09/29/2004 11:00PM

Ashado's BC prep is here, now

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The road to the Breeders' Cup Distaff rarely includes a pit stop at Philadelphia Park. But trainer Todd Pletcher has chosen to take that route with his multiple Grade 1-winning 3-year-old filly Ashado.

Ashado will be the 124-pound highweight and heavy favorite in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Cotillion, a 1 1/16-mile race that will serve as her prep for the Oct. 30 BC Distaff at Lone Star Park.

It's not unprecedented for a filly to use the Cotillion as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup. The last to try it was Jostle, trained by John Servis of Smarty Jones fame. Jostle finished ninth and last in the 2000 BC Distaff after winning the Cotillion.

But if Pletcher's a student of history, he can take some comfort in the performances of Sacahuista and Valay Maid.

Sacahuista, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, finished second in the 1987 Cotillion, then went on to win both the Spinster at Keeneland and the BC Distaff at Hollywood Park.

Three years later, Valay Maid won the Cotillion and returned to finish third at 55-1 in the BC Distaff at Belmont Park.

Ashado appears to have found the perfect spot to boost her confidence prior to the Breeders' Cup. She faces a field in the Cotillion in which there are just two other graded stakes winners and no opponent with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure.

Although she has been the odds-on favorite in each of her last three starts, Ashado's only win in that span came in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in July. She will be ridden for the first time by Eibar Coa.

Catboat, a dead-heat winner in the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks in late August, and He Loves Me, winner of the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows in July, are the only other graded stakes winners in the field.

Ashado's most dangerous rival, however, could be Ender's Sister. In her last six starts on fast tracks, Ender's Sister has not been worse than third, including a close second to Yearly Report in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks.

* The undercard includes the $100,000 Gallant Bob Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. The leading contenders are Abbondanza and Primary Suspect.