(Speech soars to victory in the G1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
From the Keeneland Media Team:
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Madaket Stables’ Speech roared past odds-on favorite Venetian Harbor at the head of the stretch and drew off to a 3-length win in the 83rd running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday afternoon to pick up 100 qualifying points toward the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs.
Also picking up Grade 1 victories Saturday were e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Rushing Fall in the 32nd running of the $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley for fillies and mares and Three Chimneys Farm and Hill ‘n’ Equine Holdings’ Guarana in the 19th running of the $250,000 Madison, also for fillies and mares. Guarana’s victory marked the 100th Grade 1 victory for trainer Chad Brown.
Notching Grade 2 victories Saturday afternoon were Allen Stable’s Enola Gay in the 32nd running of the $150,000 Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association for 3-year-old fillies and Amy Dunne, Brenda Miley, Westrock Stables’ and Jean Wilkinson’s Leinster in the 24th running of the $150,000 Shakertown for 3-year-olds and up.
In the Central Bank Ashland, Venetian Harbor led the field of five through fractions of :24.04, :47.14 and 1:10.44 with Javier Castellano tracking in second on Speech. On the far turn, Speech made her move at the top of the stretch and began to open up.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Speech covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in a stakes-record 1:41.26. It is the first Keeneland stakes win for McCarthy and second Central Bank Ashland victory for Castellano, who won in 2011 on Lilacs and Lace.
With the victory, Speech moved into second place on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 160 points. The Oaks is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box.
Venetian Harbor picked up 40 Oaks points to raise her total to 90, which ranks fifth. Bonny South, who finished fourth in her first start since March, added 10 points to her Oaks total for 110 points, good for third.
The Central Bank Ashland victory was worth $240,000 and increased Speech’s earnings to $353,840 with a record of 7-2-4-1. Speech is a Florida-bred daughter of Mr Speaker out of the Freud mare Scribbling Sarah.
Speech returned $10, $3 and $2.20. Venetian Harbor returned $2.40 and $2.10 and finished 3¾ lengths in front of Envoutante and Jose Ortiz who paid $2.60 to show.
Bonny South was another 2 lengths back in fourth followed by Alta’s Award.
Central Bank Ashland Quotes
Michael McCarthy, trainer of Speech: “Very happy. We had our mind set on running in the (Grade 3, 7-furlong) Beaumont Stakes (on Friday) for the last five weeks or so and the last minute, we kind of called an audible and sometimes these things work out. To come back today and think we would set a track record in a race we weren’t especially pointing to says something about Speech. She trained well. She shows up every time. I call her the ultimate overachiever.”
Javier Castellano: “I just wanted to keep track of the right time, the right place to win the race. Today it was easier to keep track of the speed. Everything fell in the right direction for the filly to win the race.”
Do you see any issue for her to step up to 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Kentucky Oaks (G1)? “I don’t think so. Not at all. The way I rode her today I think she can go that far.”
Kenny McPeek, trainer of third-place finisher Envoutante: “It was a good solid race. We’re pleased to have a Grade 1 placing and our next goal is the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga. Eskimo Kisses was second in the (2018) Ashland and came back and won the Alabama.”
On Keeneland’s Summer Meet: “This is fun. I think Keeneland should do this every year. It would be like Keeneland at Ascot.”