There was a big shadow cast at Saratoga Friday, and it was Shadow Cast who was responsible as the 4-year-old Smart Strike
filly upset heavily favored Ashado in the $400,000 Personal Ensign (gr. I) at Saratoga.
The "Graveyard of Favorites" claimed yet another victim as Ashado, last year's champion 3-year-old filly who was sent off at 2-5, didn't even finish in the money.
Two Trail Sioux made an easy early lead in the 10-furlong race and John Velazquez had Ashado sitting in second, about five lengths behind down the backside. Island Sand, the second choice, was vying with Personal Legend for third and fourth positions.
Robby Albarado was content to let Shadow Cast do her normal thing, which is sit near the back. But when he asked her to run, she rolled up on the outside and took total command.
"Those were top-quality fillies in the race and she got by them pretty easy," said Albarado, who has ridden Shadow Cast in most of her races.
"The race unfolded like I needed it to," Albarado added. "I know when I got to Johnny on Ashado that he was riding her. My filly was waiting for me to call on her. When I did I was just a passenger."
Ashado and Island Sand both failed to fire down the stretch, with Personal Legend getting second and Two Trail Sioux running third. The two favorites, Ashado and Island Sand, dead-heated for fourth.
Ashado had finished worse than third only once previously in 18 career starts when fifth in last spring's Apple Blossom (gr. I). Last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner rebuilt her reputation with impressive recent victories in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park on June 18 and the Go For Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga on July 31. She had won 11 of 18 overall.
"I don't know what happened to her," Velazquez said. "She just wasn't herself today."
Added trainer Todd Pletcher: "She never seemed to fire. Even though that filly was going pretty fast she was never dragging Johnny along the way she normally does. She left there flat and ran flat the whole way."
Shadow Cast ran the 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.07 after fractions of :23.02, :46.84, 1:11.23 and 1:36.56.
Bred and owned by Bill Farish and trained by Neil Howard, Shadow Cast had won a grade III and grade II this year. Now she has a grade I win. The 4-year-old filly, out of the Dayjur mare Daily Special, has won nine of 21 starts with total earnings of $923,751.
Shadow Cast finished seventh in the Diana (gr. I) at Saratoga on July 30. That and the presence of Ashado helped make Shadow Cast a 14-1 longshot
"Obviously Ashado didn't run her race today," Howard said. "She'll be back. My filly trained extremely well, almost too well not to run. I know that sounds easy to say now. Her hair never looked better. Her appetite had never been better. Her works had never been better."
Shadow Cast paid $31, $12.60, and $9.70, while Personal Legend returned $11 and $9.70. Two Trail Sioux paid $7.40.
For a moment, Edgar Prado, who was aboard second-place Personal Legend, thought he might win the race.
"I was able to sit and make my move," Prado said. "I picked off the pieces. I almost thought I would get her, but the winner was much the best today."
A Song In A Minor finished sixth. Isola Piu Bella was scratched, leaving a field of six.