Bauer Hoping for an Early Birthday Present with Fantasy Win

Trainer Phil Bauer has a chance for an early birthday present when he sends out two horses Saturday at Oaklawn, notably Sylvia Q in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Bauer turns 36 April 14 and the Fantasy would represent his most lucrative career victory since starting his first horse in 2013.

“I wouldn’t mind it,” Bauer said Thursday morning.

Sylvia Q is among seven horses entered in the Fantasy, Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) April 30 at Churchill Downs. The Fantasy will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies. Swiss Skydiver, last year’s Fantasy winner, finished third in the rescheduled Kentucky Oaks (COVID-19) behind Honeybee Stakes (G3) winner Shedaresthedevil en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly for trainer Kenny McPeek, Bauer’s former boss.

“Purse-wise and just the significance of the race moving forward, to have a shot at the Oaks or even the Black-Eyed Susan, is something we’re excited about,” Bauer said.

Sylvia Q returns to stakes company after coming from just off the pace to capture an entry-level allowance race by three lengths March 11 at Oaklawn under Martin Garcia, who is named to ride Saturday. Sylvia Q was exiting the only poor performance of her five-race career, a fourth-place finish, beaten 12 ½ lengths by local division leader Will’s Secret, in the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 30. The 1-mile race marked the stakes debut of Sylvia Q, an $80,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate.

“We took a swing at the Martha Washington,” Bauer said. “Her first couple of races, looked like she was wanting to hang. I messed up and put the blinkers on her and it just kind of backfired on us. Just got a little too rank early and didn’t have enough at the finish. Took those off and worked to try and get her to relax. Martin gets along with her really well and did a good job in the morning doing it, and she ran to the way she was training. Hopefully, takes another step forward here. Three-year-old filly without an (allowance other-than condition), you’re kind of forced to run in stakes until sometime in May. She deserves a shot here.”

Sylvia Q, 5-1 on the morning line, is campaigned by Richard and Tammala Rigney (Rigney Racing LLC). Bauer trains privately for the Rigneys, who reside in Louisville, Ky., and named Sylvia Q, a daughter of Violence, after a “friend of the family,” the trainer said.

“They usually name their horses after people that are close to them, kids, trips they’ve taken and drinks, stuff like that,” Bauer said.

Overall, Sylvia Q has a 2-2-0 record and earnings of $136,524.

Bauer and Rigney Racing began building their stable by claiming Cookie for $30,000 out of an August 16, 2013, maiden victory at Ellis Park. Cookie – their first starter – became their first winner Sept. 21, 2013, at Churchill Downs.

Bauer and Rigney have since teamed to win the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational (G3) in 2015 at Belmont Park with Channel Marker and the $100,000 Hutchinson Stakes (G3) in 2018 at Gulfstream Park with Madison’s Luna. Channel Marker was a $62,500 claim in 2014 at Churchill Downs.

“Very fortunate,” Bauer said.

Tactically, Sylvia Q has been a forward factor throughout her career (all five races have been routes).

“Our filly just has tremendous gate speed,” Bauer said. “She’s never been sent, but she’s just inherited the lead because she leaves there so well. Maybe the perfect scenario is a horse that wants to go and have a repeat of the allowance race where we just sit on the hip and cruise along that way. I guess the only worry is, is everyone going to have the same plan? But you can’t take the race out of them, so I anticipate she’ll break sharp and be involved early. How much early I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to the jock. Don’t want a reverse race where she’s running off early and fading late, but I think she’s matured mentally and understands the process now.”

Sylvia Q and Madison’s Luna, who is entered in Saturday’s ninth race, an allowance sprint for older horses, are among some 10 horses Bauer has at Oaklawn. The trainer also had around 15 horses at the recently concluded Fair Grounds meeting. Bauer is wintering at Oaklawn for the first time, but before going out on his own did oversee McPeek’s Oaklawn division roughly a decade ago.

“Loved my time there when I was there,” Bauer said. “Always wanted to come back, but we just were too small to split. Now this year was kind of our first time that we had enough numbers that, hey, let’s give it a shot. It’s worked out well.”

Bauer has compiled a 2-3-1 mark from 14 starters at the meet. His horses have collected $174,640 in purses.

Madison’s Luna represented Bauer’s career first Oaklawn victory, overcoming traffic trouble in a March 4 waiver-claiming sprint. The Tapit gelding returns to the allowance ranks after snapping a nine-race losing streak when running for a $40,000 claiming tag last month. Madison’s Luna won his first two career starts, including the Hutchinson by five lengths.

“He’s always kind of broken our hearts because we felt like he had the ability to be a top-level horse,” Bauer said. “Showed some brilliance early and then you couldn’t get him back to that level. Maybe it was a confidence booster last time. A drop in class is always good. We were joking the other day that this might be his 10th last chance of protecting him. You hope the way he ran last time that maybe he’s catching a groove and horses that like that track really like it. We’ll give him another shot here at this level. He seems to fit. Obviously, there’s a couple in there that look like they’re the ones to beat, but if runs the same race back, and doesn’t have to wait until the eighth pole to run, he should be a part of it.”

Madison’s Luna is the 7-2 second choice in the program.

Finish Lines

Trainer Aidan Green moved her record at the meet to 6-2-7 from just 21 starts with a victory by Kasserine Pass ($5.60) in Thursday’s sixth race. Green has six career victories, all this year at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Kasserine Pass represented Green’s first victory for M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), Oaklawn’s leading owners the last three years. …Starfish Stable of Hot Springs breeder Linda Robbins recorded its fourth victory of the meet in Thursday’s ninth race with Hamazing Song ($115.20). Blanco Bronco ($110) represented Starfish’s second winner of the meet Feb. 25. … Oaklawn-raced horses in 2021 entered in stakes events across the country Saturday include Shoplifted in the $300,000 Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct; Flagstaff, Hidden Scroll, Special Reserve and Mucho in the $200,000 Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland; Hollis and American Butterfly in the $200,000 Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland; Will’s Secret in the $400,000 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland; Essential Quality, Leblon and Keepmeinmind in the $800,000 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland; and Ottothelegend in $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita. … There is no live racing Sunday (Easter), but Oaklawn will be open for training from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. (Central).