Lemon Muffin on Track To Make Next Start in G3 Fantasy

March 13, 2024

Lemon Muffin upsets the Honeybee (G3) Feb. 24 at Oaklawn Park (Coady Photography)

By Robert Yates – Oaklawn Park

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Lemon Muffin remains on track to make her next start in Oaklawn’s $750,000 G3-Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies March 30, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning.

The 1 1/16-miles Honeybee is Oaklawn’s third and final Kentucky Oaks qualifying race. The Fantasy will offer 200 points to its top five finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Lemon Muffin banked 50 qualifying points for her upset victory in the $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes Feb. 24. Lemon Muffin ($58.20) broke her maiden in the Honeybee – her two-turn debut – by 3 ½ lengths after four consecutive runner-up finishes.

“She came out of it (well),” Lukas said. “She’s really a nice horse to have in the barn because she’s strong and tough – carries her weight. A lot of these fillies, if you start getting in these tough races leading to the Oaks, even Secret Oath lightened up and we kind of had to manage her. This filly, she looks like a stud colt every day. I don’t know if there’s any back up to her.”

Lukas has won the Kentucky Oaks a record-tying five times, including 2022 with Oaklawn-based Secret Oath, who also captured the Honeybee.

Lemon Muffin was Lukas’ record-extending seventh Honeybee victory and the first career graded stakes victory for jockey Keith Asmussen, 25, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Lukas said Keith Asmussen, Oaklawn’s second-leading rider this season, will retain the mount for the Fantasy.

“I’m going to leave Keith on her,” Lukas said. “Some people roll their eyes that she might be 1-2-3 in the choices for the Oaks. Her (speed) numbers say she’s No. 1, if you take Rag numbers or another service. I think she’s right there. He’s done nothing wrong but ride her perfect. So, why would I worry about that?”

West Omaha, third as the beaten favorite in the Honeybee, is also targeting the Fantasy for trainer Brad Cox. West Omaha won the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds. West Omaha is now based at Oaklawn for Cox, who won the 2023 Fantasy with Wet Paint.

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn March 24 for the Fantasy, which has a record purse in 2024 after being worth $600,000 the last three years.

In addition to the Fantasy, the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby for 3-year-olds, $500,000 G3-Oaklawn Mile for older horses and $250,000 Matron Stakes for older female sprinters will be run March 30.

Lukas is pointing Just Steel to the Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race.

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