05/21/2015 11:10AM

Ashley’s Sassy looks to break through in Melair

Benoit & Associates
Sheer Pleasure, winner of the Evening Jewel Stakes, will start Saturday in the Melair Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In her last three starts, all in stakes, Ashley’s Sassy strained a knee in one race, broke slowly in another, and was too eager in a third. Understandably, there were no wins in that span.

If she can put together a complete performance, Ashley’s Sassy will be a stakes winner, trainer Peter Eurton argues. A prime opportunity arises in Saturday’s $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old California-bred fillies at Santa Anita.

Run at a mile, the Melair field includes the stakes winners La Fiera and Sheer Pleasure. Ashley’s Sassy was beaten by those fillies in her last two starts.

Ashley’s Sassy was third by five lengths to Sheer Pleasure in the Evening Jewel Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs here April 4, a race Eurton argues she should have won. After a slow break, jockey Mike Smith gave Ashley’s Sassy a cautious ride on the backstretch before realizing that the filly was OK, Eurton said.

“Mike thought she hurt herself,” Eurton said. “He didn’t think she’d run well. She kind of grabbed the bridle and took off. I think she could have won.”

Ashley’s Sassy, who Eurton estimates weighs 940 pounds “soaking wet,” was beaten two lengths when second to La Fiera in the Campanile Stakes at a mile on turf for 3-year-old California-bred fillies April 26 at Golden Gate Fields.

“She might have been a little keen in the race up north,” Eurton said.

Last October, Ashley’s Sassy was fifth in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies at seven furlongs, emerging from the race with a “strained knee,” Eurton said.

Smith will ride Ashley’s Sassy in the Melair, which drew a field of seven.

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Key contenders

Ashley’s Sassy (Last 3 Beyers: 66-63-63)

* Owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stables, and Ciaglia Racing, Ashley’s Sassy has two career wins, both at six furlongs last summer and fall. The Melair will be her first start at a mile on dirt.

“I think she’ll give a good account of herself,” Eurton said. “Pedigree-wise, she should handle the distance. I don’t see that being an issue. She should be in a good spot however the pace comes up.”

Sheer Pleasure (Last 3 Beyers: 75-N/A-71)

Sheer Pleasure closed from 11th in a field of 12 to win the Evening Jewel Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Grand Yodeler. In her previous start March 6, she unseated jockey Martin Garcia at the start.

Sheer Pleasure was fourth in the California Cup Oaks at a mile on turf Jan. 24, which trainer Phil D’Amato believes is not indicative of her ability around two turns.

“I’ve thought she was a two-turn horse,” D’Amato said. “She ran two turns on the grass, but I don’t think she’s a grass horse. She’s training very forwardly.”

La Fiera (Last 3 Beyers: 70-70-62)

The winner of a $32,000 maiden claimer at Golden Gate Fields in January, La Fiera is in the best form of her career. She won the Campanile Stakes in her stakes debut for owners and breeders William and Jill Gray and trainer Greg James.

The Melair Stakes will be La Fiera’s first start in Southern California and her first start on dirt. She raced on the Tapeta synthetic surface and on turf courses in her first five starts at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa and at Golden Gate Fields.