Ashado, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, rebounded nicely from her worst career defeat with a game triumph Saturday in the Beldame Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park and will now move on to attempt to win the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), which she won last year.
Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, Ashado stalked the early pace set by Dream of Summer through fractions of :24 2/5 and :47 3/5. Ashado made her move rounding the turn and emerged in front at the top of the stretch. The daughter of Saint Ballado continued to lead through the stretch, defeating Happy Ticket by a half-length while getting the 1 1/8 miles in final time of 1:48 4/5 over a fast track.
Sent off the 17-10 favorite, Ashado returned $5.40, $3.60, and $2.50. Happy Ticket, the winner of 10 of 11 previous starts who was making her first career start beyond 1 1/16 miles, paid $9.00 and $4.30. Society Selection paid $3.10 for her third-place finish.
Previous to the Beldame, Ashado finished fourth - beaten 14 3/4 lengths - as the odds-on favorite in the Personal Ensign (gr. I). The winner of 12 of 20 starts, Ashado is now second only to Azeri as the all-time leading female earner with a career bankroll of $3,711,440. A Breeders' Cup victory, which will conclude Ashado's career, would push her beyond Azeri's career earnings of $4,079,820.
Owned by Jack and Laurie Wolf of Starlight Stable, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin, Ashado is consigned to be sold by Taylor Made Sales Agency at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. She was bred in Kentucky by Aaron U. and Marie Jones.
"You have to say now that she's one of the top mares -- maybe of all time," Pletcher said. "When you get one this good and they've had such a good career, you want to see them finish up on a winning note. It's very satisfying for our organization. This was a loaded race. She beat everyone she you could beat today. I don't know who will show up in the next one but, from the Midwest to the East Coast, this was the best group on this side of the Mississippi. This was clearly the marquee prep of the fall.
"This was a big win. We want to defend our title in the Breeders' Cup, but the earnings title would be a bonus. When you have a filly that's this consistent for so long, obviously when they run a sub-par race you look for a reason why. Once we identified the reason, we felt good about it. As long as she trained well, we were ready to go."
"We went into the last race, and we thought she was doing well," Velazquez said. "She just wasn't herself. Today in the paddock, she was beautiful -- on her toes, but not sweaty. She was very good in the post parade...I don't think she got a lot out of her last race. She going back to the Breeders' Cup. She'll be tough."