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Ashland Stakes scouting report

4/4/2008

Ashland Stakes
Saturday, April 5, Keeneland

The Low-Down: Three fillies stand out on paper as far as credentials go, plain and simple: PROUD SPELL, COUNTRY STAR and BSHARPSONATA. PROUD SPELL has only been beaten by the Eclipse Award-winning filly Indian Blessing twice, but she reversed the score on her with authority in the Fair Grounds Oaks as I watched her blossom from railside all season in New Orleans. COUNTRY STAR turned in an explosive win in the Hollywood Starlet late last year that would have beaten anybody that day. BSHARPSONATA comes off back-to-back Grade 2 victories, and is looking for her fifth straight stakes win. That simply doesn't happen too often historically, let alone in today's day and age of pampered racing.

Our Eyes: I can see scenarios allowing any one of the three to win Saturday. First, PROUD SPELL is eyeing the Kentucky Oaks and maybe even the Derby, so this win is huge, but perhaps not her primary target. I've personally clocked her training strongly over the track, going 23-flat home in her recent 5-furlong workout over the Poly, indicating she's ready for another big effort. I give her the lean, but that is only because she is a star in the making and her record speaks for itself. To me, she is the class. COUNTRY STAR, her chief rival, has made this race her primary target and already owns a Grade 1 win over the track in last year's Alcibiades, so she certainly might be the one. However, she hasn't raced in over three months; therefore she lacks the consistency and recency of PROUD SPELL. Lastly, I am convinced BSHARPSONATA will run the race of her life because of the way she moved over the track in her training. She hasn't quite yet shown the talent of the aforementioned two fillies on the racetrack, so will her best be good enough?

The Bottom Line: The Ashland may be a race to enjoy more so than wager, as it will line up the best of the best when the gate opens. But there are too many different win scenarios given the field size to get too serious. Take the biggest price of the three if you are a value or longshot-type bettor; but I think I am going to rejoice in the fact that the first Grade 1 of the Keeneland meet is a gem, and probably tread lightly at the windows. Don't worry; we are on the scene live in Lexington every morning scouting tomorrow's winners, so we will be jumping in full force at the windows soon enough.

Toby Turrell has been a nationally recognized private clocker for more than 20 years and is the author of The Winner's Card selection sheet and the Horseplayer PRO Works daily workout reports. The California native has spent 2008 on the road at Fair Grounds and currently is stopping his watch mornings at Keeneland.

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