Venetian Harbor set things up nicely for Swiss Skydiver in the May 1 Fantasy (G3) by setting a torrid pace, but with that rival taking on the boys Saturday in the Blue Grass (G2), there might be no stopping the California invader in the $400,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
The 1 1/16-mile Ashland, postponed three months from its traditional early April date, will offer Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers, though several in the field already appear to have sufficient points to make the starting gate for the Sept. 4 feature.
One is Venetian Harbor, who prior to the Fantasy rattled off a 9 1/4-length score in the Las Virgenes (G2) at Santa Anita. Odds-on in the Fantasy, Venetian Harbor ripped through fractions of :22 1/5, :45 2/5, and 1:09 3/5 before weakening to second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Swiss Skydiver.
Bonny South has been laying low since a come-from-behind victory in the Mar. 21 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), but has been steadily gearing up for a final push to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Prior to her 6-1 win at Fair Grounds, the Juddmonte Farms homebred had defeated subsequent Grade 3 winner Shedaresthedevil in an Oaklawn allowance.
Speech, runner-up in the Santa Ysabel (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2), as well as to Gamine in an Oaklawn allowance between those two starts, was entered in both the Ashland and Friday's Beaumont (G2) over 7 furlongs at Keeneland.
Dual graded stakes winner Tonalist's Shape makes her first start outside Florida with blinkers added for this, while Alta's Award has form and speed to find against this group. Kenny McPeek, the trainer of Swiss Skydiver, will not be empty handed in the Ashland as he starts last-out Churchill allowance winner Envoutante.
The Ashland can be watched and wagered on at TwinSpires.com.