James Weigel's front-running Dream of Summer not only held off favorite Ashado in winning Saturday's $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), she also successfully fended off the challenges of two outsiders, unlucky Star Parade and Shadow Cast, in the final strides at Oaklawn Park.
The Southern California shipper, ridden to victory by Patrick Valenzuela before a crowd of nearly 40,000, finished a neck in front of fellow Santa Anita invader Star Parade, with Shadow Cast a half-length behind in third.
Ashado, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, faded to fifth as the 1-2 choice in her first start since winning the 2004 Breeders's Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Trained by Juan Garcia, the 6-year-old California-bred daughter of Siberian Summer led at every call in spite of getting heavy pressure from Ashado before that one faded in the final furlong. The time for the 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares was 1:43 4/5.
The gray/roan Dream of Summer carried 116 pounds - five less than the high-weighted Ashado - to her first victory of 2005. It was the filly's eighth win in 13 starts. Tarlow's nose was all that nipped her in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) in her last start March 12 at Santa Anita.
With Saturday's $300,000 winner's share, she has earned $844,650. Dream of Summer won all four of her starts in 2004, including a pair of graded stakes, but the Apple Blossom was her first grade I triumph.
Dream of Summer paid $8.00, $4.20, and $5.60. Star Parade paid $12.60 and $13.40, and Shadow Cast was worth $9.60 in third.
The second-longest shot in the seven-horse field at 21-1, Star Parade was hard held along the inside by John McKee as she unsuccessfully attempted a couple of times to squeeze through for the lead along the rail. She shuffled well back on the far turn but gathered herself for a big run at the leaders in the stretch. Shadow Cast also made a strong move in the stretch after saving ground for jockey Calvin Borel, but lacked enough closing kick.
The race was a disappointment for Ashado, who could not wrest the lead from Dream of Summer while racing on the pacesetter's outside through moderate fractions of :23 3/5, :47 and 1:11. After vying between horses in upper stretch, she lost her action and fell back to finish behind Island Sand.
Ashado, trained by Todd Pletcher, won five of eight starts last year, including three grade I races.
House of Fortune ran sixth, while Island Fashion trailed throughout. Good Student was scratched.