After two straight losses in Road to the Kentucky Oaks races at Oaklawn Park, Defining Purpose was overlooked at 20-1 in Friday’s $600,000 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. But the Ken McPeek trainee made the most of a brilliant ride by Brian Hernandez Jr., in a tactical race, to upset 1.26-1 favorite Punchbowl.

Campaigned by Sherri McPeek’s Magdalena Racing, breeder Colette Marie VanMatre, and James Ball, Defining Purpose was flooring a couple of other heavy hitters as well. Aside from highly-regarded Punchbowl making in her stakes debut, the Ashland featured last year’s champion two-year-old filly Wonder Wheel, the second choice at 1.53-1, and Demoiselle (G2) winner Julia Shining, a full sister to two-time champion Malathaat.
In a race lacking a great deal of early pace, Punchbowl was widely expected to use the speed she’d shown in an impressive allowance score at Oaklawn. Instead, Effortlesslyelgant went to the lead from her outside post and crossed over. Punchbowl got stuck behind her, in a pocket, and backers of the favorite had an uneasy view from that point on.
Meanwhile, Defining Purpose was working out a much more advantageous trip as an outside stalker. Flanking Punchbowl through the opening quarter as they chased Effortlesslyelgant, Defining Purpose crept nearer down the backstretch. Julia Shining also took closer order, but Wonder Wheel was on hold a little further back in fifth. 
Rounding the far turn, Defining Purpose began to challenge. She took command upon straightening and poached a decisive advantage. Julia Shining was trying to keep Punchbowl hemmed in as they turned for home, but the favorite was able to secure running room. Both set off after Defining Purpose, only to gain momentum too late.
Defining Purpose held firm by a half-length from the steadily closing Punchbowl, in a final time of 1:43.31 for 1 1/16 miles. Banking 100 points toward the Oaks, the daughter of Cross Traffic now has a total of 107.
Punchbowl proved herself on the class hike with a bang-up second, and opened her Oaks account with 40 points. Julia Shining was another neck away in third, adding 30 points to bring up her tally to 46. Guns n’ Graces did well to close from last for fourth, good for 20 points to double her total to 40. Effortlesslyelgant picked up 10 points in fifth, followed by Wonder Wheel and the tailed-off Pride of the Nile.
Defining Purpose rewarded her fans with a win payout of $42.68, and she boosted her bankroll to $543,688 from her 7-3-0-1 line. The gray earned her previous stakes win in the Year’s End S. on New Year’s Eve at Oaklawn. In Oaks scoring races, she was fifth behind Hoosier Philly in last November’s Golden Rod (G2), third to Wet Paint in the Jan. 28 Martha Washington S., and most recently sixth to the same rival in the Feb. 25 Honeybee (G3).
“I’m not overly surprised,” McPeek said of the Ashland upset. “She had a couple of reasons why she fell off a little bit of form in her last two (the Martha Washington Stakes and Honeybee). She hooked a couple of muddy race tracks. The last trip she had was really wide and wider.”
Kentucky-bred Defining Purpose is out of the multiple Indiana-bred stakes winner Defining Hope, by Strong Hope.