Sailor's Valentine's four-race losing streak going into the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) quickly earned a trip to her connections' distant memory file when the daughter of Mizzen Mast scored a 22-1 upset in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies.
After tracking longshot Someday Soon through a half-mile in :49.32 and six furlongs in 1:14.06, Sailor's Valentine surged to the lead in early stretch and had enough to hold off Daddys Lil Darling for a half-length win. The final time was 1:45.54.
Semaphore Racing and Homewrecker Racing's filly broke through in a big way Saturday, as she secured her first stakes score and snapped a losing skid that dated back to her debut win in a maiden special weight race in October at Keeneland.
That previous Keeneland win, which came at seven furlongs, motivated trainer Eddie Kenneally to enter Sailor's Valentine in the Ashland.
"We knew she liked the track," said Kenneally, who also won the Ashland in 2006 with Bushfire. "She won here in October very impressively. She came back here in late March and had a really good work over the track. We just decided we'd take a shot in the Ashland—mainly because she loves this track—and this is a very, very good track."
Kenneally said the plan is to point to the May 5 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Ashland is a Road to the Kentucky Oaks race, with qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers. Winning jockey Corey Lanerie secured his third Ashland win and second straight after guiding Weep No More to an upset win last year.
"I hadn't been on her (in awhile)," Lanerie said. "Coming into the race, (Kenneally) said, 'She's doing phenomenal. I look for her to run a big race. She's going maybe to be a longshot, but she's not going to run like one.' He was right."
Normandy Farm's Daddys Lil Darling earned her second grade 1 placing at Keeneland. The Scat Daddy filly was runner-up in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes in October. Tommy Ligon's Someday Soon held third, earning the daughter of Proud Citizen her first graded stakes placing.
Trainer Ken McPeek said he expects Daddy's Lil Darling to be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks as well.
"She ran a great race. (Jockey) Robby (Albarado) did a great job on her," McPeek said. "He just sat still and waited and waited. He just couldn't run them down. He said if the (race were a bit longer) he probably wins by two (lengths). But we're pleased. This is about where we wanted to be. Of course you want to win, but she's a special filly. I'm sure she'll go to the Kentucky Oaks, no doubt."
Bred in Kentucky by Curtis Green, Sailor's Valentine is out of the Tale of the Cat mare Sortilege. She is the first stakes winner for Sortilege, who is out of stakes-placed Competent Sort. Semaphore purchased Sailor's Valentine for $100,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale where she was consigned by Highclere, agent.
Sailor's Valentine paid $46.40, $16.80, and $9 across the board. Daddys Lil Darling returned $6.60 to place and $4.40 to show. Someday Soon paid $9.80 to show.
Even-money favorite Elate was pulled up entering the stretch and, according to the stewards, was vanned off as a precautionary measure. The grade 3-placed daughter of Medaglia d'Oro appeared to be walking comfortably on the track after the race. Meanie Irenie also was eased, after she hit the gate at the start and was steadied in the first turn.