November 30, 2023

Pauline’s Pearl seeks to join Oaks party in Fantasy

Pauline's Pearl (Hodges Photography)

Fantasy S. (G3) — Race 11 (6:54 p.m. ET)

With Will’s Secret taking a pass on Saturday’s $600,000 Fantasy S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park, Pauline’s Pearl has emerged as potentially the filly to beat in the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Oaks series prep.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, who already have one outstanding Oaks prospect in Clairiere, Pauline’s Pearl could beef up the contingent with a strong showing in the Fantasy, in which she’ll break outside all six of her rivals.

A dominating maiden winner in her third start in mid-February, Pauline’s Pearl turned in an effective performance in the March 6 Honeybee (G3), missing by three parts of a length to Will’s Secret, who had previously romped in the Martha Washington S.

Pauline’s Pearl should continue to get better. A daughter of Tapit, she was produced by Hot Dixie Chick, a Grade 1-winning half-sister to 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming.

Trainer Brad Cox, who has current Oaks favorite Travel Column, will send out his local mainstays Sun Path and Coach. Both fillies competed in the Honeybee, with Sun Path 1 1/2 lengths behind Will’s Secret in third and Coach a well-beaten fifth. Neither filly has made serious progression off their juvenile form yet, but can’t be discounted.

Ava’s Grace, who placed in the Adirondack (G2) at Saratoga last August, could take a step forward for trainer Robertino Diodoro. The filly returned on March 4 from a layoff of nearly seventh months and finished a solid third in a six-furlong allowance. The Laoban miss stretches out for the first time in the Fantasy following that prep.

The connections of Will’s Secret, owner Willis Horton and trainer Dallas Stewart, will rely on recent maiden winner Take Charge Lorin. Also a daughter of Tapit, the filly is regally bred on the female side as her dam is a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Omaha Beach and a half-sister to champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi. Horton’s 2013 three-year-old champion, Will Take Charge, also hails from this family.

Rounding out the field are recent allowance winner Sylvia Q, who figures to show speed, and West Side Girl, who’s won both starts since joining the Jerry Hollendorfer barn but concedes significant class on paper.

The Fantasy will award Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.

Purple Martin S. — Race 6 (4:09 p.m. ET)

The $200,000 Purple Mountain S., a six-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies, features a rematch between Windmill and Abrogate, who finished first and third, respectively, in the Feb. 28 Dixie Belle S. over the same distance.

Stepping up in class is two-time winner Southern Grayce and Joyful Cadence, a recent 8 3/4-length graduate from the maiden ranks.