Augustan Stable's Fantasia rallied down the stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 Modesty Handicap (Grade III), running the mile and three-sixteenths turf race in a stakes record 1:53.80.
"This is a very nice filly, and I've got a lot of respect for her. She's classy and she tries, and you can't ask for more than that," trainer Jonathan Sheppard said.
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Sheppard said the 5-year-old's strength and endurance have increased as she has gotten older, encouraging a slight change in her running style.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh moved her closer to the front of the pack in the middle of the race and made his final bid down the stretch, instead of having her stay near the back and make one big attempt at the end.
"I knew I needed to be a little closer, so I moved up a bit without using too much horse, and when I asked her (to run), she ran great," Maragh said.
Running as the second favorite, Fantasia, who has been racing at only a mile, was unaffected by the extra distance.
That wasn't the case for favorite Wasted Tears, however, as she finished fifth. "She just got a little too tired, didn't have the punch she usually does," jockey Julien Leparoux said.
The win gives Fantasia an automatic berth, and waives all entry and starting fees, to the Grade I Beverly D. which will be run at Arlington Park on Aug. 13.
"It's fun to have a horse that is good enough to compete with (the top horses). Whether she's as good or not remains to be seen. But I think she belongs," Sheppard said.
Dave Doeren, the new head football coach for Northern Illinois University, was at the race to toast the winner. "I wish I had a defensive end that ran like your horse," he said to Sheppard.
A college football player named Fantasia? That would be interesting.