Stardom Bound, the 2008 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top 2-year-old filly, will face eight rivals Saturday when she shoots for her sixth consecutive Grade 1 victory in the 72nd running of the $400,000 Ashland Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going a mile and a sixteenth on the main track at Keeneland.
Mike Smith, who has ridden the daughter of Tapit in all seven of her starts, will have the call Saturday and break from post position seven. Stardom Bound is trained by Rick Dutrow.
The three other fillies that finished in a four-horse photo with Stardom Bound from the latter race shipped East to tackle the champion again. Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Third Dawn, Derby Daze Farms and Mark Hoffman’s Hooh Way and J. Paul Reddam’s Nan finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
Livin the Dream Racing’s Dream Empress, runner-up to Stardom Bound in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, returns to the Polytrack surface on which she won the Darley Alcibiades last fall. Trained by Ken McPeek, Dream Empress will break from post position six.
Stardom Bound isn’t the only filly bringing a win streak into the Ashland.
Farnsworth Stables, LLC’s Gozzip Girl has taken two consecutive grass stakes at Gulfstream Park for trainer Tom Albertrani. She will be making her Polytrack debut, as will Tri-Bone Stables’ What a Pear, a New York bred who is undefeated in four career starts. Joe Parker trains What a Pear.
The field for the Ashland, from the rail out, is as follows: Nan, (R. Albarado), What a Pear (C. Hill), Third Dawn (A. Garcia), Be Fair (I. Ocampo), Gozzip Girl (M. Mena), Dream Empress (K. Desormeaux), Stardom Bound (M. Smith), Hooh Why (R. Douglas) and Boleyn (J. Theriot). All starters will carry 121 pounds.
PARKERS ARRIVE WITH UNDEFEATED ASHLAND HOPEFUL WHAT A PEAR
Trainer Joe Parker, his wife, Betsy, and undefeated What a Pear left Aqueduct on a van about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, and they pulled into Keeneland around 5 a.m. this morning. Several hours later, the New York-bred daughter of E Dubai seemed quite content in her stall, and the Parkers were eager to talk about her. On Saturday, What a Pear will take on champion Stardom Bound and seven other 3-year-old fillies in the $400,000 Ashland (G1).
“This filly keeps amazing us,” said Joe Parker about What a Pear, who is coming off a 10 1/4-length victory in the Busher at Aqueduct on February 22. “Every race that she has run, it’s a different dimension. I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s going to do next. We want to know how great she is; that's why we’re here.”
What a Pear will become the first Keeneland starter for Parker, who trains the filly for Ira and Bernice Cohen’s Tri-Bone Stables. Parker met the Cohens through their son, New York track veterinarian Russell Cohen, who bred What a Pear. Russell Cohen advises Parker on What a Pear’s career.
“He suggested the Ashland, and here we are,” said Parker, who had made one previous trip to Keeneland to visit and is excited to be back with a racehorse.
“What I love about Keeneland is that it’s all horse country,” Parker said. “To be here is a thrill. I love this place. I love the smell of this place. I love the people here, too. They treat horse people with a lot of respect. I met the racing secretary (Ben Huffman) and the guys in the (racing) office, and they welcomed me. I’m so happy to be here.”
A 57-year-old native of Trinidad and Tobago, Parker wanted to become a professional soccer player as a young man. He moved to New York City in 1972, and his brother got him a job in the Wall Street area, but Parker wasn’t satisfied with working indoors. After a friend suggested that he might find a job at the racetrack, Parker headed to Aqueduct.
In 1975, Parker went to work as a hot walker for the late Dick Dutrow. He became a groom and later served as an assistant for Bruce Levine before going out on his own in the late 1980s. What a Pear is one of nine horses Parker currently trains in New York.
The Ashland will mark the fourth race of the year for What a Pear, who also won the Wistful at Aqueduct on February 1. The filly put in her most recent work on March 25, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.41. The Ashland also will be What a Pear's first start on Polytrack, but Parker said the filly will not set foot on the track before the race. He said she would walk the shedrow each morning.
“She’s fit enough just to enter into the race, to walk right into the race and possibly win it,” Parker said.
Channing Hill, who has ridden What a Pear in each of her previous races, will fly in from California for the Ashland.
IN OTHER ASHLAND NEWS
Co-owner Mark Hoffman named Rene Douglas to ride Hooh Why on Saturday.
“I’m planning on running her in the American 1,000 Guineas at Arlington on May 23 and Rene is the king of Arlington,” said Hoffman, who owns Hooh Why with Derby Daze Farms (Gail Gee). “I’m dying to get this filly on the grass.”
