Fantasy Winner Pauline’s Pearl Has ‘Improved Every Time,’ On To Kentucky Oaks

Pauline’s Pearl continued her ascent in the 3-year-old filly division with a victory in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) Saturday at Oaklawn.

A homebred for Stonestreet Stables LLC (Barbara Banke) and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Pauline’s Pearl earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 89, a career best, for her one-length victory over Ava’s Grace to secure a spot in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) April 30 at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

The royally bred Pauline’s Pearl, by Tapit out of Grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick (a half-sister to 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming), was exiting a troubled second-place finish in her stakes debut, the $300,000 Honeybee (G3) March 6 at Oaklawn. Her Beyer figures, a numerical representation of performance, have improved throughout her five-race career, rising from 61 in her debut sprinting Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds, to 70, 74, 81 in the Honeybee and now 89. The last four starts for Pauline’s Pearl have come at 1 1/16 miles.

“Just a tremendous pedigree,” Asmussen said. “Her mother, we had won a Grade 1 with, the Spinaway. Grade-1 winning mare for Stonestreet and the class shows.”

Pauline’s Pearl ($3.80) represented Asmussen’s record 94th career Oaklawn stakes victory and record fourth in the Fantasy. She was the 4-5 favorite after going off 18-1 in the Honeybee.

Pauline’s Pearl was reunited with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. for the Fantasy. Santana had ridden Pauline’s Pearl in her career debut, but was aboard stablemate Willful Woman in the Honeybee (Will’s Secret was a three-quarter length winner).

“She’s a nice filly,” Santana said. “We’ve expected a lot from her since Day 1. I rode that filly short the first time at Fair Grounds and she ran good. We always expected to run her long. The last four races she’s run long, she’s improved every time.”

Pauline’s Pearl collected 100 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points for her Fantasy victory and ranks No. 4 on the leaderboard with 120, according to Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated races like the Fantasy. Will’s Secret is No. 8 with 80 points. She also won Oaklawn’s $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 30.

Last year’s Fantasy winner, Swiss Skydiver, finished second in the rescheduled Kentucky Oaks (COVID-19) en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly. Fantasy third Shedaresthedevil won the Kentucky Oaks for co-owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs.

Santana, Asmussen and Stonestreet teamed to win the 2016 Fantasy with Terra Promessa, who finished 10th in the Kentucky Oaks.

Asmussen won Oaklawn’s $60,000 Prima Donna Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters in 2010 with Hot Dixie Chick.

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