Braly Family Trust's EVENING JEWEL (Northern Afleet) has been knocking on the door of a graded win in her past two starts, but on Saturday broke through in style with a gutsy neck victory in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland. With Kent Desormeaux guiding her on the front end, the James Cassidy-trained lass ran 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in 1:43 2/5 to earn her shot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on April 30.
"She's very honest, very straightforward," Cassidy said. "I was very happy with the way (Kent Desormeaux) rode her. That (taking the early lead) was our plan. She just gives you everything she's got every time.
"More than likely we'll go to the Oaks," he added. "I'll check and see how she is in the next week or so."
Evening Jewel set splits of :24, :48 1/5, 1:21 3/5 and 1:37 while Protesting (A.P. Indy) and She Be Wild (Offlee Wild) kept in close attendance just to the outside and on the rail, respectively. Protesting ranged up to challenge on the final turn, but couldn't sustain her momentum and backed up as She Be Wild angled out for the stretch run. Evening Jewel maintained her advantage in the lane and had just enough left to hold off the game late run of It's Tea Time (Dynaformer).
"This little filly really took off a quarter-mile away from the wire," Desormeaux said. "What can I say? She's my Easter Bunny."
Sent off the 5-1 fifth choice in the eight-filly field, Evening Jewel returned $12.60, $6.80 and $4.40 while keying the $207 exacta and $1,017.40 trifecta. It's Tea Time put in a strong rally down on the rail, but found her way blocked in upper stretch by Evening Jewel and had to move to the outside of that rival. She was three parts of a length clear of She Be Wild on the wire, paying $15.40 and $6.80 as the 18-1 longest shot on the board.
"We think she's an Oaks horse," trainer Rusty Arnold said of It's Tea Time. "It would be a big jump, but we think she's that kind of horse. A lot will depend on how she does in the next few weeks. She's trained great at Churchill. It's a long year, so we won't rush her."
Champion She Be Wild easily took third by 3 3/4 lengths over Protesting, giving back $3.40 as the near 3-1 favorite, and the 8-2-5-7 superfecta was worth $7,305.
"I'm happy with her," conditioner Wayne Catalano said of She Be Wild. "You can't complain when they run good. She hadn't run in a while and she needed the race. I wanted to go to the lead, but Evening Jewel had the same idea, and she just ran so hard. But she ran a good race.
"We'll wait to see how she cools out, then I'll talk it over with the owners and see from there (on going to the Oaks)."
Upperline (Maria's Mon) followed by another 2 1/4 lengths, with Apple Charlotte (Smart Strike), Negligee (Northern Afleet) and Beautician (Dehere) rounding out the order under the wire.
Evening Jewel has finished worse than second only once during her career, with that coming as a sixth in her career debut last August at Del Mar. She broke her maiden in November at Santa Anita and ended her juvenile season with a win in the California Breeders' Champion S. In two tries as a three-year-old, the bay filly has run second by a length in the Santa Ysabel S. (G3) and second by a nose in the Las Virgenes S. (G1). This initial graded triumph boosted her earnings to $410,600 and her line now reads 8-3-4-0.
Bred in California by Larry and Betty L. Mabee, Evening Jewel sold for only $8,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The first registered foal out of Jewel of the Night (Giant's Causeway), she has an unraced juvenile half-sister named Maggie McGowan as well as a pair of Cindago half-sisters, a yearling and a 2010 filly. Jewel of the Night is herself a half-sibling to multiple stakes winners Saucey Evening (More Than Ready), who ran third in the 2009 Las Virgenes, and Petition the Lady (Petionville).
Evening Jewel's third dam is the winning Excellent Lady (Smarten), who counts among her progeny multiple Grade 1 king General Challenge (General Meeting), Grade 1 victress Notable Career (Avenue of Flags) and Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Western Hemisphere (General Meeting). Others of note in this line include multiple Grade 2 heroine Snow Dance (Forest Wildcat) and multiple Grade 1-placed Southern Halo (Halo), who is a successful sire.