March 28, 2023

Bonny South, Venetian Harbor highlight Ashland Stakes

Bonny South
Bonny South wins the 53rd running of the Fair Grounds Oaks (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.)

Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Bonny South and Las Virgenes (G2) scorer Venetian Harbor will square off in Saturday’s $400,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. Six fillies have been entered for the 1 1/16-mile race, which is worth a combined 170 points (100-40-20-10 scale) as a major qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.

Unraced since a 2 1/4-length triumph in the March 21 Fair Grounds Oaks, Bonny South will bring a three-race win streak to the post parade. Brad Cox trains the daughter of Munnings, and John Velazquez will substitute for regular rider Florent Geroux, who will be at Belmont Park Saturday to ride Monomoy Girl in the Ruffian (G2).

Venetian Harbor exits a runner-up finish in Oaklawn Park’s Fantasy (G3) to Swiss Skydiver, who will take on males in Saturday’s Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland. Trained by Richard Baltas, Venetian Harbor romped by 9 1/4 lengths when opening this year in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita, registering a field-best 102 Brisnet Speed rating, and Joel Rosario will take over the reins.

Four-time stakes queen Tonalist’s Shape can’t be dismissed. A comfortable winner of the Davona Dale (G2) and Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream Park earlier this season, the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Tonalist filly exits a 3 3/4-length tally in the May 15 Hollywood Wildcat S. Tyler Gaffalione rides.

Speech, who is cross-entered to Friday’s Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland, exits a runner-up effort to Swiss Skydiver in the June 6 Santa Anita Oaks (G2). Javier Castellano has the call for Michael McCarthey. Envoutante will step to face graded rivals for the first time following a sharp 2 1/4-length victory over entry-level allowance foes at Churchill Downs, and Jose Ortiz retains the mount for Kenny McPeek. Atta’s Award, who will need to turn things after a couple of unplaced efforts, completes the field.