Ashado, sent off at 2-5 and with only three competitors to beat, went down to defeat at the hands of hometown hope Silmaril in the $107,400 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. III) Friday afternoon.
Last year's champion 3-year-old filly had no excuses -- there were five fillies scratched and she controlled a soft pace. But when Silmaril came to her, Ashado could not hold off the 4-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Diamond
in the final sixteenth after opening up a 2 1/2-length lead.
Silmaril had credentials of her own, having previously won eight of 13 starts, but she had never won a graded stakes, while Ashado is a multiple grade I stakes winner. Silmaril won her only previous start on a sloppy track, taking Pimlico's Geisha Handicap in December.
Ashado had only run once this year, finishing fifth in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn April 9. She was scheduled to run Kentucky Derby (gr. I) weekend, but trainer Todd Pletcher said he was not happy with her 123 pound weight assignment. She carried 123 at Pimlico. Silmaril carried 115.
Pletcher said he was very concerned about how Ashado would handle the sloppy track, which reminded him of the going at Saratoga's Alabama (gr. I) last summer when she finished third.
"It's kind of a sticky, gooey surface, probably not her favorite," said Pletcher. "I thought despite that she ran a good race. I thought it was a much better race than she ran at Oaklawn (in the Apple Blossom)."
Ashado easily made the lead in the 1 1/16 mile race under John Velazquez, tracked by Pleasant Home and Silmaril. She went a quarter mile in :24.31 and a half mile in :48.89. After six furlongs in 1:13.28, most of the crowd probably expected Ashado to cruise home to the victory.
But local rider Ryan Foglesonger called on Silmaril in the stretch and after brushing with Pleasant Home while gaining racing room at the three-sixteenths, they closed strongly on Ashado's outside. She went by Ashado while driving to win by three-quarters of a length.
"I'm very excited," Fogelsonger said. "We just beat a Breeders' Cup champ.
"There was absolutely no pace in the race. I was sitting down the backside just getting tugged along. As Ashado began to pull away we came digging with every stride. Nobody was gonna get by me."
Silmaril, trained by Bowie-based Chris Grove for Stephen Quick and Christopher Feifa, paid $17.20 and $2.10. Ashado paid $2.10. Show betting was canceled.
"I knew she loved the slop," Grove said. "It was her first graded win. When I worked her last week Ryan (jockey Fogelsonger) said 'We're ready for Ashado.' I said, 'Ashado who?'"
She earned $60,000 for the victory and now boasts a career bankroll of $407,110.
Friel's for Real, surprise winner of this race a year ago, ran on for third after trailing for most of the trip under Ramon Dominguez, with Pleasant Home last.
The final time for the 8 ½ furlongs was 1:44.87.
Essence, Traci Girl, Colony Band, Saintliness and Family Business all scratched.