Heavily favored Ashado gave jockey Jerry Bailey his record-tying 68th stakes triumph in 2003 by a head bob in Saturday's thrilling $200,000 Demoiselle (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.
Bailey, who reached the mark established by fellow Hall o Fame jockey Mike Smith in 1994, earned the victory by a nose over La Reina and John Velazquez in 1:52 4/5 for the 1 1/8-mile test on a fast track. Dr. Kathy has a charging third, a half-length behind.
After shaking loose from La Reina in the stretch by 1 1/2-length, Ashado tired in the final sixteenth of a mile and barely held off La Reina, who came on a second time at the rail after getting a challenge in deep stretch from Dr. Kathy.
Bailey may have won the race in the first turn when he forced Velazquez to use La Reina to maintain their position on the outside of pacesetting Please Take Me Out, who cleared the field and carved out fractions of :23 1/5, :47 and 1:12 before giving way to the two favorites.
In the stretch run, Ashado, on the outside, took command in mid-stretch but had to dig in coming to the wire. La Reina came to even terms with the winner in the final yards only to lose it narrowly at the wire.
Said Bailey: "I give the filly a lot of credit. She eased herself up when she wasn't tired. I was going to try to keep Johnny (Velazquez on La Reina) in on the first turn, but he got out and we were second and third up the backstretch.
"As for the record, I feel a little relief, but it would be nice to get it over with right away. It would be very nice to do it in New York. I'm, from Texas, but I consider myself a New Yorker. I don't ride much at Aqueduct, but I've ridden for a long time in New York."
La Reina stamped herself as a filly to watch.
"She ran very well, just a little green down inside of that other horse (Ashado)," said La Reina's trainer Shug McGaughey. "The winner is a good filly and she's run good all year. Today, with a post position switch, the outcome could have been different. She learned a lot today."
Todd Pletcher trains Ashado. Bailey rode her for the first time Saturday.
"One of the things I cautioned Jerry (Bailey) about – because he had never ridden her before – was that she gets a little idle when she makes the lead," said Pletcher. "She is very lazy in the mornings, and when she gets out there by herself, she gets to loafing a little bit. La Reina is a very nice filly, and maybe we had a little experience edge on her today."
A dark bay by Saint Ballado-Goulash (Mari's Book), Ashado was coming off a second-place finish behind Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). A $170,000 Keenleland September yearling buy in 2002, she won for the fourth time in six career starts while pushing her career earnings to $610,800. The victory was worth $120,000 to partners Starlight Stables LLC, Paul Saylor and John Martin.
Ashado closed out an impressive juvenile campaign. She broke her maiden in the slop at Belmont Park, won the Schuylerville (gr. II) and Spinaway (gr. I) at Saratoga and was third in Belmont's Frizette (gr. I) before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was 13-1. The effort, in smoky 100-degree weather at Santa Anita, took a lot out of Ashado, Pletcher said.
"I was worried about running her back after the Breeders' Cup," he said. "I was thinking about it for a long time. Obviously, I think it was the right decision now. She'll go to Florida on Monday. We're going to work out a schedule that targets the Kentucky Oaks."
Aaron and Marie Jones bred Ashado in Kentucky.
She paid $3.10, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 1-2 favorite in a field of seven. La Reina returned $2.30 and $2.10. Dr. Kathy, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, showed for $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $4.60.
Shamoiselle, Please Take Me Out, Run Cat Run and Taittinger Rose completed the order of finish.