Yuugiri Digs Deep to Win Fantasy Stakes

After knocking on the door in three starts since her maiden win at first asking, Yuugiri would not be denied the victory April 2 in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

The 3-year-old Shackleford filly went straight to the front in the 1 1/16-mile test, and repelled the game inside challenge of Begin with determination to secure her first graded stakes victory—a win that also put her in possible contention for the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.

The Fantasy awards qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks to the top four finishers on a 100–40–20–10 scale, landing Yuugiri third on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 114 points, just behind the undefeated Kathleen O. (150 points) and champion Echo Zulu (130 points).

Trainer Rodolphe Brisset was noncommittal about a potential Oaks bid, but was thrilled to see Sekie and Tsunebumi Yoshihara’s homebred filly pick up a black type win of her own. The filly was third last out in the Feb. 26 Honeybee Stakes (G3) behind Secret Oath who ran third Saturday against the boys in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

“The owners live in Japan and they bred the horse (in Kentucky), so it was great for her to get the win for them,” he said. “Obviously, she has earned the (Kentucky Oaks) points too. Let’s see how she comes out of the race first and then we’ll have a meeting with the ownership and see what we’re going to do.”

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With Florent Geroux in the irons, Yuugiri led seven rivals through fractions of :22.89, :46.65, and 1:11.46. She hooked up with Beguine through a 1:37.09 mile, with the two battling it out in the rush down to the line. Yuugiri dug deep and turned back her rival to score by a neck, finishing in 1:43.65 on a fast track.

“She was relaxed,” Brisset said. “The fractions were pretty fast, but she just kept digging in. ‘Flo’ did a great job, too.”

Yuugiri paid $10.20 as the 4-1 third choice. After Beguine Came Bubble Rock who finished three lengths back to complete the trifecta, two lengths ahead of fourth-place finisher I Feel the Need . Dream Lith the 8-5 favourite, finished fifth.

Out of the black-type winning Gold Medal mare Yuzuru, Yuugiri improved her record to 2-2-1 from five starts with earnings of $543,610, including runner-up finishes in the 2021 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) and Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downswhere she also broke her maiden by 7 1/4 lengths in a six-furlong unveiling last September.

This is the mare’s first winner from two starters. She has an unnamed 2-year-old colt by air force blue that was exported to Japan last year. She also has a yearling colt by Nyquist and was bred to american pharoah for 2022.

Video: Fantasy S. (G3)

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