07/31/2005 12:00AM

Ashado victorious in Go for Wand

Ashado powers her way to a 9 1/2 length victory over Bending Strings in Sunday's Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In the most visibly impressive performance of her career, Ashado powered away to a 9 1/2 length win over Bending Strings in Sunday's Grade 1 at Saratoga.

The victory affirmed Ashado's status as the leader of the filly and mare division.

Ashado, the even-money favorite, drew away from her four rivals as she turned for home in the 1 1/8 mile Go for Wand and was never threatened during the stretch run.

As expected, California shipper Andujar went to the lead and set the pace through fractions of 23.53 seconds and 47.04. Ashado, with John Velazquez in the saddle, raced in second down the backstretch, about a half-length off of Andujar. Ashado cruised by the pacesetter after six furlongs was run in 1:11.45.

Andujar finished third, a length behind Bending Strings, who was the longest price in the field at 22-1. Society Selection, the second choice, was another 1 3/4 lengths behind in fourth. It was the fifth loss that Society Selection suffered at the hands of Ashado.

Ashado ($4.30) covered the distance in 1:50.30 over a fast track.

Ashado's win in the Go for Wand is her seventh in a Grade 1. From 18 career starts, Ashado, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, has a record of 11-4-2 and earnings of $3,245,440.

Ashado's win capped a spectacular three days for John Velazquez, who won four stakes during that period, and trainer Todd Pletcher, who won three. On Saturday, Velazquez won the Diana on Sand Springs and the Jim Dandy for the Pletcher-trained Flower Alley. Velazquez and Pletcher won Friday's Lake George with Ready's Gal.

Velazquez said Ashado showed her true colors in the $245,000 Go for Wand.

"She was unbelievable," Velazquez said. "She ran like a champion today."

Pletcher, who trains Ashado for Starlight Stable, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin, said, "This filly is special to anyone. Today emphasized what kind of filly she is. She has accomplished amazing things."

Pletcher said Ashado will race twice more before defending her title in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park. The Ruffian on Sept. 11 will be followed by the Beldame on Oct. 1, Pletcher said.

The announced crowd on Sunday - baseball cap giveaway day - was 51,982.