Contested at 1 1/16 miles, the Ashland is the first of five grade I stakes scheduled for Keeneland’s spring race meeting April 6-27 and is a traditional prep for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group’s Grace Hall and Gillian Campbell, R Group Management and Greenwood Lodge Farm’s Summer Applause are among the top fillies pointing for the Kentucky Oaks who are nominated to the Ashland.
Grace Hall ranked second at 120 pounds among fillies on the 2011 Experimental Free Handicap following a win in the Spinaway (gr. I) and a second-place effort in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). In her only start at 3, Grace Hall finished second to longshot Yara in the Davona Dale (gr. II). Yara, who races for Peras International, is also nominated to the Ashland.
Summer Applause signaled her classic aspirations with an impressive win in the recent Rachel Alexandra (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Stephanie's Kitten won last fall’s Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland, which she used as a springboard to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). Trainer Wayne Catalano has indicated that Stephanie’s Kitten may use the Ashland as a prep for the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in June.