the top of the stretch first, Ever So Clever rallied in the turn and powered through a small gap in a wall of horses. Ever So Clever sustained that run, seized the lead, and pulled away at the wire, while Poindexter Thoroughbreds’ Chanel's Legacy held second, just edging third-place Vexatious.
“She felt great today," Contreras said. "The last time I got an opportunity to ride her, she finished fifth. I learned a lot and Steve gave me some advice about the filly, how she likes to run. We got everything perfect today. From the time we broke, she did everything by herself. I just waited ... and kicked in at the quarter pole, and she gave me everything. Once I started making my move, I wasn’t worried about anybody in the race. I just went with the momentum and enjoyed the last part.”
Ever So Clever, who completed the race in 1:43.40 on a fast track, paid $33.60, $13.40, and $7 across the board while Chanel's Legacy returned $11.40 and $6.60 to place and show. Vexatious paid $4 to show. Benner Island, the 6-5 favorite off her runner-up finish in the Honeybee Stakes (G3), finished fifth after being bumped near the three-sixteenths pole.
Ever So Clever is the first stakes winner out of multiple stakes winner Foxy Danseur, by Mr. Greeley. She is a half sister to stakes-placed winners Miss Centerfold, by Tiznow; and Tathqeef, by Tapit.