09/27/2006 11:00PM

Rating gear increases Point Ashley's appeal


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is not often a horse wins a race by 4 1/4 lengths, earns a career-best Beyer Speed Figure, and the trainer is not satisfied. But Bob Baffert tinkered with Point Ashley between her maiden win and the Del Mar Debutante. He decided to remove blinkers, and try and teach her to relax, believing she could attain an even higher level of performance.

He got what he wanted. Point Ashley sat back early, roared past her rivals on the turn, and drew away to a victory in Del Mar's championship race for 2-year-old fillies.

That style of running should pay even greater dividends in upcoming months, beginning Saturday. Point Ashley will stretch out around two turns for the first time in the Grade 1, $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes in the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. Point Ashley will be favored not only to win, but to secure her position as the one to beat in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. Both the Oak Leaf and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies are at 1 1/16 miles.

"The reason I took the blinkers off is that the first time I ran her, at Hollywood Park, I really didn't think she'd show much speed, because she hadn't in her works," Baffert said Thursday morning. "She shot out of the gate like a cannonball, got a little tired, and got beat. When she ran the next time, at Del Mar, she broke like a cannonball again. She won, but I didn't like that part of the race.

"She has a good mind. I worked her without blinkers out of the gate, and she worked super. She got it in her head that we could put her anywhere."

Point Ashley has the ideal style for her upcoming races. She has tactical speed, yet acts as though she wants more distance, which stands to reason, since she is by Point Given and is out of a Slew o' Gold mare.

"She's an extraordinary filly," Baffert said. "She's got so much quality. The talent's there."

It will need to be on Saturday. Point Ashley drew the outside post in a field of 11.

The large field was a surprise, given Point Ashley's dominance at Del Mar. Craig Dollase, who will send out Cash Included, was among those undeterred.

"My filly's bred to run a route," Dollase said of the daughter of Include, "It's a Grade 1, and it's in her backyard."

Cash Included beat maidens at Del Mar on Sept. 2 for trainer Howard Zucker in her second start, after which owner Paul Reddam purchased her privately and turned her over to Dollase.

Back in the Shade was a seven-length winner against maidens at Calder in her second start, after which trainer Christopher Paasch purchased her privately for owner Charles Cono.

"Her first race, she got left, but she still ran on really well," Paasch said. "To improve as much as she did from her first to her second start, you've got to think she can do more."

Tonja's World was a 10 3/4-length winner against maidens at Del Mar going one mile in her second start, in which she added blinkers.

"I think it was more the distance than the blinkers," said her trainer, Cliff Sise. "She's a gigantic filly. She needs a route of ground."

Sise is hoping Tonja's World is good enough to go to the Breeders' Cup. But if not, he has a fallback position, since Tonja's World is a California-bred.

"I'm going for one of two Cups - either the Breeders' Cup, or the Cal Cup," he said.