05/28/2017 7:07PM

Ashleyluvssugar alters tactics to win Charles Whittingham Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Gary Stevens brings Ashleyluvssugar from sixth to win the Charles Whittingham.

ARCADIA, Calif. - In March, Ashleyluvssugar was third as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Santa Anita after racing on the lead to early stretch.

Opposite tactics were employed with great success in Sunday’s Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf. Provided a target, Ashleyluvssugar closed from sixth in a field of 10 to win the $201,725 race by a half-length over 9-1 Frank Conversation. The Whittingham was Ashleyluvssugar’s sixth stakes win in the last 26 months.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Ashleyluvssugar closed well in the final furlong despite briefly racing in traffic.

“He was so loaded and I was a little nervous,” winning trainer Peter Eurton said.

Sent off the second choice, Ashleyluvssugar ($7) was timed in 1:58.49.

Frank Conversation finished a head in front of an unlucky Syntax, who raced in traffic in the final furlong and closed well late.

Liam the Charmer was fourth, followed by Itsinthepost, Texas Ryano, Up With the Birds, Patentar, Prince of Arabia, and A Red Tie Day. Itsinthepost, who won the San Luis Rey Stakes and the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland on April 22, was the 9-5 favorite. Itsinthepost was beaten 1 1/4 lengths.

Stevens has ridden Ashleyluvssugar in five of his six stakes wins. He was aboard for the third in the San Luis Rey on March 25, and was committed to a more patient trip in the Whittingham.

“I didn’t want to be a sitting duck like last time,” Stevens said.

Owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Joe Ciaglia, Ashleyluvssugar, 6, has won 10 of 22 starts and earned $1,289,004.

Sunday’s race was Ashleyluvssugar’s second win in the Whittingham. The California-bred gelding prevailed in 2015 as a 1-2 favorite when the race was run at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Last year, Ashleyluvssugar won two Grade 2 stakes in consecutive starts – the Del Mar Handicap in August and John Henry Turf Championship here in October – before finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf here in November.