Ashland S. (G1) — Race 9 (5:30 p.m. ET)
Malathaat and Simply Ravishing, both among the leading juvenile fillies in the country last season, will make their belated season debuts in the $400,000 Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland on Saturday.
A potential sentimental choice after the death last week of Shadwell owner Sheikh Hamdan, Malathaat enters the 1 1/16-mile Ashland undefeated from three starts, including scores in the Demoiselle (G2) and Tempted S. at Aqueduct last fall.
Simply Ravishing, who captured the Alcibiades (G1) over the Ashland track and distance by a commanding 6 1/4 lengths in October, regressed late in the fall when fourth in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Golden Rod (G2).
“It will be good to get her going. She has been ready for a while,” trainer Kenny McPeek said of Simply Ravishing. She has been ready since early to mid-March, but I did not want to ship her from Florida. I have Crazy Beautiful, and I did not want to run them against each other in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).”
With the Kentucky Oaks (G1) four weeks away, both fillies will be attempting to cement their position in the starting gate of that April 30 fixture. The Ashland will award Oaks qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.
Will’s Secret, on top of the three-year-old filly division at Oaklawn Park all winter following wins in the Martha Washington S. and Honeybee (G3), has bypassed the Hot Springs track’s Fantasy (G3) on Saturday in favor of the higher-status Ashland. Although unplaced in her only prior start at Keeneland, Will’s Secret has improved considerably and is riding a three-race win streak into the weekend.
Trainer George Weaver takes a shot in the Ashland with last-out maiden winner Pass the Champagne, who graduated by 2 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream going seven furlongs. The field is rounded out by Moon Swag, third in the Silverbulletday S. and Rachel Alexandra (G2) in her last two, and Suncoast S. winner Curlin’s Catch, a distant fifth in the Davona Dale (G2) most recently.