A field of seven, headlined by graded stakes winners Country Star and Proud Spell, will take to the gate for the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) April 5 at Keeneland.
Campaigned by Robert and Janice McNair’s Stonerside Stable, Country Star closed 2007 with consecutive grade I wins in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland and the Hollywood Starlet at Hollywood Park. Trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, Country Star (Empire Maker --Rings a Chime, by Metfield) will be making her 2008 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland.
Rings a Chime won the Ashland in 2000 and went on to finish second behind Secret Status in that year’s Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Proud Spell enters the Ashland off a 2 ¼-length victory over Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 8. She began the season with a second-place effort, beaten by Indian Blessing, in the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 9 at Fair Grounds.
Trained by Larry Jones, Proud Spell (Proud Citizen--Pacific Spell, by Langfuhr ), a Kentucky homebred racing for Brereton Jones, has compiled a record of 6-4-2-0 with earnings of $888,770. However, unlike Country Star, Proud Spell has not raced at Keeneland.
The two headliners will break side by side with Proud Spell in post position five under Gabriel Saez, and Country Star breaking from post position six under Robby Albarado.
While Country Star and Proud Spell are stealing the early headlines, three other Ashland runners are entering the race off of stakes wins.
Keith Kinmon’s Absolutely Cindy defeated males in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park March 1, Cloverleaf Farm’s Bsharpsonata won the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park March 2, and Darley Stable’s Little Belle took the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct Feb. 24.
Life is Sweet will add an interesting twist to the race. Owned by Martin and Pam Wygod and trained by Bill Mott, the filly is a full sister to champion Sweet Catomine. Life is Sweet enters the race off of an allowance win Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park.
The field for the Ashland, from the rail out with jockeys and weights, is as follows:
1--Absolutely Cindy (Orlando Mojica, 121)
2--Little Belle (Rajiv Maragh, 121)
3--African Violet (Javier Castellano, 121)
4--Bsharpsonata (Eric Camacho, 121)
5--Proud Spell (Gabriel Saez, 121)
6--Country Star (Robby Albarado, 121)
7--Life Is Sweet (Kent Desormeaux, 121)