Rags to riches story Rose to Gold, front-running winner of the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) last month, returns to Oaklawn Park April 10 for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III).
Trained by Sal Santoro, Rose to Gold will face six others in Oaklawn's last major stop for 3-year-old fillies before the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile main track test is the eighth race on the opening day of the Arkansas track's "Racing Festival of the South," with a scheduled post time of 4:44 p.m. CDT.
Rose to Gold, a Kentucky-bred by Friends Lake out of the unraced Tabasco Cat mare Saucy, was a mere $1,400 yearling purchase by Alex Centofanti at Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky February mixed sale in 2011. She has already banked $477,889 for owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti.
In the March 9 Honeybee, the swift chestnut set the tempo over 2-5 favorite Flashy Gray and put that one away in the stretch to prevail by nearly three lengths. She began the year with a runner-up finish in Oaklawn's Martha Washington Stakes a month earlier.
The Honeybee was the fourth victory from six starts for Rose to Gold, who has never raced in anything but stakes events. She began her career last summer with back-to-back stakes wins by a combined margin of of 26 1/2 lengths at Calder Casino & Race Course. Rose to Gold closed the season with a victory in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (gr. III) Nov. 17.
Calvin Borel, who rode Rose to Gold for the first time in the Honeybee, has the return engagement. They will break from post 3 with co-high weight of 121 pounds.
With Churchill Downs specialist Borel as her pilot, the Kentucky Oaks would seem a natural target, but Alex Centofanti said he isn't looking past the Fantasy.
"I don't think about any of that right now," he said. "She has been a miracle for me. And every race, I take one at a time; I'm just thankful we've got her."
Rose to Gold will be facing another hot filly in Curragh Stable's Manuka Honey, winner of her past two starts in Florida for trainer John Terranova II. A daughter of Borrego, Manuka Honey is coming off a 7 1/4-length tally in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs March 9. She broke her maiden in her previous start Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park, her first try on dirt after five turf races to begin her career.
"She's had two great breezes since the Tampa race and the race was pretty easy for her," said Terranova. "She's 2-for-2 since we switched her back on the dirt. She's always trained like a good horse. We just had been giving her chances on the grass. We decided to give her a chance on the dirt and we are obviously glad we did. She's taken some steps forward and now we're hoping she can do it again with the tougher competition. I know she's been training very strongly."
Edgar Prado retains the mount on Manuka Honey, who drew post 6 while also carrying 121.
Also in with a good shot is Marathon Lady, who missed by a nose winning the Fathead Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) March 23 at 31-1 odds in a terrific battle with Silsita on the Polytrack at Turfway Park. This is a homecoming of sorts for Alex and JoaAnn Lieblong's Graeme Hall filly; she graduated in her third start Feb. 21 at Oaklawn by 3 1/2 lengths. Trainer Steve Hobby has tabbed Joe Bravo to ride Marathon Lady for the first time.
"(Marathon Lady) is great," said Hobby. "She's got plenty of speed and she can put herself in the right place. We thought there was a chance Robby (Albarado) would come back and ride her, but he's tied up at Keeneland. Joe rides a bunch of horses for the Lieblongs at Monmouth, and we can go and try and relive what he did for us here with Junebugred."
Junebugred was the winner of last year's Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn with Bravo on board.
Casner Racing's Liberty Girl, trained by Eoin Harty, looks to rebound from a distant fourth-place effort in the Honeybee when she was stuck wide. The A.P. Warrior filly was fifth in the Martha Washington after a 4 1/4-length allowance score at Oaklawn in January. She will race with blinkers for the first time.
Legal Mind, a daughter of Bellamy Road trained by Jack Bruner for owner Tom R. Durant, comes off a victory in the Spring Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park March 16.
Making their stakes debuts are Hung the Moon and Inspired Exchange, both winners in their most recent starts.
The Fantasy is worth 170 points in determining starters for the Kentucky Oaks, with 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third, and 10 to fourth.
$400,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:44 p.m.), 3YO fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Inspired Exchange (KY), V Lebron, 117, D W Lukas
2. Legal Mind (IL), T J Thompson, 121, J A Bruner
3. Rose to Gold (KY), C H Borel, 121, S Santoro
4. Hung the Moon (KY), L S Quinonez, 117, D K Von Hemel
5. Marathon Lady (FL), J Bravo, 117, S Hobby
6. Manuka Honey (KY), E S Prado, 121, J P Terranova II
7. Liberty Girl (KY), A Birzer, 117, E G Harty
Blinkers On: Liberty Girl