A field of nine fillies is expected for the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) April 5 at Keeneland, and the race should help sort out who is the best filly heading in to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2.
Stonerside Stable’s Country Star, one of the likely favorites along with Proud Spell for the Ashland, turned in her final work before the race April 1, going four furlongs in :47 2/5 over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.
“That’s just what Bobby (trainer Bobby Frankel) wanted; she’s doing good,” said assistant Nuno Santos, who indicated Frankel was expected to arrive at Keeneland shortly.
Clockers caught the Empire Maker filly in :23 1/5, :47 2/5, and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.
Country Star will make her sophomore debut in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland, though she’s no stranger to the Central Kentucky oval. She was an impressive winner of the grade I Darley Alcibiades in her second career start. She followed her Alcibiades victory with a track-record-setting win in the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) at Hollywood Park in December.
Produced from the grade I-winning Rings a Chime, who won the Ashland in 2000 and finished second in that year’s Kentucky Oaks, Country Star recorded two wins in three starts at two, for earnings of $575,900.
Trainer Bill Mott will send out Martin and Pam Wygod’s-homebred Life Is Sweet. The daughter of Storm Cat worked a half-mile in :48.40 with Rodolphe Brisset, Mott’s assistant at Keeneland, aboard.
“She seems to be doing well,” said Brisset about Life Is Sweet, who is a full sister to champion Sweet Catomine. “She likes the track.”
Cloverleaf Farm’s Bsharpsonata brings a four-race win streak into the Ashland. But the questions that remain unresolved for trainer John Salzman are whether Bsharpsonata is better on grass or dirt and if she can handle Polytrack.
“She has won on mud, turf, and a fast track and nothing seems to bother her,” said Salzman, who is overseeing the filly’s preparations at Keeneland for his son Tim, who will be in town to saddle the Pulpit filly. “She seems to be fine here. We worked her once here (1:01.60 on March 26) and she did fine.”
Bsharpsonata, who galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Scott Miller April 1, began her winning streak Nov. 24 in the Selima at Laurel on turf. She followed that with a New Year’s Day score in the Tropical Park Oaks on grass before taking the seven-furlong Forward Gal (gr. II) on a sealed track at Gulfstream, and then the one-mile Davona Dale (gr. II) on a fast track.
“I was a little leery of running back on the dirt (after the Forward Gal) but they (the owners) were dead set on it because they want to go to the Kentucky Oaks,” Salzman said. “In her last race, she got shuffled back to last about the three-eighths pole. She came out and I didn’t think she had a prayer because she lost 10 lengths, and she came running.
“After I ran her the first time (on turf), I said, ‘I don’t know. She seems to handle both of them.’ She comes back out of the races the same way. I really don’t know. Hopefully, she will like this track. There are some nice fillies in that race; they are coming to town for the money.”
Bsharpsonata’s dam, Apasionata Sonata, is a daughter of Triple Crown winner Affirmed. She won at a 1 ½ miles on the grass and won a stakes at Kentucky Downs.
Eric Camacho, who rides all the Salzman horses in Maryland, has the call on Bsharpsonata, whom he has ridden in her six most recent starts.
In other Ashland news, Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell (Proud Citizen —Pacific Spell, by Langfuhr ) jogged a mile under exercise rider Jorge Nava in her first trip back to the track since working five furlongs in 1:00.60 March 30.
Darley Stable’s Little Belle arrived from New York April 1. Winner of the Busher in her most recent start Feb. 24 at Aqueduct, Little Belle (A.P. Indy—Dubai Bell, by Mr. Prospector) will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh, according to Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother, Kiaran McLaughlin.