Rapidly developing Round Pond accelerated away from the leaders in upper stretch to record an impressive victory in Friday's $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park.Ridden by Stewart Elliott for trainer John Servis and owner Fox Hill Farms, Round Pond became a grade II winner in her fourth lifetime start – all at Oaklawn this season – and in only her second route race. She completed the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy in 1:43 2/5, defeating the pacesetting Rugula by 4 1/2 lengths. It was another length back to third-place finisher R Lady Joy, who was 1 1/4 lengths in front of 11-10 choice Sharp Lisa."This filly really impresses me," said Elliott, who flew in from New York for the race. "I had plenty of horse all the way. She got a good stalking trip, and she finished up good. If she keeps doing what she's doing, she's going to be a nice filly."Servis said that Round Pond will make her next start in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) on May 20 at Pimlico, and that her primary goal this summer will be the Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Round Pond, a 3-year-old bay daughter of Awesome Again , was ideally placed in third place on the inside as Rugula, ridden by Greta Kuntzweiler, set the pace with grade I winner Sharp Lisa and Garrett Gomez racing second from the outside.Coming off the final turn after modest fractions of :24, :47 3/5 and 1:12 1/5, Round Pond eased out and seized the lead. She was in command down the stretch while reacting erratically to Elliott's stick. Inside the sixteenth pole, Elliott put his whip away and hand rode Round Pond under the wire.Rugula, who ran second, 5 3/4 lengths behind Round Pond in the March 20 Honeybee in a similar front-running effort, held off R Lady Joy for the runner-up slot. Sharp Lisa, who was scratched from last weekend's Ashland (gr. I) with a bruised left hind hoof, was under pressure on the far turn and was well beaten in fourth.Round Pond, who earned $150,000 for the victory, has now won three races in row by a combined 18 1/4 lengths following a third-place finish in her debut Feb. 13. "I had thought during the week that her work last week (five-eighths in :58 3/5) may have taken too much out of her, but she showed me the last couple of days that she was fine," said Servis. "I was very confident going into the race. It's amazing how much improvement she's shown since coming to Arkansas."Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan bred Round Pond, from the Trempolino mare Gift of Dance, in Kentucky. She was sold for $105,000 in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2003.The 19-10 second choice in the field of seven, she paid $5.80, $4 and $3.20, combining with Rugula ($19.60, $7.20) for a $122 exacta. R Lady Joy, the winner of the Florida Oaks in her last by nine lengths and ridden by Jose Lezcano, was $5.60 to show. The trifecta was worth $806.60.The victory by Round Pond took some of the sting off the fact that stablemate Rockport Harbor will miss the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), the race Servis and Elliott won last year with Smarty Jones, who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I). "I sure wish," said Elliott, "I wasn't getting on that plane tomorrow morning in Little Rock."After Sharp Lisa came Cape Hope, Jill Robin L, and The Beter Man Can. Yankee Penny and She Sings scratched.(Chart, Equibase)