Keeneland Features Ashland Showdown As Spring Meet Opens Friday

Just F Y I | Benoit

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Kentucky Senator Henry Clay might be considered one of the premier American politicians pre-Lincoln, but what is not up for debate was his fervent commitment to breeding equine athletes and attending the races.

You cannot actually visit his home–Ashland–because the structure that stands on the Clay Estate just south of downtown Lexington is not original to “The Great Compromiser” and his time. However, interpretations of Clay-related objects enliven the tour.

Ashland in name was imported as a stakes race when Keeneland opened in 1936. Some familiar female runners who graced the winner's circle at the old Keene Farm include Myrtlewood, Bewitch and Doubledogdare, and more recent fillies like Inside Information, Take Charge Lady and a personal favorite of mine, Bushfire.

As Keeneland kicks off racing on Friday, the GI Central Bank Ashland S. boasts a showdown with 3-year-old fillies looking to deposit 100 points into their Kentucky Oaks account.

For starters, the top three finishers from the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies are present, including winner Just F Y I (Justify). The champion 2-year-old filly almost made the races this spring to kick start her 2024, but trainer Bill Mott was forced to wait until Keeneland.

Also Ashland bound is Jody's Pride (American Pharoah), who was second to Just F Y I at Santa Anita, and last month won the Busher S. at Aqueduct. She will be joined by the third-place finisher from the Juvenile Fillies, Candied (Candy Ride {Arg}), who also has not made a start this year for trainer Todd Pletcher. The filly returns to the site of her win in the GI Alcibiades S. last fall.

Impel | Coady Photography

In an effort to put her own stamp on an Oaks run, 'TDN Rising Star' Impel (Quality Road) will look to keep her record unblemished. Under Brad Cox's tutelage, the Juddmonte homebred  broke her maiden at Fair Grounds Jan. 1 and then posted an 8 1/2-length score and a 91-Beyer against optional claimers at Oaklawn Mar. 3.

Finally, Candied's stablemate Leslie's Rose (Into Mischief) justifiably earned her 'TDN Rising Star' when she broke her maiden by 9 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct last fall before returning to finish third in the GII Davona Dale S. at Gulfstream Park Mar. 2. Halina's Forte (Mitole) will seek to raise her game for Rigney Racing, as she attempts to capitalize on her first black-type win in the Ruthless S. at the 'Big A' Feb. 17.

Keeneland's Friday slate includes the GIII Transylvania S., which draws 12, plus a pair of also-eligibles. The field for the 3-year-old turf route includes Musical Act (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), the first of several overseas arrivals in Kentucky for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby.

With a packed stakes schedule, plus everything from the baby races to lower daily double takeout, these are just some of the storylines on tap at Keeneland. As for past April meet leaders, Jockey Tyler Gaffalione recorded 21 victories to secure his second consecutive spring meet riding title in 2023, while last year conditioner Wesley Ward earned his sixth consecutive training honor and ninth total.

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