Evening Jewel shines in Grade 1 Ashland
Saturday, April 3, 2010
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Evening Jewel proved her California form could hold outside of her home base with a gate-to-wire victory in the $400,000, Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland S. at Keeneland on Apr. 3. This was a breakthrough win for the 3-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet following runner-up finishes in both the Las Virgenes (G1) and Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita.

The Ashland regularly draws one of the top fields of fillies each spring, and this year's renewal was no exception. Negligee (also by Northern Afleet) won the 2009 Alicibiades (G1) at Keeneland last fall; Beautician is multiple Grade 1-placed; and She Be Wild won the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on her way to 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award honors. But Evening Jewel got the best of them with a heady ride by Kent Desormeaux. The Hall of Fame jockey went right to the lead from the outside post in the field of eight, measuring his filly's speed for the 1 1/16-mile contest. Evening Jewel held a one-length lead for the first half-mile, shook off a challenge by longshot Protesting going into the turn, another by She Be wild coming into the stretch, and finally another longshot in the form of It's Tea Time near the wire, who came up a neck short.

The Ashland is Keeneland's centerpiece for the 3-year-old distaffers and serves as a perfect prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Apr. 30. Evening Jewel's trainer James Cassidy said after the race that was the direction he would be taking with his stable star. “More than likely. I’ll check and see how she is in the next week or so. More than likely we’ll go to the Oaks.”

Though Evening Jewel is usually close to the pace in her races, she had never been on the lead from the outset prior to the Ashland. Desormeaux spoke about the new strategy afterwards. “It was the whole team,” Desormeaux said.  “We elected to take the lead at the start, and I thought the competition that I wanted to make sure and have an upper hand on was right inside of me. This little filly really took off a quarter mile away from the wire.”

Evening Jewel is now 3-4-0 in eight starts. The $240,000 payday upped her overall total to $410,600 for her owner Braly Family Trust.