Multiple grade I winner Ashado reasserted herself atop the 3-year-old filly division with a 4 1/2-length romp over five rivals in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at muddy Belmont Park Saturday.
Sent off the 7-10 favorite in the second leg of New York's Triple Tiara series, the Saint Ballado filly kept her record perfect in four starts on off-tracks and avenged a 2 1/2-length loss to Stellar Jayne in the June 26 Mother Goose (gr. I).
With John Velazquez in the saddle for trainer Todd Pletcher, Ashado stormed to the lead over pacesetting Stellar Jayne midway on the far turn and took command with a quarter-mile to go. She opened a five-length lead in the stretch and finishing with interest in 2:02 2/5 for the 1 1/4-mile. It was Ashado's first attempt at 10 furlongs.
Ashado stalked Stellar Jayne and Robby Albarado while well in hand through comfortable splits of :24 2/5, :48 3/5, and 1:12 2/5 before assuming the lead. Magical Illusion, under Edgar Prado, followed Ashado around the turn for home, but then she tired, too. No others challenged her as Ashado strode out through the lane.
"I put her in good position and let her do her own thing," said Velazquez. "She started going to the lead and waiting, so I spanked her a couple of times to keep her mind interested. She did everything pretty easy."
Ashado has enjoyed an outstanding 2004 for owners Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin. She has three wins, including the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), and two second-place finishes. Overall, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) runner-up is 7-3-1 in 11 starts. She has career earnings of $1,605,440.
"She was on her 'A' game today and when she is, her performance speaks for itself," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "She was just a better horse today than she was in the Mother Goose."
The final leg of the Triple Tiara is the $750,000 Alabama (Gr. 1) on Aug. 21 at Saratoga.
"We'll go from here to the Alabama and then we'll figure it out from there," Pletcher said.
Aaron and Marie Jones bred the winner, who is from the dam Goulash (Mari's book), in Kentucky. Ashado was a $170,000 Keeneland September Yearling sale in 2002.
She paid $3.50, $2.30 and $2.10. Stellar Jayne, who ended a seven-race losing streak with her win in the Mother Goose, returned $2.90 and $2.10. Magical Illusion, the 3-1 second choice in the field with Edgar Prado aboard, was $2.10 to show while finishing 12 lengths behind Ashado. The exacta was worth $9.60.
Honor Point, Dynaville and America America followed them.