The 2006 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) will go down as one of the strangest races of the year when the 40-1 shot Miss Norman, who was leading the field and seemingly in control twice bolted toward the outside rail, allowing Ready to Please to take the victory Friday at Oaklawn Park.
With Tony Farina aboard, Miss Norman was leading by a couple of lengths as she rounded the final turn of the $250,000 event for 3-year-old fillies. Wearing blinkers for the first time in her six-race career, Miss Norman suddenly ducked out severely in spite of right-handed whipping, bothering one rival, Ex Caelis. Farina re-gathered Miss Norman in the stretch, and as they closed in on the new leader Ready to Please, ridden for the first time by Stewart Elliott, the filly once again bolted for the outside. By the time she recovered, Miss Norman had fallen back to sixth in the field of eight with a furlong left. But she rallied gamely once more to get up for second by a neck over Brownie Points.
The victory, though, went to James T. Scatuorchio's Ready to Please, making her stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. The Kentucky-bred daughter of More Than Ready
-Guilty Pleasure (Pine Bluff) defeated Miss Norman by three lengths while completing the 1 1/16-mile event in a slow 1:45 3/5. It was the third victory in a row this year for Ready to Please.
An objection was lodged against the runner-up for the incident on the turn with Ex Caelis by jockey John Jacinto, but stewards did not allow the claim of foul to stand.
Miss Norman started sharply and showed the way with Ex Caelis and favorite Quiet Kim on the outside through an opening quarter mile of :23 1/5. Ready to Please moved up along the inside as they completed the half-mile in :47 and six furlongs in 1:11 2/5 when Quiet Kim fell back. On the turn, Miss Norman began to edge away from her rivals before shying away. That opened things up for Ready to Please, and she took full advantage.
Brownie Points, a stakes winner at Oaklawn earlier in the meeting, came on from far back in the field to be second in the stretch under Luis Quinonez, but she was unable to hold off the resurgent Miss Norman at the wire. Ex Caelis finished fourth, followed by Sweet Fervor, Quiet Kim, Sweet Idea and Lady Danza.
Ready to Please, who has three wins in five starts, had never raced longer than 6 1/2 furlongs when she broke her maiden by two lengths at Gulfstream Park Jan. 15. Five weeks later, she beat a first-level allowance field going six furlongs by the same two-length margin at Gulfstream. Friday's victory, worth $150,000, increased her earnings to $196,150.
Nordic Thoroughbreds bred the winner, who was sold for $270,000 at Ocala in February 2005.
The second choice, Ready to Please, paid $9.80, $6, and $3.80 and combined with Miss Norman ($272.0, $11) for a $284.40 exacta. Brownie Points was $3 to show.
For Pletcher, Ready to Please capped a sweep of the two major filly races in Oaklawn's "Racing Festival of the South. " Last Saturday, he won the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) for older fillies and mares with Frank Stronach's Spun Sugar.