07/29/2005 12:00AM

Ashado, 'Society' rule at the Spa

Ashado, shown under John Velazquez earlier this week, can win on the lead but may be better from off the pace.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Over the last two years, Ashado and Society Selection have dominated the important races for females at Saratoga. At 2, Ashado won the Schuylerville and Spinaway. At 3, Society Selection won the Test and Alabama.

Sunday, these two 4-year-old fillies will delve into another important race here when the two head a five-horse field in the Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap at nine furlongs.

and Society Selection did not face each other in all of those aforementioned races, but they have met six times in their career. Ashado holds a 4-2 edge, including her victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, which cemented her 3-year-old championship. After losing her first two starts to begin the year, Ashado returned to her winning ways with a front-running three-length victory over Society Selection in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont.

Ashado made all the pace in the Phipps, though her trainer, Todd Pletcher, feels she's better with something to run at. Pletcher should get his wish with the fleet California filly Andujar having shipped in for this race.

"Our ideal setting is that we're following somebody," Pletcher said. "As she showed in the last race, if there's no one on the lead she can take it and run just as well."

John Velazquez rides Ashado, the 121-pound highweight, from post 5.

Society Selection is 3 for 3 over Saratoga's main track, having won her maiden at first asking at 2 in addition to taking last year's Test and Alabama. Since last year's Alabama, Society Selection is 1 for 5, with that victory coming in the Grade 2 Shuvee, a one-turn mile at Belmont. Society Selection is 0 for 4 at 1 1/8 miles.

Society Selection may have been compromised in the Phipps by the lack of pace, as she does her best running from off the pace when the early fractions are swift. Trainer Allen Jerkens believes Society Selection is more versatile than that.

"People think she can't run from up close, but I've seen her make the lead turning for home in a lot of races," Jerkens said. "Naturally you'd like to see the pace be strong up front. She's run her best races that way."

Andujar may be the main speed of the race. Owner Paul Reddam purchased her privately in the spring, and she won the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap by seven lengths in her first start for trainer Doug O'Neill. A month later, she set the pace and was run down by the 3-year-old filly Splendid Blended in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. O'Neill believes he was too light in his training of Andujar in between those races and corrected that leading up to the Go for Wand. On Monday, Andujar breezed six furlongs in 1:12 at Santa Anita before shipping here Tuesday.

"While they don't give money away in the morning, it was one of those goosebump type of workouts," O'Neill said Friday. "If she brings anything like that in the afternoon, she's got to have a good, good chance."

O'Neill is removing the blinkers from Andujar, but is not necessarily looking to take the speed out of his filly.

"She sure trains like a filly that you could place just about anywhere in the race," O'Neill said. "We're definitely pulling the blinkers off because she trained so well without them."

Trainer Shug McGaughey seeks his seventh Go for Wand victory with Daydreaming, whose last win came in the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap, the last time she raced around two turns at nine furlongs. McGaughey loved his filly's work last weekend and is hoping the return to two turns will be to her benefit.

Bending Strings tried to run with Ashado in the Phipps, but couldn't keep up and faded to third. She finished second in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park with her preferred off-the-pace style.