Is Amy Up to the Challenge in Fantasy Stakes?
She might not be a standout at first glance, but I believe that it’s going to take a big effort for anyone to defeat #6 Amy’s Challenge in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.The 8.5-furlong race serves as a major prep for the upcoming Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, and indeed, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Blind Luck in 2010 both used the Fantasy as a springboard to Oaks glory.
No one is yet comparing Amy’s Challenge to Rachel Alexandra or Blind Luck, but the daughter of Artie Schiller certainly appears to have a bright future. Trained by Mac Robertson, Amy’s Challenge caught eyes last summer when she won two sprint races at Canterbury Park in impressive fashion, even beating colts in the six-furlong Shakopee Juvenile Stakes while posting a massive 105 BRIS speed figure.
After taking a break from training, Amy’s Challenge returned in the six-furlong Dixie Belle Stakes in January at Oaklawn and gamely battled through a fast pace to defeat the talented Mia Mischief (herself a next-out stakes winner) by a neck. It was a solid comeback, and two months later Amy’s Challenge made her two-turn debut in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) over the same track and distance as the Fantasy.
At first glance, Amy’s Challenge second-place finish with an 88 BRIS speed figure wasn't all that impressive, but I think you can argue that she ran a better race than the winner. With regular rider Jareth Loveberry in the saddle, Amy’s Challenge was rank heading into the first turn, and when Loveberry allowed her to run Amy’s Challenge opened up a huge lead in the blink of an eye, posting very fast fractions of :23.27, :46.02, and 1:10.27 while entering the far turn with a lead of about ten lengths.
Not surprisingly, Amy’s Challenge shortened stride thereafter, but I thought she held on well under the circumstances to finish less than two lengths behind the late-running Cosmic Burst. There’s no guarantee that Amy’s Challenge won’t be rank again in the Fantasy, but she’s gaining the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, and if Smith can ration her speed more effectively, I think Amy’s Challenge can turn the tables on Cosmic Burst and return to the winner’s circle.
#4 Cosmic Burst is back again and looms as a major player for the exotics, along with #8 Wonder Gadot, who was beaten less than a length when third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) three weeks ago. #2 Harbor Lights, a recent Oaklawn allowance winner trained by Steve Asmussen, could also contend on the basis of her last-out 91 BRIS speed figure.
Let’s see if we can nail down the exacta and trifecta using these three underneath Amy’s Challenge:
$4 exacta: 6 with 2,4,8 ($12) $3 trifecta: 6 with 2,4,8 with 2,4,8 ($18)