Only six fillies are entered in Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), but every single one of them deserves to be there. The 8 1/2-furlong race is the 2004 debut for grade I winner Ashado, who won the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) in August, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and then finished out the year by winning the grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct.
Todd Pletcher trains the filly for a partnership of Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor, and John Martin. As for her potential performance in the race, Ashado has never finished worse than third in six starts, but she did finish third behind Society Selection and Victory U.S.A. in last year's Frizette (gr. I), which is also at 8 1/2 furlongs.
Tom Van Meter's Victory U.S.A. is also entered in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She has spent the winter in California with trainer Bob Baffert, who sent her out to win the Moccasin Stakes in November. This will also be this filly's first start this year. She finished fourth in her last race, the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I), which was run at the same distance as the FG Oaks.
Another California-based filly, Bending Strings, is headed to New Orleans. Jerry Hollendorfer trains this homebred daughter of American Chance
for John Gunther. Bending Strings finished second in the Feb. 8 Golden State Mile Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in her last start. She is a half-sister to stakes winner Dixie Premiere (by Mane Minister).
Two fillies entered in the Oaks have already had a good race over the Fair Grounds surface. Shadow Cast won the Feb. 14 Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. II) for owner/breeder William S. Farish and trainer Neil Howard. Finishing just three-quarters of a length behind her that day was Quick Temper, who is also entered in the Fair Grounds Oaks. The Silverbulletday Stakes was also run at 8 1/2 furlongs.
The Fair Grounds Oaks is the ninth on Saturday's card. All runners will carry 121 pounds. The full field for the $300,000 race:
Horse, Trainer, Jockey
1--Ashado, Todd Pletcher, Cornelio Velasquez
2--Shadow Cast, Neil Howard, Robby Albarado
3--Quick Temper, Niall O'Callaghan, Larry Melancon
4--Bending Strings, Jerry Hollendorfer, Eddie Martin Jr.
5--Victory U.S.A., Bob Baffert, Corey Lanerie
6--Steady Course, Dallas Stewart, Shane Sellers