It would be an understatement to say that Magical Fantasy heads the California contingent for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Nov. 6. After four consecutive major stakes wins locally, three in grade I company, she's nearly all that's left.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher for owners David Bienstock, Paul Mandabach and Charles Winner, the millionaire 4-year-old daughter of Diesis faces the biggest test of her career in the 1 1/4-mile test.
"She seems well; she seems the same as always. She's been very good in California all year," says the Irishman Gallagher, the former assistant to John Sullivan and Bill Shoemaker who will turn 53 nine on Nov. 15.
Magical Fantasy put in a 10-furlong gallop on the Santa Anita main track on the morning of Nov. 4.
"I couldn't ask for her to be doing any better," Gallagher said. "The post she drew (4) is fine. She's doing fine, so am I, and so is her rider (Alex Solis). This is how we want it to be."
Kentucky-bred Magical Fantasy won the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) on turf last year at odds of 42-1 but did not go to the Breeders' Cup following a sixth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland, a race in which she was rank and was forced to steady.
After a pair of losses on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride main track to begin the 2009 season, Gallagher switched Magical Fantasy back to the turf for the Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) in April. She has not lost since, reeling off grade I victories on the grass in Hollywood Park's Gamely, Del Mar's John C. Mabee and Oak Tree's Yellow Ribbon.
Gallagher, who now trains a stable of 50, says he can point to no single reason for Magical Fantasy's sudden consistency. He hasn't made any changes in her preparation or equipment. She's just gotten better.
"From 3 to 4 (years old) she's gotten a little bit bigger and stronger," he notes. "As a 3-year-old, she was a little more aggressive" for Solis, who has ridden Magical Fantasy in all of 12 of her American starts since transferring to Southern California from Great Britain in the spring of 2008.
She's also remained remarkably healthy, experiencing no physical issues in the past 18 months to two years, Gallagher reports.
Magical Fantasy's last victory Oct. 10, over the same course and distance as the Filly and Mare Turf, was accomplished in 1:59.50. She rallied four wide into the stretch from sixth to overcome Visit in the homestretch by a half-length. Juddmonte's Visit, from the Bobby Frankel barn, is the only California-based filly who will face Magical Fantasy in the eight-horse BC field.
Defending champion Forever Together is the 5-2 morning line favorite with Magical Fantasy listed as the second choice at 3-1. In a field devoid of early speed, Magical Fantasy could be at a disadvantage against potentially stronger closers such as Forever Together, the British 3-year-old import Midday, and Pure Clan. It appears, though, that Magical Fantasy has the ability to rate a little closer to the pace, which will likely be set by the outsider Dynaforce.
"There's nothing I can do about that (the lack of speed and the presence of other closers)," Gallagher said. "That's the way the race came up. All she can do is run her race."
Gallagher, who is winless with three prior Breeders' Cup entrants in his career, believes that Forever Together and the English-bred Midday and Visit are going to be tough, adding: "They are all very nice fillies."
Magical Fantasy, who raced mostly on synthetic surfaces in Great Britain has won both of her starts on the Santa Anita grass.
"She has trained great over here (at Santa Anita)," Gallagher acknowledges. "But she's trained well at Hollywood and Del Mar, too. She's just stayed the same all year."
Magical Fantasy is likely making her final start here. She is scheduled to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed sale in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 10.