05/15/2009 12:00AM

Heart Ashley hangs on in Miss Preakness

Barbara D. Livingston
Heart Ashley (right), having led throughout the race, is all out to defeat Cinderella's Wish by a head in the Miss Preakness.

BALTIMORE - Heart Ashley can take the heat. On a warm afternoon Friday at Pimlico, she set torrid fractions, turned back her early pace rivals, and doggedly held on to capture the Grade 3, $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

She was tiring late, but Heart Ashley just did last to win the six-furlong race by a head over Cinderella's Wish, with Trophy Collector a distant third. Heart Ashley was timed in 1:10.79 on the fast main track.

Heart Ashley ($3.80), who broke from the rail, had few options. Jockey Garrett Gomez was committed to go early, but the pace unfolded at a rate he did not want, with two other horses, including the comebacking Mani Bhavan, pressuring the favorite.

"They made her work early," Gomez said. "I wanted to squeeze her a little leaving the gate, but they came over and put pressure on her."

Heart Ashley went through the opening quarter-mile in 22.65 seconds, a fast time considering there is almost no run-up to the timing pole for that distance at Pimlico. To get away from both Gatorette and Mani Bhavan, Heart Ashley threw a second quarter-mile of 22.21 seconds at them. That took care of Gatorette and Mani Bhavan, who both dropped back quickly, but left Heart Ashley weary for the final furlong.

"She never really got a breather," Gomez said. "Maybe for a sixteenth of a mile on the turn I grabbed a hold of her. But then we had to go on again. The last sixteenth, she was looking for a place to lay down."

Heart Ashley has now won 4 times in 6 starts, and has finished second in her two losses. She has now won three straight races, including the Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct in her last start on March 14.

Steve Asmussen trains Heart Ashley for Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables. Asmussen said earlier in the week that he hoped Heart Ashley could develop into the type of filly capable of running in the Grade 1 Test Stakes this summer at Saratoga.