A baker's dozen of sophomore fillies has been entered to go 1 1/16 miles over Keeneland's Polytrack on Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland. The race is part of Churchill Downs' Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, and will award points to the top four on a 100-40-20-10 scale toward a starting berth in the May 2 Oaks.
One of the leaders in this contentious bunch is French-bred Testa Rossi, who is actually exiting a 3 1/2-length romp in the grassy Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs on March 8. The Chad Brown-trained daughter of Dr Fong will be making her first non-turf appearance in the Ashland and only her fourth U.S. start.
Testa Rossi opened her career in her native country but it wasn't until shipping stateside did the chestnut miss face stakes rivals. She captured the Miss Grillo by a nose in her debut for Brown's barn last October, then rallied to be second after steadying in the lane of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Jockey Jose Lezcano guided Testa Rossi back to the winner's circle in the Florida Oaks most recently, and retains the mount on the filly Saturday.
Testa Rossi isn't the only turf filly running in the Ashland. In fact eight of the 13 fillies have made most, if not all, of their starts over the grass. One of those is Room Service, who is exiting a nice win in the March 2 Herecomesthebride going nine furlongs. The Wayne Catalano charge had the re-opposing Candy Kitty and Seeking Her Glory behind in second and third, respectively.
Room Service has yet to finish worse than third in her short five-race career, and will have Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons for the first time on Saturday as she breaks from the 2 post.
Just to Room Service's inside is Istanford, who led the way in the Florida Oaks before being overtook by Testa Rossi. The Istan filly was still best of the rest, easily holding second at 11-1 in her return to turf. Trainer Michael Stidham has tried Istanford on main tracks twice, and the results were less than spectacular as the dark bay filly ran fifth on the Polytrack in last September's Arlington-Washington Lassie and again filled that spot in the Silverbulletday over Fair Grounds' main dirt track.
Joe Rocco Jr. was aboard for Istanford's game second in the Florida Oaks and has the return call from the rail.
Todd Pletcher-trained stablemates Candy Kitty and Seeking Her Glory will be looking to turn the tables on Room Service, as well as each other, in the Ashland. The former ran fourth on Keeneland's grass in last fall's Jessamine before trying Gulfstream Park's dirt when the grassy Wait a While was switched to the main track. She captured that sloppy, sealed contest by 3 1/2 lengths, then added the grassy Ginger Brew to her resume before the Herecomesthebride. Edgar Prado has been holding the reins ever since the Wait a While and stays in the saddle.
Seeking Her Glory didn't bring the same credentials into the Herecomesthebride as Candy Kitty, just breaking her maiden one start prior to that nine-furlong affair, and will have Rosie Napravnik in the pilot's seat on Saturday.
Unbeaten Saturday Bliss will be making her stakes debut against this group off easy wins over Aqueduct's inner dirt. The George Weaver trainee broke her maiden going six furlongs by 11 lengths in late January, then wired a mile-and-70-yard optional claimer by 6 1/4 lengths on March 3. Both of those starts came against fellow New York-breds, so the Any Given Saturday filly will have to step up her game with Chris DeCarlo in the irons.
Resistivity led every step of the way to take a March 15 optional claimer by 3 3/4 lengths over Gulfstream's turf, and was third in the Forward Gal on the main track prior to that. The Mark Casse charge drew the far outside 13 post under Stewart Elliott, and will be returning to the site of her career debut when fifth last October on Keeneland's all-weather surface.
Rosalind was 11-1 when coming with a game late run to be third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Unfortunately, the Kenny McPeek trainee has been unable to duplicate that effort in two starts since. The Broken Vow chestnut was fourth in the Hollywood Starlet in early December and then opened her sophomore campaign with a third-placing against optional claiming rivals in late February. Joel Rosario was aboard for all three of those races and keeps the mount.
Miss Besilu was second in the grassy Ginger Brew at Gulfstream in January, but will need to improve on her 11th in the Florida Oaks if she hopes to factor in the Ashland. Ireland stamped herself as one to watch with an 8 3/4-length maiden victory at Oaklawn Park, but has been unable to build upon that when only third in the Martha Washington and a well-beaten eighth in the Honeybee in her last two.
Finishing out the Ashland field is Macaroon, an easy maiden and optional claiming winner in her past two; On the Backstreets, a stakes winner on Santa Anita's downhill turf course; and last-out stakes victress Thank You Marylou, who will be stretching out past seven furlongs for the first time in the Ashland.