Kentucky Oaks preps
Rose to Gold joined a list of impressive fillies likely for the Kentucky Oaks when she overcame a sloppy track to take Wednesday's $400,000, Grade III Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park by 4 1/2 lengths. Manuka Honey was second and Marathon Lady finished third. Rose to Gold, a Friends Lake filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.8 with Calvin Borel up. Rose to Gold now has five wins and one second from seven starts with her only disappointing performance coming over the Keeneland all-weather last fall. Rose to Gold is tied with Beholder for the No. 1 spot on the Kentucky Oaks preference list with 164 points. "She's proven she wants to go there and we're going to give her every opportunity to get there," said winning trainer Sal Santoro. "I'm extremely proud of her. If my daughter had just won the Nobel Prize, that's how proud of her I am."
A field of 10 or 11 is expected for Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland, going 7 furlongs over the all-weather track. The race offers just 20 points to the winner but could help settle the bottom of the listings for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks.
The older males
Fort Larned, the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, headlines Saturday's $600,000, Grade II Oaklawn Handicap at the Hot Springs oval. This is his second try to start his 5-year-old season. The first ended when he stumbled out of the gate in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap a month ago, fell on his nose and dumped jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to the dirt. Both avoided serious injury and Fort Larned should be a handful again Saturday going 9 furlongs -- if he can keep Hernandez aboard. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has Optimizer set, hoping to rebound from a bad outing last time in New Orleans. Cyber Secret jumped out of the allowance ranks to win the Grade III Razorback for track owner Charles Cella in his last race and returns. Unstoppable U has been improving and won the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston in his last race. Alternation won this race last year but is struggling this season.
Tiz Miz Sue won the Grade III Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park last year, then finished third in the Grade I Apple Blossom. She won this year's renewal of the Azeri, too, and hopes to improve in Friday's $600,000 renewal of the Apple Blossom where she is scheduled to meet a tough field of six others. Those rivals include proven graded stakes performers Grace Hall, Summer Applause and She's All In. On Fire Baby returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth in the Grade I Acorn last June.
Justin Philip, fifth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Sprint, moved to Oaklawn Park late last month and promptly won an allowance event by 4 1/2 lengths. He moves back into graded stakes company in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at 6 furlongs against seven rivals. Among them, Laurie's Rocket stands out on the basis of a two-race win skein over the track.
Gantry ran second to Delaunay in both his stakes tries at Fair Grounds this winter, now takes on a different type of field in Saturday's $175,000, Grade III Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland. Only six signed on for the 7-furlong sprint on the all-weather track. An interesting prospect -- or perhaps project -- is Handsome Mike, who has been oh-so-promising at longer distances but, aside from
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