Kansas Kis in fine fettle for G3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park

April 26, 2020

ELMONT, N.Y. – Perrine Time Thoroughbreds’ Kansas Kis, who earned 20 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points for her runner-up effort in the Busher Invitational on March 7 at the Big A, will return to action in the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy slated for May 1 at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile test, offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers, has drawn an elite 14-horse field led by Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner British Idiom, who earned the Eclipse Award as champion 2-Year-Old Filly.

Kansas Kis is trained by Ray Handal, who oversees a bustling stable of 30 horses at Belmont Park. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Constitution posted a five-furlong breeze in 1:02.78 Saturday on the Belmont training track.

“It was a nice little cruise around and she galloped out nicely,” said Handal. “She’s an aggressive filly and gets a lot out of her training. We’re just trying to keep her happy with that workout today.”

Sporting a record of 1-3-2 from seven starts and purse earnings of $141,650, Kansas Kis graduated in a January 23 maiden tilt at Aqueduct and followed up with a strong second to Ilchester Cheetah in a February 21 allowance sprint.

Kansas Kis made a memorable stakes debut in the $250,000 Busher Invitational in which she opened up a 3 1/2-length lead at the top of the stretch, but was collared in the final stride by Water White.

Handal said the Busher effort, when stretching out to a mile for the first time, confirmed his confidence in the filly purchased for $57,000 at the April OBS Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“She really showed everybody that she’s the type of horse I thought she was in the Busher,” said Handal. “She ran a fast-closing second in the allowance to Jerry O’Dwyer’s filly [Ilchester Cheetah], and I knew the way she galloped out that she would get better with distance.

“She’s steadily improved in each start and I think she’ll continue to do so,” continued Handal. “She just turned three today. She’s still growing into herself and the time off has done her wonders. I think she’s going to make a lot of noise down there and run a big race.”

Kansas Kis will exit post 6 under Florent Geroux in the Grade 3 Fantasy.

New York-bred Timely Tradition, a 6-year-old stakes-placed daughter of First Defence, is on the also-eligible list on the May 1 Oaklawn card in an optional-claiming sprint. She breezed a half-mile in 49.93 Saturday on the Belmont dirt training track.

Imperial Racing’s Celtic Striker, a Kentucky-bred sophomore son of Congrats, is nominated to the Grade 1 $750,000 Arkansas Derby set for May 2 at Oaklawn, and is also under consideration for an undercard allowance race.

Handal said he’ll wait and see how the draw plays out before making any decisions.

“We’re not under any pressure. I think New York racing will start up again soon enough and we’re fine waiting,” said Handal.

Celtic Striker breezed five-eighths in 1:04.75 Saturday morning. That effort followed up on a bullet five-eighths breeze in 1:00.08 on April 17.

“They went really fast last week and he got the bullet. I wanted something easy this morning, so I took the blinkers off and he was looking around out there,” said Handal. “When you put the blinkers on, he gets aggressive. He doesn’t really have a middle – he’s either on or off. He does everything off the bridle in the morning, but when you put the blinkers on he gets his game face on.”

Celtic Striker graduated at second asking at Monmouth Park in a maiden sprint contested on a sloppy track in October. He launched his 3-year-old campaign with an even fourth in the Jerome on New Year’s Day at the Big A ahead of a front-running optional-claiming win on February 8 at Parx.

Last out, leaving from the inside post in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, Celtic Striker showed brief speed before finishing off-the-board.

A $100,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Handal said Celtic Striker should continue to improve as he matures.

“He’s a nice colt and he’s going to keep on getting better,” said Handal. “Mentally, he’s not quite there yet, but he has a lot of raw talent. When he puts it all together, he’ll be a serious horse. I think he’s a true two-turn horse and the more races and the more miles he gets, the better he’s going to be.”

VinLaur Racing Stables, Brian Hahn, and Taste Of Victory Stables’ I’llhandalthecash finished sixth, defeated less than three lengths, while making her 4-year-old debut in the Captiva Island on March 7 at Gulfstream Park. 

The Kentucky-bred daughter of Point of Entry was steadied before rallying wide down the lane in the five-furlong turf sprint won by graded-stakes placed Girls Know Best, who garnered a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for the winning effort.

She has since returned to Belmont Park, where she graduated in May at second asking, and breezed a half-mile in 49.64 on April 20. Purchased for $150,000 at the April OBS Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, the talented bay is out of the stakes-winning Ghostzapper mare Sudden Ghost.

Handal said he decided against finding another out-of-town option for I’llhandalthecash.

“She breezes well on the dirt but she’s going to stay here for now,” said Handal.

NYRA Press Release 

Photo: Kansas Kis with connections after a win at Aqueduct. Credit: Handal Racing, LLC 

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