04/06/2007 11:00PM

Christmas Kid holds off Octave

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Christmas Kid put a perfect trip to optimum use before desperately holding off a final surge by heavily favored Octave to post a narrow victory Saturday in the 70th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

Slipping through a rail opening when a tightly packed field of eight 3-year-old fillies turned into the stretch, Christmas Kid used a sudden burst of speed to open a clear lead, then was under steady urging from jockey Rene Douglas to hold off Octave, the 3-5 favorite, by a head.

Christmas Kid returned $21 to win after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.90 over Polytrack. Octave, ridden by Garrett Gomez, finished another three-quarters of a length before Dawn After Dawn, a 54-1 shot, while High Again was another two lengths back in fourth.

"Today I was very patient," said Douglas. "She just kicked in the stretch unbelievable."

Bred and owned by Edward Evans and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Christmas Kid, by Lemon Drop Kid, now will head to Churchill Downs as a major contender in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks. In her three races leading up to the Ashland, Christmas Kid won the Tropical Park Oaks at Calder and the Davona Dale at Gulfstream before finishing second to High Again in the Bonnie Miss on March 10.

After shipping in from Florida last weekend, Christmas Kid "had a terrific week here, and I was excited about running her," said Steve Moyer, assistant to Jerkens.

In sub-freezing temperatures that limited the ontrack crowd to 12,937, Mistical Plan and Elitist dueled for the early lead before Mistical Plan edged clear down the backstretch. Leaving the far turn, as the field began to bunch, Douglas deftly guided his mount through an opening, and she responded with the winning rally.

Hucking Hot was a late scratch after she threw jockey Rafael Bejarano in the post parade and ran off. The California invader was 5-1 at the time.

After High Again, the order of finish was Mistical Plan, Grace Happens, Silver Knockers, and Elitist.

Lafayette: Carnacks Choice with late surge

One race earlier, Carnacks Choice ($22.80) was up in the final jump to deal a heartbreaking defeat to Call Me Clash in the $114,200 Lafayette Stakes. Even with less than 100 yards to go, Call Me Clash, a 17-1 shot, appeared to have the race won, but a torrid surge by Carnacks Choice, ridden by Julien Leparoux, came just in time.

Owned by the Sassafras Racing of Larry Richardson and trained by Greg Foley, Carnacks Choice lowered the Polytrack record for seven furlongs to 1:21.05 while posting his third victory in six career starts. The Carson City colt spent the winter in Kentucky, where he won the Turfway Park Prevue in January.

The Lafayette proved disappointing for the top three favorites: Out of Gwedda, the 7-5 choice, ran sixth, Silver Express (5-1) was seventh, and Izzie's Halo (7-2) was eighth.

* Ascertain ($13) captured a $61,800 turf allowance after being cleverly rated by Jamie Theriot. Brilliant, making his first start since October, loomed boldly at the top of the stretch before flattening out to finish third as the 5-2 second choice in a field of 10 older horses. Minister's Joy was up in the final strides to be second, two lengths behind the winner.