September 18, 2021

Benner Island ready to stamp Oaks ticket in Fantasy

Benner Island will try and stamp her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks in the Fantasy (G3) (Coady Photography)

Although Paradise Woods has supplanted the sidelined Unique Bella as a possible heavy favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), there are still 13 other spots for the May 5 “Run for the Lilies” at Churchill Downs. Some of them will be filled in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park, the last chance for three-year-old fillies to earn qualifying points for Oaks. The 1 1/16-mile affair has attracted a dozen.

Benner Island, only sixth in the $125,000 Martha Washington in February when behind Channel’s Legacy, My Sweet Stella, and Torrent, added blinkers for last month’s Honeybee (G3) and improved markedly for trainer Brad Cox. Despite breaking from post 11, John Ed Anthony’s filly made a strong bid for the lead in upper stretch but had to settle for second behind California invader It Tiz Well, who ran a distant third to Paradise Woods in last week’s Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

Channel’s Legacy, Torrent, and Ever So Clever were non-factors in the Honeybee, while Torrent has rested since the Martha Washington. That might leave Benner Island and a group of ship-ins as the primary contenders. Spooky Woods, a distant third to Unique Bella in the Santa Ysabel (G3), looks to give Jerry Hollendorfer a second Fantasy win after taking it in 2010 with champion Blind Luck. Another Californian, Vexatious, exits a third behind Farrell in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) two weeks ago for Neil Drysdale.

Trainer Wayne Catalano and jockey Channing Hill, the forces behind Oaks-bound Farrell, have entered last-out allowance winner Conquest Bandido. Also likely to attract some play is Kell Paso, who has won or placed in three straight stakes at Sunland Park, including a neck loss in the the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks last time.

Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 will be awarded to the top four in the Fantasy.