10/04/2005 11:00PM

BC Distaff: Ashado's last race will be bittersweet, but victory would simply be sweet


Many have tried to usurp her, and some have been better on the day, but for the past three seasons, Ashado has been at or near the top of her division, compiling a remarkable record of achievement. Her victory in last week's Beldame Stakes was her seventh in a Grade 1 race, and surely makes her the favorite for the second straight year in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, in which she is the defending champion.

This year's $2 million Distaff, on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park, will be the final start for Ashado in a 21-race career. Since winning her debut on June 18, 2003, Ashado has competed in nothing but graded stakes races. In the 19 starts since her maiden victory, she has run in 14 Grade 1 races, including victories at age 2 in the Spinaway, age 3 in the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks, and age 4 in the Ogden Phipps and Go for Wand.

So it will be a melancholy moment at trainer Todd Pletcher's barn when Ashado leaves the only home she has known for three years. She is scheduled to be sold at Keeneland in November.

"It goes without saying we'll miss her presence in the barn on a daily basis," Pletcher said Wednesday. "There's also a certain amount of anxiety training a horse of that caliber. Expectations are so high, it's more of a relief than a celebration when she wins. But if she goes out on a winning note and breaks the all-time money record for females, then we'll celebrate."

Pletcher may have another runner in the Distaff if the Chilean import Isola Piu Bella can capture the Grade 1, $500,000 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Sunday. Isola Piu Bella disappointed last time out when eighth in the Delaware Handicap, but won 3 of her 4 previous starts.

"She misbehaved in the paddock and at the gate," Pletcher said. "She can be feisty at times, which is one of the reasons we ran her in the Obeah there and shipped in early for the Delaware Handicap. But it was so brutally hot that day it could have set her off. We'll throw it out and try again."

The Spinster also is expected to attract Bending Strings, Halory Leigh, Indy Groove, and Tamweel.

Happy Ticket, who was second to Ashado in the Beldame, will remain at Belmont Park until the Distaff while trainer Andrew Leggio shuttles between New York and Louisiana Downs.

"I didn't know how she'd run against that kind of horse, or if she belonged, but she showed she did," Leggio said.

Trainer Larry Jones said that Island Sand, who had epiglottis surgery last year, "wound up displacing" in the Beldame. "We're still planning on running in the Breeders' Cup, but if we don't get that under control, she'll probably be retired," Jones said.

Trainer John Shirreffs said neither Hollywood Story nor Tarlow will make the Distaff. Hollywood Story was fourth in last week's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap and will make her next start on turf. Tarlow, though training well, won't be ready in time. "We'll wait for something at Hollywood for her," Shirreffs said.

Distaff Contenders
3-year-olds & up, fillies & mares, 1 1/8 miles. Purse: $2 million.

1Happy TicketA. Leggio Jr.5-1
May have been best when a tough-trip second to Ashado in Beldame
2AshadoT. Pletcher2-1
It's possible that she wasn't wound tight for Beldame, yet she still won
3Society SelectionH. A. Jerkens8-1
Middle-moved when third in Beldame; still looking for pace to run at
4Stellar JayneS. bin Suroor4-1
Won Ruffian off layoff; was a tough-trip third to Ashado in this last year
5Sweet SymphonyW. Mott8-1
Handed first loss in Beldame; 3yo fillies may not be a match for elders
6Healthy AddictionJ. Sadler10-1
Edged weaker in Lady's Secret, but that was her third straight score
7Flying GlitterR. Werner15-1
Indiana Oaks was her fourth straight win; pace for Society Selection?
8In the GoldN. Zito15-1
She is a Gr. 1 winner at distance on the track, but over weak 3yos
9Island FashionM. Polanco15-1
Has some big past races, but was a no-excuse 3rd in Lady's Secret
10Isola Piu BellaT. Pletcher20-1
Will try to make a case in a sub-par Spinster Sunday for a start in this
The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.