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Kathmanblu faces eight in Ashland
Grade 2 heroine KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) will seek to solidify her status as one of the favorites for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) when she lines up in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) on Saturday during Keeneland's opening weekend. The Kenny McPeek charge, who was last seen taking the Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, will be making her synthetic Polytrack debut in the 1 1/16-mile test, but is a multiple stakes winner over the turf.
Kathmanblu has blossomed since making her career bow at Churchill Downs last June. In that 4 1/2-furlong maiden, the bay lass was outrun to wind up eighth on the wire, but McPeek transferred his pupil to the turf next out at Ellis Park and a half-length win followed. Given a month off, Kathmanblu showed up at Saratoga and finished with a good kick to be second in the grassy P. G. Johnson S.
It wasn't until her return to Kentucky that Kathmanblu really began showing her true colors. Entered in last fall's Jessamine S. at Keeneland, the bay filly was six wide on the turn but drew off in the lane to be four lengths clear on the wire. She suffered a troubled trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) but still managed to pull out a third-place finish in that one, before trying the dirt just once more while wrapping up her juvenile season. That dirt try came in the Golden Rod S. (G2) back at Churchill, and Kathmanblu rolled to an 8 1/2-length victory.
Unbeaten in two tries -- the Rachel Alexandra and grassy Sweetest Chant S. -- thus far this season, the bay miss will try to have a perfect three-year-old mark heading into her early season goal of the Kentucky Oaks. Jockey Julien Leparoux has been aboard ever since Kathmanblu's Jessamine score, but deserts her here for fellow Ashland runner DANCINGINHERDREAMS (Tapit). Thus, Alan Garcia picks up the very live mount.
There are three other graded winners in the Ashland, headed by Dancinginherdreams. The lightly raced three-year-old will be making just her fifth career start in Saturday's race and is seeking redemption following a pair of disappointing efforts this year.
A dominant five-length maiden winner on Keeneland's Polytrack, Dancinginherdreams carried that over to Churchill when taking the Pocahontas S. (G2) by 5 1/4 lengths in October. Trainer John Ward gave her a couple months off, and the gray filly returned in the January 30 Forward Gal S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park. She just missed when second by three parts of a length in that seven-furlong contest, but was a well-beaten runner-up last out in the Davona Dale S. (G2).
BOUQUET BOOTH (Flower Alley), triumphant in the Delta Downs Princess S. (G3) in November, is also looking for a return to the winner's circle. The Steve Margolis runner gutted out a neck score in the Silverbulletday S., but was unable to do better than fourth in the Rachel Alexandra last out. Robby Albarado takes the call from Shaun Bridgmohan, who has opted to stick with Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) third and recent O.B.S. Championship S. vixen DELIGHTFUL MARY (Limehouse).
WYOMIA (Vindication) rounds out the graded winners in the field. Following victory in the Mazarine S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine, the dark bay lass tried the Juvenile Fillies Turf only to be sixth. She was given a four-month freshening and returned to post a rallying head score in the Suncoast S. most recently. Freddie Lenclud, aboard for that latter win, will be back in the saddle.
Completing the Ashland field are California Oaks queen LILACS AND LACE (Flower Alley), fourth just two weeks ago in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on Turfway Park's Polytrack; Turf runner and Herecomesthebride S. (G3) third EXCITED (Giant's Causeway), who will be trying a main track for the first time on Saturday; Woodbine stakes winner GRAND STYLE (Giant's Causeway); and DRAW IT (Tapit), a maiden winner sprinting seven furlongs in early March.