Starlight Stable's Ashado, who served notice that she is fit and ready with a front-running romp in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), is clearly the one to beat in the $250,000 Go for Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Sunday.The champion 3-year-old filly of 2004, Ashado heads a field of five in the 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares. She has two wins in three starts at Saratoga.A daughter of Saint Ballado, Ashado got off to a shaky start this year, losing at odds-on prices in the Apple Blossom (gr. I) and Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. II), but showed in the June 18 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park that she was as good as ever. She set the easy pace and drew away to win by three lengths.
"I never lost any confidence in her," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think in the Apple Blossom she simply got tired and, in the Pimlico race, the racetrack was pretty gooey. It was nice to see her go over there and run her 'A' race in the Ogden Phipps." Irving and Marjorie Cowans' Society Selection is a perfect 3-for-3 over the Saratoga strip, but Ashado holds a 3-to-1 edge in head-to-head match-ups.The post-position draw was somewhat key for Ashado, who drew post 5 with the speedy California invader Andujar, winner of the Milady Breeders' Cup (gr. II), inside of her in post 4.
"Her ideal setting would be to follow somebody," Pletcher said. "She showed in her last race that, if nobody wants the lead, she could take it and be just as effective."
The only time Society Selection defeated Ashado was in last year's 1 1/4-mile Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Society Selection broke her maiden at the Spa in 2003 and had a remarkable 2004 meet, taking the seven-furlong Test (gr. I), then stretching for the Alabama victory.
Following her distant seventh-place finish in Gulfstream's Shirley Jones (gr. II), Society Selection was given some time off and has returned strong in a pair of New York starts. She won the Shuvee (gr. II) in May, before finishing second behind Ashado in the Ogden Phipps. "It could be the time of the year, or sometimes it's a coincidence, too," said trainer H. Allen Jerkens when asked why Society Selection does so well up here. "I hope she continues to do as well as she has here." Andujar, a Quiet American filly trained by Doug O'Neill, has risen quickly in the ranks. She broke her maiden on turf, blew out a Hollywood allowance field on dirt and then ran away with the Milady. Sent off at 3-5 in her most recent effort, the 1 1/8-mile Vanity Handicap (gr. I), Andujar set the pace and yielded late to Splendid Blendid and Island Fashion.
$250,000 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/8 miles
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Bending Strings, Kiaran McLaughlin, Gary Stevens, 115
2. Society Selection, H. Allen Jerkens, Eibar Coa, 119
3. Daydreaming, Shug McGaughey, Edgar Prado, 116
4. Andujar, Doug O'Neill, Corey Nakatani, 118
5. Ashado, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 121