HOT SPRINGS, AR – Clearview Stable’s Ever So Clever stamped her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks with a come-from-behind victory in the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy Stakes.
Winless in her previous five graded stakes attempts, including two fifth-place finishes over this track in the Martha Washington and Grade 3 Honeybee, the Medaglia d’Oro filly won by 1 3/4 lengths over Chanel’s Legacy.
“She felt great today,” said winning jockey Luis Contreras. “The last time I got an opportunity to ride her, she finished fifth. I learned a lot, and (trainer) Steve (Asmussen) gave me some advice about the filly, how she likes to run. We got everything perfect today. From the time we broke, she did everything by herself. I just waited, got patient, and kicked in at the quarter pole, and she gave me everything.”
With the win, Ever So Clever earned 100 points toward eligibility in the Kentucky Oaks and is now ranked third, with 106 points, in the field limited to 14 starts. She completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.40.
“Luis gave her a perfect trip,” Asmussen said. “She broke fine from the 12 hole. He made an immediate decision, got over. She was probably only 6-7 off the lead around the first turn, two-wide and carrying him well. I thought it made the difference in the race.”
The victory was Ever So Clever’s first since a Keeneland allowance race last November, but Asmussen was confident in this spot.
“I felt very good about how the filly trained and that he had ridden her before,” Asmussen said. “I felt we had a lot more horse going into today. The filly has a great personality and we’ve always felt this way about her. And for her now to win a nice graded stakes is what she deserves.”
Chanel’s Legacy, who was last seen winning the Grade 3 Honeybee, led them through fractions of :23.37, :47.03, 1:11.18, and 1:37.00 before ceding the lead. She is now ranked 10th in the Kentucky Oaks standings, with 51 points, after picking up 40 with her second-place finish.
“Oh, second was great,” said owner Allen Poindexter. “Forty points. I don’t know what to say.”
Vexatious chased the group 5 1/2 lengths off around the back before making her move on the straight, but a slightly-drifting Chanel’s Legacy forced her to adjust down the stretch, missing second by a neck.
“She ran a much improved race,” said jockey Kent Desormeaux. “I had to do a lot of altering of course and I was beaten a lip for 2nd.”
Torrent finished several lengths back in fourth, followed by Benner Island, My Sweet Stella, Spooky Woods, Dutch Parrot, Conquest Bandido, Drinks On Broadway, Kell Paso, and Conquest Slayer.
Off as the 6-5 favorite, Benner Island stalked the leaders through the first 1/2 mile, but she was bumped while running four wide into the stretch and lost her momentum.
“I won’t make an excuse,” said jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. “We were in a perfect spot in first turn, and in second turn, we were in a perfect spot, and she got a little tired.”
Ever So Clever returned $33.60, $13.40, and $7. Chanel’s Legacy brought back $11.40 and $6.60, while Vexatious paid $4 to show.
Fantasy Stakes Quotes
Trainer Steve Asmussen, Ever So Clever — “She’s going to Churchill Monday and it’s fun to have her there.”
Jockey Luis Contreras, Ever So Clever — “Once I started making my move, I wasn’t worried about anybody in the race. I just went with the momentum and enjoyed the last part of the race.”
“Oh, that was great. This is special for me.”
Jockey Alex Birzer, Chanel’s Legacy – “Yeah, she just ran a big race, had a little more time in between races this go and she just ran a big race. They (did) an excellent job getting her ready for this. Wasn’t necessarily planning on going, but you just can’t see what happens and nobody else really went. They let me nurse a nice little lead; she ran a big race.”
Trainer Lynn Chleborad, Chanel’s Legacy – “She tried so hard. I’m so proud of her. It was a nail-biter right down to the wire. I thought Alex did a great job backing them up. I’m proud of the whole team, the horse. It’s exciting.”
Trainer Brad Cox, Benner Island – “She was in a great position. I don’t know. She didn’t have the answer today. (Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.) had her in a perfect spot. I honestly don’t know. Disappointed. It’s a roller-coaster game, and most of the time, the roller-coaster is going down.”