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Mamma Kimbo steps up in class for Fantasy
Mamma Kimbo unexpectedly fired in a big way in her February 18 debut at Santa Anita, but it will be no great surprise if she replicates that fine showing in Wednesday's Grade 2, $300,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-old fillies, a potential tune-up for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, kicks off Oaklawn's annual Racing Festival of the South, which has been condensed this year into the final four days of the 2012 meet.
A daughter of Discreet Cat owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Bob Baffert, Mamma Kimbo was a bit cold on the board at 6-1 when she made her six-furlong introduction in California. However, the bay looked like a competitor from the start. Pressing a wicked early pace, Mamma Kimbo seized control at the quarter pole and had enough in the tank to extend her advantage to 5 1/4 lengths at the wire.
The way Mamma Kimbo won is both a blessing and a potential curse. A head behind after an opening quarter in :21 1/5, the filly set the remaining splits of :43 3/5 and 1:07 4/5. Though she earned a strong BRIS Speed rating of 104, Mamma Kimbo will need to much more relaxed trying a distance of ground for the first time while facing more experienced rivals.
Team Baffert will also be represented in the Fantasy by Jemima's Pearl, a recent addition to the barn. A winner in one of five starts in Ireland last year, Jemima's Pearl took her U.S. debut by a nose in a first-level allowance at Santa Anita on March 9, and was subsequently transferred from the barn of Simon Callaghan.
Baffert is a perfect three-for-three at Oaklawn this meet after sweeping both divisions of the Grade 3 Southwest with Castaway and Secret Circle, as well as the Grade 2 Rebel with Secret Circle. Baffert last won the Fantasy in 1999 with the highly-rated Excellent Meeting.
Waiting for the California juggernaut is the Oaklawn-based Amie's Dini, who thus far has danced all the dances in the Hot Springs track's series for sophomore fillies. Runner-up to the now-retired Now I Know in the opening-day Dixie Belle, Amie's Dini rebounded to hand that filly her only career defeat in the February 11 Martha Washington over one mile. Victorious by 1 3/4 lengths that day, Amie's Dini subsequently proved no match for On Fire Baby in the Grade 3 Honeybee, finishing two lengths behind in second.
While On Fire Baby sits out the Fantasy and trains up to the Kentucky Oaks, the Ron Moquett-trained Amie's Dini is a solid fit on form as she tries to get her ticket punched to Churchill Downs for the first Friday in May. Moquett will also saddle the allowance-class Livi Makenzie in the Fantasy.
Wait Til Dawn, a full sister to last year's Grade 3 Virginia Oaks winner Excited, invades from the Palm Meadows base of trainer Todd Pletcher. A maiden winner at Gulfstream on February 5 in her fourth start, the Giant's Causeway miss next overcame trouble to register a half-length score in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs. Pletcher captured the 2006 Fantasy with Ready to Please.
Off Limits, a fast-closing second in the February 25 Busher at Aqueduct, was scratched from Saturday's Grade 3 Comely in favor of the Fantasy. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will add blinkers to the Include filly's equipment Wednesday as she tries to give the barn its second Fantasy victory. The first was with future champion Escena back in 1996.
The remainder of the Fantasy field consists of Kittty Kat Karly and Illegally Blonde, who both captured one-mile maiden races on the March 18 Oaklawn program.