Pauline’s Pearl Inherits Favorite’s Role in Fantasy Stakes

HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 2, 2021) – Maybe the first thing you notice about Pauline’s Pearl, on paper, is that she’s a Triple Crown nominee. In the flesh, it’s her color.

A royally bred daughter of Tapit and Grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick, Pauline’s Pearl possesses a gray coat, with reddish tint and a tiny white dot on her right hip.

“She’s gorgeous,” Brooke Stillion said.

Stillion is the regular exercise rider of Pauline’s Pearl, who is the 9-5 program favorite for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn. The 1 1/16-mile Fantasy is Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) April 30 at Churchill Downs. Probable post time for the Fantasy, the 11th of 12 races, is 5:54 p.m. (Central).

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 behind Honeybee Stakes winner Shedaresthedevil in the rescheduled Kentucky Oaks (COVID-19) en route to an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly.

A homebred for Stonestreet Stables LLC (Barbara Banke) and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Pauline’s Pearl exits a runner-up finish, beaten three-quarters of a length by Will’s Secret, in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 6 at Oaklawn. With Will’s Secret (2 for 2 in stakes races at the meeting) passing the Fantasy in favor of the $400,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) Saturday at Keeneland, the improving Pauline’s Pearl is poised to become Oaklawn’s new leading lady.

“I feel like she’s filled out more, just in the short time she’s been here,” Stillion said. “I’ve heard Steve say she’s kind of been a late developer. She’s slowly gotten better, though. Each race she comes back better and stronger. I’ve breezed her and love the way she trains. It’s a short field and she’s beaten two of the horses, already, in there. I’m hoping.”

The Fantasy will mark the fifth career start for Pauline’s Pearl, who debuted sprinting Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds. She broke her maiden at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 at Fair Grounds and just missed at 18-1 in the Honeybee – also 1 1/16 miles – after being in traffic on the second turn. It was her stakes debut and first start outside Fair Grounds.

“Beautiful filly that seems to be going the right direction,” Asmussen said. “We’re excited about running her. Quality field.”

Also returning from the Honeybee are Sun Path and Coach, third and fifth, respectively, for trainer Brad Cox. West Side Girl, Ava’s Grace, Sylvia Q and Take Charge Lorin, a stablemate of Will’s Secret, complete the projected seven-horse Fantasy lineup.

“If I could, I’d come tomorrow and offside Pearl because I’m really excited about her race,” Stillion said. “Tomorrow, I have to drive home for Easter, so I’m going to miss her race. I’m really, really bummed.”

The Fantasy field from the rail out: West Side Girl, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 117 pounds, 12-1 on the morning line; Ava’s Grace, David Cohen, 117, 8-1; Sylvia Q, Martin Garcia, 117, 5-1; Coach, Fernando De La Cruz, 121, 5-1; Take Charge Lorin, David Cabrera, 117, 6-1; Sun Path, Joe Talamo, 117, 2-1; and Pauline’s Pearl, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 9-5.

Stonestreet, Asmussen and Santana teamed to win the 2016 Fantasy with Terra Promessa. Asmussen won Oaklawn’s $60,000 Prima Donna Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters in 2010 with Hot Dixie Chick.