In the companion stakes, the $75,000 Lure, also at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, Godolphin’s top class turf stakes miler Ashkal Way made a winning 2007 debut as the 3-5 choice, but had to work hard to wear down Classic Campaign to win by a head.
Although Vacare has won all five of her races, the daughter of Lear Fan was making her first start for new owners and trainer Christophe Clement after being purchased in Kentucky. She won all four of her starts last year for breeder Lothenbach Stable and trainer Chris Block, including the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland in October.
“We got her in the middle of November after the Fasig-Topton sale," explained Clement. "She obviously had a fabulous 3-year-old year. We had the perfect place to give her a break at Payson Park. I ran her today a little short, but fortunately she’s not a big filly, so I could get away with it.
"We’re not sure what is next. There is a race (Distaff Turf Mile, gr. IIIT) on Derby Day (May 5) at Churchill Downs. There’s the Gamely (gr. I) at Hollywood and others in New York. We’ll keep her eligible for all of them.”
Vacare, stalking while three wide for the red-hot Edgar Prado, got clear of the leaders in upper stretch and edged away under right-handed urging while holding safe the late-arriving Aunt Henny, who finished willingly for Javier Castellano.
Godolphin’s 5-year-old Irish-bred mare Pictavia ran very well in her American debut to finish third, a nose behind Aunt Henny in the field of eight fillies and mares. Vacare raced the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40:23 over the ‘firm’ course.
Vacare increased her lifetime earnings to $511,00 while paying $3.40, $2.60 and $2.40. Aunt Henny, a grade III winner last year, returned $3.40 and $2.80. Pictavia, ridden by Joe Bravo, was $3 to show.
Only five went to the post in the Lure, with 5-year-old Irish-bred gelding Ashkal Way the overwhelming pick under jockey Jose Velez Jr.
Ashkal Way was making his first start since capturing the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) on Hollywood Park's turf course on Nov. 24. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the son of Ashkalani won six of eight starts last year to rank high in his division.
The Irish-bred Ashkal Way was swung five wide near the quarter pole by Velez. They charged up to the leaders mid-stretch and prevailed over a stubborn Classic Campaign in the final strides. Electric Light finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up as the winner was timed in 1:40:36 over the firm course.
It was the ninth win in 17 lifetime starts for Ashkal Way, who began his career in the United Kingdom and transferred to the U.S. last spring. He has earned $798,349 in his career.
“I was a little concerned when they put up a :48 second half-mile, but this horse had the tactical speed to overcome that," said Rick Mettee, Godolphin's assistant trainer. "The immediate future for him would be the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park (May 28) with a possible start in New York or Kentucky before that. We are looking forward to the fact that the Breeders’ Cup is at Monmouth Park this year. The Mile there would suit him well.”
Ashkal Way paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10. Classic Campaign, ridden by Prado, returned $2.40 and $2.10. Electric Light, Eddie Castro aboard, was $2.10 to show.