(from track report)
Edgar Prado rode four winners, including Ashado in the $150,000 Schuylerville (gr. II) on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, opening the 135th Saratoga Race Course season with a strong start in his bid to defend his Spa jockey title.
Despite not riding on closing day last year, Prado rode 54 winners at Saratoga in 2002, one shy of Jerry Bailey's single-season record.
"This is nice (to win four races)," Prado said. "But we still have 35 days to go."
The 86th Schuylerville, Saratoga's traditional opening day feature for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, capped Prado's big day and brought attention to Ashado, a Saint Ballado filly who is now undefeated in two career starts.
A late morning storm made track conditions muddy most of the day. Conditions were listed as sloppy for the Schuylerville as another deluge hit in the afternoon.
More than 30 horses were scratched from Wednesday's card and the turf contests were moved to the main track because of the rain.
Owned by Starlight Stable, et. al., Ashado sat off strong fractions of :22; :45 2/5 and :58 2/5 set by uncoupled entrymate Hermione's Magic over the sloppy track. She took the lead for good, and held off a determined bid by Canadian invader Maple Syrple to win by a comfortable three lengths in 1:12. She went off the 5-2 post-time favorite of the crowd of 28,220.
"She really ran a big race," Prado said. "I let her go when she wanted to go. On a fast track, I probably would have waited a little longer, but with 2-year-olds in the slop, you have to let them run when they want to run. She was very game. She kept giving me more."
It was a repeat Schuylerville victory for Todd Pletcher, who won the trainer title last year at Saratoga and came to town on the heels of a record 40 wins at the Belmont Park Spring/Summer meet. Last year, Pletcher won the Schuylerville with Freedom's Daughter, who contracted a illness days later that led to her death.
"It was kind of like last year," Pletcher said. "We shot some blanks early in the day, and the Saint Ballado filly (Freedom's Daughter) won the Schuylerville. At the top of the stretch, I was rooting for a dead-heat. I think the track probably favored Ashado a little bit. Having a race over a sloppy track was good for her. I thought my other filly ran very well. She set some solid fractions, and it is difficult to get a line on how the track was playing.
Ashado paid $7.10, $4.70 and $3.10. Maple Syrple, ridden by Patrick Husbands, returned $6.60 and $3.40. Hermione's Magic, who tired in the closing stages after opening a clear lead for John Velazquez, showed for $3.20.
Wednesday, Prado began his title defense winning the third race with Carrier ($10); the fourth with El Prado Rob ($24.40) and the eighth with 4-5 favorite Evening Attire.
Evening Attire, who won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr. II) here last year before winning $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), was entered for the main track only in Wednesday's eighth race, a conditioned money allowance which was originally scheduled at nine furlongs on the inner turf. Steady rain scratched turf racing as well as six who were entered, and shifted the race to the sloppy main track.
"He's got very good acceleration when he is ready to go," said trainer Pat Kelly. "He's never really run that well at Belmont. We got lucky last fall. He caught mud in a mile and a quarter race (the Jockey Club Gold Cup). The Whitney is probably out. We'll probably look to get him back to the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (Aug. 16). He's a good horse."
Added Prado: "He did what he was supposed to do, and this should be a good confidence builder for him. I had a lot of horse. I just knew I had to get him outside."