04/04/2007 11:00PM

Mistical Plan and Octave go again

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Mistical Plan handily defeated Octave last month in the Fair Grounds Oaks, but Doug O'Neill knows she will have to prove herself all over again Saturday - and then again May 4.

O'Neill, who trains Mistical Plan for Paul Reddam, has sent the filly from California to Keeneland for a rematch with Octave in the $500,000 Ashland Stakes, the Grade 1 fixture that anchors the Saturday card. Both Mistical Plan and Octave are using the Ashland as a prep for the biggest race of their young lives, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4.

"Our filly ran out of this world at the Fair Grounds," said O'Neill. "But she's got to do it again Saturday, and I'm a little worried about whether or not her speed will hold. The big thing is she's coming up to this in great shape, so we're going in with confidence in her."

Octave was the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, her first race since she finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last November.

"Ideally we would have liked to have gotten three races in her before the Oaks, but she missed a week or 10 days early in the year with a fever, so here we are," said Jack Wolf, whose Starlight Stable co-owns Octave.

Octave is trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the 2004 Kentucky Oaks with Ashado, who also was owned in partnership by Starlight.

"There are some similarities between the course they've taken to get to the Oaks, and hopefully the end result will be the same," said Wolf.

Octave and Mistical Plan aren't the only two Ashland starters to have recently knocked heads. In fact, the Ashland represents a rubber match of sorts for two Florida shippers: Christmas Kid was first and High Again second in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park in February, and they swapped finishing positions four weeks later when High Again captured the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss.

Yet two more Ashland starters entered off sharp efforts are Hucking Hot, second in a small stakes at Santa Anita for Paddy Gallagher, and Silver Knockers, second in the Forward Gal at Gulfstream for Nick Zito.

The rest of the Ashland field is Elitist, Dawn After Dawn, and Grace Happens.

Like all the stakes to be run here this spring, this is the first time the Ashland will be run over Polytrack, the synthetic surface first used for racing here last fall. The first 69 runnings of the Ashland were contested over a conventional dirt track.

Dirt or Polytrack, the Ashland promises to continue producing standouts, having been won by such renowned fillies as Doubledogdare (1956), Optimistic Gal (1976), Princess Rooney (1983), and Silverbulletday (1999). The 2006 winner was Bushfire, trained by Eddie Kenneally and ridden by Cornelio Velasquez.

The Ashland is the ninth of 10 races on an outstanding Saturday program that also includes the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes (race 8) and four allowances (races 4, 6, 7, and 10). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern, with the Ashland set for 5:15.

The Saturday card wraps up a short opening weekend of the 15-day meet, since Sunday will be dark because of the Easter holiday. Action resumes Wednesday with the $200,000 Madison, a Grade 2 race for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.