Fantasy or Ashland Next Stop for Wet Paint

March 1, 2023

Wet Paint blasts home to win the Honeybee (Coady Photography)

Brisset-trained Royal Spa Possible for Fantasy

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— After punching her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks, Wet Paint will be considered for two $600,000 graded stakes races in early April as a final prep for the country’s biggest event for 3-year-old fillies, trainer Brad Cox said Sunday morning.

Wet Paint moved to the top of the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with a three-length victory in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn for Cox and powerhouse breeder/owner Godolphin LLC. The Honeybee was the final major local prep for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles April 1.

Cox said Wet Paint could target the Fantasy – Oaklawn’s third and final Kentucky Oaks points race – or the $600,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 7 at Keeneland. A Grade 1 victory would boost Wet Paint’s broodmare value.

“I will talk it over with them,” Cox said, referring to Godolphin. “That (Fantasy) or the Ashland because, I mean, it is a Grade 1. (Godolphin) is a breeding operation.”

Wet Paint (70 points) jumped to the top of the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with her Honeybee victory. She collected 50 for the Honeybee and 20 for winning Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race, the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28. The $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles is May 5 at Churchill Downs.

A daughter of champion and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, Wet Paint is perfect in three career starts on dirt. All three races have been around two turns and over off tracks. The 8-5 Honeybee favorite, Wet Paint ($5.40) rallied from 10th after three-quarters of a mile, storming to the lead just inside the sixteenth pole under Flavien Prat. Wet Paint’s winning time over a sloppy, sealed surface was 1:45.35. She received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 83, a career high, after generating a 67 in her Oct. 26 maiden victory at Horseshoe Indianapolis and a 77 in the Martha Washington.

“She’s consistent,” Cox said. “I think that’s a good word to start with. Like for it to stay muddy. Big field yesterday. I had some concerns with how much kickback she would take. The race before, I don’t think the track had near as much moisture in it and she was kind of able to track them, not take as much mud, tip out and come running. She came back covered in mud yesterday, obviously. She improved yesterday. Had to pass more fillies and won going away. Very impressive with the gallop out. A mile and an eighth, with her pedigree, is something she should be able to handle. We’ll see how it goes.”

Only one horse, Eight Belles in 2008, has swept the Martha Washington (second division), Honeybee and Fantasy. She then finished second against males in the Kentucky Derby. Will’s Secret won the Martha Washington and Honeybee in 2021 before running third in the Ashland and Kentucky Oaks.

Secret Oath scored runaway victories in last year’s Martha Washington and Honeybee before tackling males in Oaklawn’s $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles. Secret Oath finished third in the Arkansas Derby before winning the Kentucky Oaks.

Asked if Wet Paint was a candidate for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 1, Cox said: “Probably not.”

The Honeybee victory, Wet Paint’s third in five starts overall, raised her earnings to $334,100. Wet Paint represented Cox’s 277th career Oaklawn victory and his meet-high fourth stakes victory this season. Cox has 32 career stakes victories in Hot Springs. Cox won the 2020 Honeybee with Shedaresthedevil, who also captured the Kentucky Oaks.

Just a Fantasy?

Royal Spa breaks her maiden on debut Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

Trainer Rodolphe Brisset saddled Yuugiri to win the Fantasy Stakes (G3) last April at Oaklawn. Brisset could have another starter this year in Royal Spa, who is scheduled to make her 2023 debut in Thursday’s sixth race, a $103,000 entry-level allowance sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

A homebred for Breffni Farm, Royal Spa won her 6 ½-furlong career debut Nov. 18 at Churchill Downs before stretching out to 1 1/8 miles and finishing fourth in her only other start at 2, the $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2) Dec. 3 at Aqueduct.

“Thursday, the 6 furlongs may be a little tough for her, but the plan was to bring her back here and see what she does,” Brisset said. “But we’re keeping the Fantasy in the back of our mind for her. The timing would be right. She’s already run a mile and an eighth in New York, so we’re using the allowance as kind of a prep and then go from there. But the filly has some talent.”

Royal Spa, a daughter of Violence, is scheduled to break from the rail under eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. Santana and Brisset teamed to win the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn with Yuugiri. Royal Spa, who adds Lasix, is the 5-2 second choice in the program.

Yuugiri, in her 3-year-old debut, ran third in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles last February at Oaklawn. She won the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy in her next start. Demoiselle third-place finisher Gambling Girl ran fourth in Saturday’s $300,000 Honeybee (G3), which was Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $600,000 Fantasy (G3) April 1.

Probable post time for Thursday’s sixth race is 3:18 p.m. (Central).

Finish Lines

Oaklawn moves to four-day race weeks (Thursday-Sunday) in March this week. Each Thursday throughout March, Oaklawn will offer free parking, excluding valet, free programs and $1 hot dogs. … Hall of Famer and 12-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen recorded two victories Sunday. Asmussen won the fourth race with favored Watch This Munny ($4.60) and the fifth race with California Street ($10), who was ridden by his son, Keith James Asmussen. Steve Asmussen (839) trails only the late Bob Holthus (867) for career Oaklawn training victories. … Saturday’s $150,000 Carousel for older female sprinters represented the 51st career Oaklawn stakes victory for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Santana, Oaklawn’s eight-time riding champion, rode Yuugiri for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Santana rode three winners Saturday and two more Sunday, pushing his career Oaklawn total to 705 (No. 7 all time).

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