06/17/2005 11:00PM

Ashado flashes her championship form

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Ashado opens up in the stretch of the Grade 1 Phipps to win by three.

ELMONT, N.Y. - There is still life in those champion legs of Ashado.

After two disappointing efforts to begin her 4-year-old campaign, Ashado flashed her championship form Saturday with a front-running, three-length victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 at Belmont Park. Society Selection, coming off a victory in the Shuvee Handicap, overtook Bending Strings to get second by three-quarters of a length.

Daydreaming finished fourth, followed by Board Elligible.

Ashado, last year's 3-year-old filly champion, won for the 10th time from 17 starts and pushed her career earnings to $3,095,440 for Jack and Laurie Wolf's Starlight Stable, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin.

Though Ashado prefers to stalk horses, she was the main speed in the Phipps. Breaking from the rail under John Velazquez, Ashado ran an opening quarter-mile in 24.32 seconds with Bending Strings right to her outside. Ashado maintained a half-length advantage through a half-mile in 47.79 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:11:36. Turning for home, Ashado spurted away from Bending Strings and was never seriously threatened through the lane.

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.02 over a fast track and returned $3.70 as the odds-on favorite.

"She showed today what she's all about," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "They finished big time. One-forty-one-flat off those fractions is a pretty big race."

Pletcher felt Ashado was short for the Apple Blossom, in which she finished fifth, and didn't handle the sloppy track when she was upset by Simaril in the Pimlico Distaff. Though Ashado has excelled over wet tracks in her career, her connections say she doesn't like a sloppy track.

"I told everybody she's good over a wet-fast track, not in the slop," Velazquez said. "Look at today, it was the same pace scenario, and as soon as I squeezed on her she was there."

Society Selection won the Shuvee taking advantage of a hot early pace. Saturday, she was only 1 1/2 lengths off a slow pace and didn't have as strong a late run as usual.

"Its hard because we knew there was no pace," her jockey, Eibar Coa, said. "My horse was running good, I was expecting a much faster pace, and it didn't happen."

Pletcher said Ashado would likely be pointed to the Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand at Saratoga on July 31.

There was a minus show pool of $1,921 in the Phipps.

* Partners Due ($5.50) persevered past Exit to Heaven after a stretch-long duel to win the $57,550 Meadow Star Stakes by a half-length. It was seven lengths back to Exploivacious in third. Slew Motion, the 6-5 favorite was last.

Partners Due, a 3-year-old daughter of Partner's Hero, covered six furlongs in 1:09.11 under Velazquez.