- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Total of 134 fillies nominated to Ashland
The total number of fillies nominated during the early closing period represents a 67 percent increase over 2012. As with the Blue Grass, a late nomination period closes March 27.
Contested at 1 1/16 miles, the Ashland historically has been a premier prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. It is featured as the first of five Grade 1 stakes run during Keeneland's spring race meeting, to be held April 5-26.
Beholder, champion juvenile filly and winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, enhanced her status on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks with her March 2 win in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.
Other fillies nominated to the Ashland with top-10 point rankings on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks are Unlimited Budget (winner of the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra), Live Lively (Grade 2 Davona Dale), Dreaming of Julia (Grade 1 Frizette) and Fiftyshadesofhay (Grade 3 Santa Ysabel). Another notable nominee is last fall's Grade 1 Alcibiades winner Spring in the Air.
Pletcher nominated 15 fillies to lead all trainers, followed by Graham Motion with nine. Baffert and McLaughlin are each represented by seven nominees.
Since 1936, 31 fillies have used the Ashland as a stepping stone to victory in the Oaks, most recently Ashado (2004), Summerly (2005) and Proud Spell (2008). In 2010, Ashland winner Evening Jewel lost the Oaks by a nose to champion Blind Luck following a thrilling stretch duel between the fillies.
Alex G. Campbell Jr.'s Karlovy Vary won the 2012 Ashland in gate-to-wire fashion, giving trainer Rusty Arnold and jockey James Graham their first victory in the race.