By Jim Freer
Swiss Skydiver and Lake Avenue, the winner and third place finisher in this year’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade 2) are among 14 entrants in Friday’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (Grade 3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
The Fantasy, for 3-year-old fillies, is 1 1/16 miles on the Oaklawn dirt track that is listed as fast. It is the ninth race on the card with scheduled post of 6:09 p.m. Eastern (5:09 Central).
Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenny McPeek, led at every call and was never seriously challenged as she won the Gulfstream Park Oaks by 3 1/4 lengths over Lucrezia on March 28. Lake Avenue came in third a nose behind Lucrezia.
Swiss Skydiver (photo on home page) won the 1 1/16 mile dirt race in 1:43.54 on a fast track. She earned a Brisnet Speed Figure of 100, which is very good for a 3-year-old filly early in the season.
Several other horses in the Fantasy have shown early speed.
McPeek, in a phone interview from Oaklawn Park on Friday morning, said he expects that jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. will be able to keep Swiss Skydiver out of a speed duel.
“She has shown that she doesn’t need the lead,” McPeek said.
Swiss Skydiver, a daughter of Daredevil, has won two of her five career starts. In three races where she rated off the lead she finished first, second and third.
Paco Lopez rode Swiss Skydiver in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Lopez has been recovering from a broken hand and will return to riding at Gulfstream on Saturday. He is noted for guiding horses to wire-to-wire wins and for what some critics regard as a daredevil riding styled.
McPeek said he would have stayed with Lopez for the Fantasy if his availability had been certain.
Instead he will use Hernandez, who has been a “go to” rider for him in recent years.
British Idiom is the likely favorite in the Fantasy.
She won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.
In her most recent start, British Idiom finished second and Swiss Skydiver finished third behind Finite in the Rachel Alexandra (Grade 2) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Regular jockey Javier Castellano will ride British Idiom for Brad Cox in the Fantasy.
Lucrezia and Finite are not entered in the Fantasy.
–photo on home page, courtesy of Gulfstream Park