In a good betting race, the public was right in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), with favored Ashado winning the 130th running of the top race for 3-year-old fillies Friday at Churchill Downs.
John Velazquez was patient early in the running as Madcap Escapade and Jerry Bailey drew off to a lengthy lead early in the race. The opening half was run in :46, the fastest opening four furlongs in the history of the race. Madcap Escapade was in front by five lengths as the field entered the backstretch.
Ashado was always in second until they straightened away in the stretch, and she then began to feel the pressure from Ashado and Velazquez. Ashado went by and Island Sand, under Terry Thompson, came on to get second, with Madcap Escapade holding on for third.
"My filly was running so easy, I thought I could get Madcap Escapade when I wanted," Velazquez said.
The track had been listed as sloppy for the earlier races on the card but was labeled muddy for the Oaks. This certainly did not hurt Ashado, who is now three-for-three on off tracks. She is owned by the Starlight Stable of Jack Wolf in partnership with Paul Saylor and Johns Martin.
Halfbridled, last year's 2-year-old filly champion, was scratched the morning of the Oaks by trainer Richard Mandella after tying up. She had done the same thing at Keeneland earlier in the month.
Ashado is by Saint Ballado and out of the Mari's Book mare Goulash. She was bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones and sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $170,000. She has now won six of nine starts, with two seconds and a third.
Ashado, a grade I winner last year, had made two starts this year, winning the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and then running second to Madcap Escapade in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
The final time for the nine furlongs was 1:50.81 before the crowd of 98,445.
"I was very confident, especially when he was in second on the backside and eased off the rail," trainer Todd Pletcher, who was winning his first Oaks, said. "When they turned for home, I was more concerned with the three (Island Sands)."
Ashado paid $6.60, $4.20, and $3, while Island Sand returned $12 and $5.80. Madcap Escapade paid $3.60. Ashado won by 1 1/4 lengths, and Island Sands was 1 3/4 lengths in front of Madcap Escapade.
Finishing fourth was Victory U. S. A., followed by Hollywood Story, A. P. Adventure, Stellar Jayne, House of Fortune, Last Song, Silent Sighs, and Class Above.
In the 11-horse field, seven fillies were 10-1 or less.