The champion filly Ashado, the focus of concern after she lost her first two starts in 2005, looked like her old self in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park Saturday, defeating her four rivals with ease.
The multiple group I winner shook loose from early pacesetter Bending Strings at the end of the stretch and pulled away for an authorative three-length victory under John Velazquez.
"She ran awesome," Velazquez said. "The last time she got beat and everyone thought she wasn't the same. She is going to get better. She was going comfortably the whole way. I gave her a little kiss and she responded."
Society Selection, an impressive winner of the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont in her last start, came on late for second under Eibar Coa, edging Bending Strings and Richard Migliore. The final time for the 1 1/6-mile test for fillies and mares was 1:41.
Ashado won for the first time since taking the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 30, which wrapped up 3-year-old filly division honors for the dark bay daughter of Saint Ballado who won five of eight starts as a 3-year-old, including three grade I races.
In her first start at 4, the Apple Blossom (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, trainer Todd Pletcher said he didn't have her fit enough as Ashado struggled home fifth as the 1-2 favorite. In her last start, she gave a up a big lead in the stretch as the 3-10 choice while finishing second on a sloppy Pimlico track in the Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. III).
"I think she showed today what she is all about," said Pletcher.
Ashado, breaking from the rail under high weight of 120 pounds, tracked Bending Strings early before taking the lead through tepid fractions of :24 1/5, :47 3/5 and 1:11 1/5. She kicked away from Bending Strings, who clung close to her rival until they reached upper stretch. At that point, Ashado was home free.
"I don't think being on the lead is her preferred running style, but any time you can get the first quarter in :24, you have to take that," Pletcher said. "The whole field finished up really well - 1:41 is a solid time off those early fractions."
Owned by Starlight Stables and partners, she won for the 10th time in 17 starts while going over the $3 million mark in career earnings. She has now won $3,095,440.
Pletcher said the Go for Wand (gr. I) at nine furlongs July 31 at Saratoga Race Course is next for Ashado, who paid $3.70, $2.50 and $2.10.
Society Selection returned $2.50 and $2.10. Bending Strings was $2.10 to show.
Daydreaming and Board Elligible trailed.