11/27/2003 1:00AM

Distance the question


ELMONT, N.Y. - Ashado was no match for Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but there are no Halfbridleds in Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.

Still, Ashado has not proven herself beyond seven furlongs and will meet a very good filly in La Reina in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle. Ashado is the likely favorite among seven entered in the Grade 2 stakes.

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, won her first three starts, including the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga.

After the Spinaway, Ashado stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1 Frizette and finished third. In the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, Ashado never got Halfbridled's measure and was second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

Pletcher, who trains Ashado for Starlight Stables, said Ashado came out of her cross-country journey, which can be hard on a young filly, in excellent shape.

"She's a big, robust filly and carries a lot of conditioning," Pletcher said. "She worked very well the other day, and she's not a particularly overzealous work horse."

Jerry Bailey, who enters Saturday's card one win away from equaling Mike Smith's record for stakes wins in a single season, rides Ashado from post 5.

John Velazquez, who rode Ashado in the Breeders' Cup, sticks with La Reina, who won the Grade 3 Tempted in her last start here on Nov. 4. The regally bred filly has the perfect pedigree - A.P. Indy-Queena, by Mr. Prospector - to go a distance.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said he likes the progression of La Reina's races going into the Demoiselle. She won her maiden going seven furlongs at Belmont Sept. 6 and then didn't run again until the one-mile Tempted.

"I didn't have to do a lot to get her ready for this one," he said.

La Reina, who drew post 2, figures to be among the front-runners.

Please Take Me Out set a leisurely pace to win the Miss Grillo on the grass in her last start on Oct. 26 at Belmont. She has lost all three of her main-track starts, but has some sharp recent works on the dirt.

"It's no secret she's better on the turf," said Alfredo Callejas, Please Take Me Out's trainer.

Dr. Kathy and Run Cat Run are in the same boat as Please Take Me Out. Dr. Kathy won the Salem County on the grass at The Meadowlands in her last start, and Run Cat Run was third.

Taittinger Rose finished a well-beaten second in the Selima at Laurel two weeks ago. Shamoiselle won a maiden race in her last start.