Favored Mamma Kimbo, in just her second start, led at every call to win the $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) during the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park April 11 (VIDEO).
Mamma Kimbo got the week in Hot Springs off to a good start for trainer Bob Baffert and John Fort's Peachtree Stable with her 1 1/4-length win over Amie's Dini. The Baffert-trained Jemima's Pearl finished third in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies.
Ridden by veteran Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Mamma Kimbo ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.64 on a fast track. After her impressive victory, the daughter of Discreet Cat is likely headed to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Fort and Baffert have the favorite for the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 13 in Plum Pretty, the winner of last year's Kentucky Oaks. The following day, Baffert saddles the two favorites for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I), Bodemeister and Secret Circle.
Baffert continues a remarkable string at Oaklawn, where he has won with 14 of 23 lifetime starters and with 11 of 15 runners over the past three seasons. In 2012, he has four winners from five starters at Oaklawn.
“Bob really thought a lot of this filly,” said Smith, who pushed his career win total to 5,001 after hitting the milestone April 7 aboard champion sprinter Amazombie in Santa Anita's Potrero Grande Stakes (gr. II). “He was very confident in her. He said to just let her break and to stay out of her way. That’s all I had to.”
Bred in Kentucky by William J. Betz, Dr. Chuck Kidder, and Wayne Masterman, Mamma Kimbo is a bay filly out of the Devil's Bag mare Bag Lady Jane. She brought $120,000 at the Keeneland Association September 2010 Yearling Sale.
Mamma Kimbo was coming off a 5 1/4-length debut maiden victory going six furlongs at Santa Anita Feb. 18.
Baffert, speaking by phone, said he received a clean bill from his cardiologist earlier in the day back home in California, two weeks removed from suffering a heart attack while in Dubai.
"That was good therapy for the heart,” he said of the Fantasy. “(Wife) Jill, (son) Bode, and I were having fish tacos overlooking Del Mar watching the race. We were in heaven. This is a nice filly. From her first start we gave her some time since the past race and she delivered. You never know if they're going to hold on."
Breaking from the rail, Mamma Kimbo took the lead soon after the start from second choice Amie's Dini, who broke very sharply for Jon Court. Mamma Kimbo, moved out to a two-length lead early over Amie's Dini, the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) runner-up trained by Ron Moquett. Mamma Kimbo maintained her edge while posting swift quarter-mile fractions of :23.43, :46.77, and 1:11.15.
Amie's Dini drew closer on the far turn but could not go with Mamma Kimbo in the drive. Mamma Kimbo held a two-length advantage at the furlong pole and held her rival safe to the wire under some urging from Smith. Amie's Dini held second by three-quarters of a length over Jemima's Pearl, who closed some late ground for Joe Talamo while edging Wait Til Dawn for the show dough. Then came Off Limits, Kittty Kat Karly, and Illegally Blonde.
Amie's Dini had previously lost to then-undefeated Now I Know in January and last month to leading Kentucky Oaks contender On Fire Baby in the Honeybee. Moquett was disappointed but proud of her effort.
“I’ve got to say, we have finished second to three of the nicest horses out there,” he said. “Not to take anything away from any of them, but we showed she could run with all of them. They were just a little bit better each time. I’m sure my filly’s got a race like that out there for her.”
The $180,000 winner's share bumped Mamma Kimbo's career total to $213,600. She carried 117 pounds, four fewer than Amie's Dini, who won Oaklawn's Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 11.
Sent off at 7-5 odds, Mamma Kimbo paid $4.80, $3.80, $2.80. Amie's Dini returned $3.20 and $2.60 and was part of a $13.20 exacta. Jemima's Pearl, also shipping in from Southern California, paid $3.60 in her second United States start after beginning her career in Ireland.
Livi Makenzie scratched.