Updated on 04/05/2013 7:43PM

Keeneland: Motion has strong duo for Grade 1 Ashland Stakes


LEXINGTON, Ky. – In normal times, having a horse win a $500,000 race would represent a monumental feat for just about any trainer.

But these are extraordinary times for Graham Motion. Last Saturday, Motion was halfway around the world to saddle Animal Kingdom for a smashing victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

So, when Motion is at Keeneland on Saturday to send out a couple of fillies named Kitten’s Point and Tuttipaesi for the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, won’t he be feeling a bit of a buzzkill?

After all, the $500,000 purse is just one-twentieth of that of the World Cup.

“But they didn’t offer any Kentucky Oaks points in Dubai!” Motion joked, referring to the Ashland winner’s 100 points in the new qualifying system for the May 3 Oaks.

Kitten’s Point and Tuttipaesi, the first- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes last month on the Gulfstream Park turf, are part of an incredibly competitive field for the Ashland, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race that anchors a 10-race Saturday card as the traditional marquee event of opening weekend at the Keeneland spring meet.

Tuttipaesi, whose name means “all countries” in Italian, was so impressive winning her North American debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 1 that she was made a solid favorite in the Herecomesthebride. The Irish-bred filly will have Alan Garcia aboard when breaking from post 1 while Kitten’s Point will start from post 7 with Edgar Prado.

“I worked them together a couple of times on the grass at Palm Meadows” since the Herecomesthebride, said Motion, who, with 24 stalls at Keeneland, will be traveling back and forth several times from his primary base in Maryland over the next month or so. “They’re both coming into this extremely well.”

Tuttipaesi has been pegged as a lukewarm 4-1 favorite on a morning line that lists 10 other Ashland fillies between 5-1 and 15-1. Those numbers strongly suggest the race could get its winner from just about anywhere, with as many as 14 3-year-old fillies eligible to start in what clearly is a bettors’ delight. Sixteen horses were entered, including two also-eligibles.

Other major contenders in the 76th Ashland include the uncoupled Mark Casse duo of Spring In the Air (post 11, Patrick Husbands), the winner of the Alcibiades here last fall over the Poly, and Spring Venture (post 4, Miguel Mena), who narrowly defeated her stablemate in an exhibition race last month over the Safetrack synthetic at the Ocala Training Center in Florida.

Also, Nipissing (post 2, Steve Bahen), an Ontario-bred getting first Lasix in her 3-year-old debut after going unbeaten in four starts last year; Private Ensign (post 3, Corey Lanerie), a highly regarded daughter of A.P. Indy for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans; and Emollient (post 13, Mike Smith), who is being sent here by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott after finishing a distant fifth last Saturday in the Gulfstream Park Oaks over dirt.

“I didn’t think it was much of an effort,” Mott said of Emollient, a Juddmonte Farms homebred. “If she looks good Saturday, I want to run. I don’t see much of a drawback.”

Mott said he “always had a suspicion she might handle synthetic OK. She’s run well on the dirt, but sometimes she doesn’t look that comfortable on it. The way she trains, her action, suggests that synthetic or turf might suit her better than the dirt.”

The Ashland, which dates to 1936, has been won by numerous standouts throughout its proud history. The last filly to win both the Ashland and Oaks was Silverbulletday in 1999. The 2012 Ashland winner was Karlovy Vary, a 15-1 shot trained by Rusty Arnold.

Fans are reminded that 1 1/16-mile Polytrack races at Keeneland begin and end at what otherwise is the sixteenth pole.

The terrific Saturday card also includes four allowances, none better than a $68,000 turf route (race 4) in which Turallure, an earner of more than $1.3 million, will make a long-awaited comeback. Turallure is trained by Charlie LoPresti, who will send out 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan for his seasonal debut next Friday in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile.

First post Saturday is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Ashland (race 9) set for 5:13. TVG will have extensive coverage throughout the day.

– additional reporting by David Grening