Hooh Why, who had worked Monday morning with Miguel Mena up, returned to the track Wednesday and galloped three-quarters of a mile.
West Coast invaders Third Dawn and Nan, second and fourth, respectively, behind Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), arrived at Keeneland late Tuesday afternoon. In addition to Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Third Dawn, trainer John Sadler also shipped in Tommy Town Thoroughbreds LLC and Michael Tala’s Oil Man (IRE) for Friday’s Central Bank Transylvania (G3) and Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds’ Evita Argentina for next Wednesday’s $150,000 Beaumont (G2).
Eclipse Award winner Stardom Bound galloped a little more than a mile under Nuno Santos. Dream Empress, winner of last fall’s Darley Alcibiades (G1), galloped a mile and a half under Jessica Stith. Trainer Ken McPeek, who won the 2002 Ashland with Take Charge Lady, is expected to be at the barn Thursday morning.
David Rippey’s Dave’s Revenge worked a half-mile in :48 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02 in her final major preparation for the Beaumont (G2). Trained by Bob Hess, Dave’s Revenge ran fourth behind Stardom Bound in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita. Normally based in Southern California, Hess said he plans to have 15 horses here this spring and will race here through the entire meet.
Among the hopefuls for the April 11 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on the track Wednesday morning were Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s undefeated Charitable Man, who galloped a mile and a half under Pat Correa; Silverton Hill LLC’s Cliffy’s Future, who galloped a mile and a half with trainer Darrin Miller up; and Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain, who galloped 1 ½ miles on the training track with exercise rider Keith Harris. Al Stall, trainer of Terrain, is expected to be at Keeneland Thursday morning.
Augustin Stable’s champion Forever Together, winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), continued her preparation for her 2009 debut with a :36 move over three furlongs for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Prior to her Breeders’ Cup triumph, Forever Together won the Grade 1 First Lady here over the same course she will navigate April 11 in the Jenny Wiley (G2). Also working for Sheppard was Augustin Stable’s Informed Decision, who worked three furlongs in :37 in preparation for the Grade 1 Vinery Madison to be run April 9.
OPENING WEEKEND SPECIAL EVENTS
Friday, April 3 - College Scholarship Day - Presented by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Full-time college students receive free general admission and may register to win a $1,000 scholarship to be given away after each race. The first 1,000 students to register for scholarships will receive a free Keeneland College Scholarship Day T-Shirt courtesy of Vineyard Vines.
Friday, April 3 and Saturday , April 4 - Signing by noted photographer James Archambeault. Friday, April 3, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, April 4, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 4 - Breakfast with the Works - Southern-style breakfast and children’s activities 7:00 – 8:30 a.m., 8:45 a.m. paddock demonstration with the Lexington Mounted Police. Breakfast is $7.50, Kids 3 and under free.
Free Handicapping Seminar - Beginning at 11:30 a.m. on the ground floor of the grandstand adjacent to the paddock.
Meet and Greet - Fans can mingle with jockeys and special guests following the noon playing of the national anthem and before the first race.
Sunday, April 5 - Keeneland will salute police and firefighters, who receive free general admission and access to reserved Grandstand section with their badges or ID.
Sunday, April 5 –Saturday, April 11- Best of the Bluegrass Festival - A festival of events saluting the Bluegrass region’s unique culture, from the arts to music to Thoroughbred racing. For more information, visit bestofthebluegrass.org.
KEENELAND TO OFFER $10 GENERAL ADMISSION SEASON PASS THROUGH OPENING WEEKEND
Because of popular demand, Keeneland’s $10 spring meet general admission season pass will remain on sale through opening weekend. Passes will be sold Friday – Sunday, April 3-5, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion.
The pass carries a value of $80 and is good for admission on all of Keeneland’s 15 spring race days, including Toyota Blue Grass Day, Saturday, April 11. The pass also is valid for Kentucky Derby Day at Keeneland, Saturday, May 2.
LEXTRAN COLT TROLLEY SERVICE TO KEENELAND ON WEEKENDS IN APRIL
LexTran’s new COLT trolley service will be available on a limited basis during the 2009 Keeneland spring meet. The hourly service on Saturdays and Sundays between the Lexington downtown transit center and Keeneland begins at 8 a.m. with the last trip leaving Keeneland at 6:30 p.m. Passengers may also access the trolley at any LexTran stop on Versailles Road. Fare is $1 each way.
LexTran also offers regular weekday service to and from Keeneland and Bluegrass Airport (Route 38) 6 a.m.- 6 p.m.