Ashado figures to be the one to beat in Saturday's Ogden Phipps.

Ashado figures to be the one to beat in Saturday's Ogden Phipps.

Skip Dickstein

Ashado Looms in Ogden Phipps Handicap

A small but talented field of five will vie for a share of the $300,000 purse in Saturday's Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park. The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares features grade I winners Ashado and Society Selection, along with grade II stars Bending Strings and Daydreaming--each looking for their first grade I score.

Known until 2002 as the Hempstead Handicap, the race is now run for the late New York racing legend Ogden Mills Phipps, whose stock took top honors in the Hempstead three times. The family stable continues, and has a chance for a fourth as they send out the Shug McGaughey-trained Daydreaming.

That stable will have to get by Ashado, and though she is winless in two attempts in 2005, Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin's 2004 champion 3-year-old filly still looks the one to beat. A fine move (5f, Fast, 59.06, H, 2/39) over the track June 12 has put the competition on notice that the Todd Pletcher-trainee is in fine form.

The dark bay 4-year-old daughter of Saint Ballado certainly wasn't her best self in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) April 9 in a weak fifth-place effort, nor was she all there in the Pimlico Breeder's Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. III), second-best to Silmaril.

Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Ashado's reputation, a strong series of works, and the services of regular rider John Velazquez will make her popular at the window. The pair will break from the rail carrying a top impost of 120 pounds.

Ashado will have to earn the win, as Irving and Marjorie Cowan's homebred Society Selection--who was the toast of Saratoga last summer with wins in the grade I Alabama and Test Stakes--is on the prowl.

A winner last time out over the track in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) May 21, the 4-year-old daughter of Coronado's Quest has hit the board in 10 of her 14 trips postward and has last year's Beldame Stakes (gr. I) on her Belmont resume.

Trained by Allen Jerkins, Society Selection likes to come from the back of the pack and should have the opportunity again on Saturday. A nice six-furlong tune-up (Fast, 1:13.43, H, 1/2) at Belmont Monday should have given Jerkins what he was looking for heading into race day.

Society Selection, with Eibar Coa aboard, will break from post three under 119.

The Phipps-bred Daydreaming will have to turn the tables on Society Selection who managed to take her by 2 3/4 lengths in the Shuvee.

The 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy, out of the Phipps' Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky, is certainly bred to compete at this level. She annexed the Next Move Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in March prior to the Shuvee and put up an impressive (5f, Fast, 1:00.46, H, 4/39) work of her own early in the week.

Daydreaming gets the services of jockey Javier Castellano. The pair will break from post four.

The John D. Gunther homebred Bending Strings hasn't scored since the First Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct last October. She was beaten a nose in the Top Flight Handicap in November, and was a game second to Alphabet Kisses in the grade I La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita.

The 4-year-old daughter of American Chance has only tackled this distance once, running a disappointing sixth in the 2004 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. III). She was also well-beaten in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) last fall at Belmont.

Trainer Kiaran McGlauglin has her working very sharply over the track for the Gunther outfit, and Richard Migliore gets the call.

Last year's White Carnation Stakes winner, 5-year-old Board Elligible, by Goldminers Gold, rounds out the field.

Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), Saturday, June 18, Fillies and Mares, 3-year-olds and upward, 1 1/16 miles, $300,000, Appx. Post Time 5:15 PM EST.

PP--Horse, Weight, Jockey

1--Ashado, 120, John Velazquez
2--Bending Strings, 115, Richard Migliore
3--Society Selection, 119, Eibar Coa
4--Daydreaming, 118, Javier Castellano
5--Board Eligible, 112, Channing Hill