10/02/2010 4:24PM

Ave takes Flower Bowl by a head

Barbara D. Livingston
Ave (5) with Javier Castellano up, gets up to win the Flower Bowl by a head over Changing Skies.

ELMONT, N.Y. - After a couple of close calls and tough trips in her first four North American starts, the Great Britain-bred Ave broke through Saturday, splitting horses in deep stretch and earning a hard-fought head victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.

Changing Skies finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of the Japanese-bred Red Desire, the 9-5 favorite. It was three lengths back to Keertana, who was followed in the order of finish by Shared Account, Forever Together, and Gozzip Girl. Tarrip scratched.

The win was the first in five starts this year for Ave, who was a Group 3 winner in Europe last year as a 3-year-old. The Flower Bowl is a stepping-stone to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Ave is not Breeders' Cup-nominated and it would cost her owners, Three Chimneys Racing and David O'Rourke, $160,000 to supplement to the Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

Ave, trained by Roger Attfield, had narrow losses in the Galorette at Pimlico and Dance Smartly at Woodbine. She was third to stablemate Lady Shakespeare in the New York Stakes here and, most recently, had a brutal trip when eighth in the Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington.

Saturday, with Javier Castellano riding her for the first time, Ave raced up close and behind horses over a yielding turf course that saw Gozzip Girl set fractions of 26.05 seconds, 53.54 and 1:19.19 for six furlongs while being pursued by Shared Account and Changing Skies.

Red Desire sat an up close fourth while saving ground under Kent Desormeaux while Castellano had Ave outside of her and inside of Keertana.

Turing for home, the inside opened up for Red Desire, and Changing Skies had clear sailing on the outside. Ave, meanwhile, appeared to drop back for a stride or two. Castellano got after Ave, who rallied inside of Keertana then split Changing Skies and Red Desire 20 yards out to get to the wire first.

Ave, a 4-year-old daughter of Danehill Dancer, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:08.54 over a yielding inner turf and returned $23 as the second-longest shot on the board.

Castellano said Attfield phone him from Woodbine before the race to tell him to make sure he kept Ave covered up.

"That was on my mind today, cover up and relax," Castellano said. "She sat beautiful right behind the horses, that's where I wanted to be. I was kind of worried turning for home a little bit the way the pace developed - I thought they would explode. I'm very fortunate - my filly she responded very well. She liked the track the way it is today."

John Velazquez said he thought Changing Skies was home free at the eighth pole, but he said ``the last 20 yards was when she started backing up a little bit.''

Desormeaux said he was thrilled with the race Red Desire put in considering she had not run since May and had recently traveled here from Japan.

``Cornering for home I didn't think I could lose,'' Desormeaux said. ``I think this sets her up for a monstrous effort. I can't wait to ride her back.''