07/21/2004 11:00PM

Ashado attempts to regain top spot


ELMONT, N.Y. - Disappointed? Sure. Distraught? Hardly.

Those were the sentiments coming from the connections of Ashado after she was upset by Stellar Jayne in last month's Mother Goose Stakes. Saturday, Ashado gets a chance to avenge that loss while re-establishing her standing as the top 3-year-old filly in the country in the Grade 1, $500,000 at Belmont Park.

The Coaching Club has been shortened from 1 1/2 miles - a distance at which it had been run 25 times since 1971 - to 1 1/4 miles, the distance at which it was run from 1990 through 1997.

Ashado vaulted to the top of the division with a convincing score in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. She missed the Acorn after developing a temperature a few weeks before the race. While missing that race may have cost Ashado in the Mother Goose when she was outfinished by Stellar Jayne, trainer Todd Pletcher said he believes it could be a plus in the long run.

"It probably hurt us a little bit in terms of conditioning for the Mother Goose," Pletcher said. "We got a good race out of her and it was a good race. Stellar Jayne ran a very good race. Having had that race under our belt, hopefully, she moves forward in the Coaching Club and she's still a fresh horse for the summer and fall."

Pletcher also feels confident that the 1 1/4 miles will be well within reach for Ashado.

"My impression has always been this filly will run a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter no problem," Pletcher said. "She proved in the Kentucky Oaks that the mile and an eighth is not a problem. We'll find out about the mile and a quarter, but I think she'll handle it."

Stellar Jayne had lost seven straight races - including a 10-length defeat to Ashado in the Kentucky Oaks - before her connections changed tactics. Instead of laying back and attempting to make one run, Stellar Jayne has raced closer to the pace in her last two starts, a victory in the Grade 3 Dogwood Breeders' Cup and the Mother Goose.

Magical Illusion may not have been ready for Grade 1 company when she was beaten five lengths in the Acorn, but she came back with a 10-length allowance win on July 1 and gets another crack at stakes company.

Dynaville has run well going turf to dirt, which is the case Saturday. She was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Stellar Jayne in the Dogwood. America America and Honor Point complete the field.