Asher Wires Gardenia Handicap Field

Asher set a brisk pace under jockey Mark Guidry and continued on to win Saturday's $200,000 Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) at Ellis Park. The 4-year-old daughter of Mountain Cat completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.16 on the muddy track and earned $120,000 for Pepper Tree Farms.

Asher, the third wagering choice in the eight-horse field, raced a half-mile in :46.32 while establishing a 1 1/2-length lead over second choice Royal Fair. She maintained her advantage through the subsequent quarter-mile, then pulled away from Royal Fair and held off Zenith in the stretch to win by two lengths at the wire.

Royal Fair finished third, a half-length behind Zenith. Fast Delivery, Rose of Zollern, Star Queen and Enquiry Woman completed the order of finish. After racing in third place early on, Please Sign In was eased and did not finish.

Asher paid $7, $5, and $3.40. Zenith returned $10.20 and $5 and completed the $80 exacta. Royal Fair paid $2.80 to show.

Ronald Moquett-trained Asher last raced in June, finishing third in the Fleur De Lis (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. She won the $50,000 Diamond Trail Stakes prior to the Fleu De Lis and after finishing fifth – beaten by only 1 1/2 lengths – in the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II). The Gardenia Handicap marks her first graded stakes win. Out of Magic Snow, by Silent Dignity, Asher was bred in Kentucky by Indian Creek. Saturday's win improves her career record to seven wins from 25 career starts and three wins from five Ellis Park starts. (Chart, Equibase)