07/24/2004 12:00AM

Ashado easy winner of CCA Oaks

Ashado and jockey John Velazquez are all alone at the wire in Saturday's Coaching Club American Oaks.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Leaving the three-furlong marker in Saturday's at Belmont Park, Ashado had put away Stellar Jayne but was about to be confronted by Magical Illusion, whom the betting public determined had the best chance of upsetting Ashado.

The challenge didn't last long, however, as Ashado repelled Magical Illusion by the quarter pole

and cruised home an emphatic 4 1/2-length winner of the Grade 1, $500,000 race to reassert her standing as the best 3-year-old filly in the country.

Stellar Jayne came back to get second, 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Magical Illusion in third. Honor Point, Dynaville, and America America completed the order of finish. America America, who was making her last career start, was pulled up after the wire with an injury to her left foreleg and was vanned off.

Ashado, who was upset by Stellar Jayne in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, added the Coaching Club to victories in the Kentucky Oaks and Fair Grounds Oaks. She is now 7 for 11 in her career and increased her earnings to $1.6 million for owners Jack Wolf, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin.

It was the third victory on the card for jockey John Velazquez, who sewed up his fourth consecutive Belmont spring riding title.

Velazquez said that Ashado was too sharp when returning from a near two-month layoff in the Mother Goose, where she raced on the lead before being outkicked by Stellar Jayne. Ashado was much more relaxed on Saturday, stalking Stellar Jayne through six furlongs in 1:12.53 and then easily disposing of Magical Illusion, who had crept within a length at the five-sixteenths pole.

"It was no contest," Velazquez said. "When [Magical Illusion] got to me, [Ashado] was in cruise control; I thought she was going to have to really run hard to go by her. Sure enough, by the quarter pole that horse was done."

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 over a muddy track and returned $3.50 as the favorite.

"I though it was an awesome performance," said Pletcher, who got his meet-best 33rd win. "The time for fillies, 2:02-and-two going a mile and a quarter, was outstanding. I don't think she could've been any more impressive than she was today. That was a championship performance."

Ashado will make her next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 21.