04/08/2017 6:33PM

Sailor's Valentine scores 22-1 surprise in Ashland

Coady Photography
Sailor's Valentine, ridden by Corey Lanerie, takes the Ashland by a half-length.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sailor’s Valentine didn’t have the most substantial list of accomplishments of the eight runners in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.  But what she did have – an affinity for the Keeneland strip – aided her in scoring a 22-1 upset.

The only one with a prior win over the Keeneland main track, Sailor’s Valentine was well-positioned on the outside of front-running Someday Soon, who set a slow pace with a half-mile in 49.32 seconds and six furlongs in 1:14.06 in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. On the second turn, Sailor’s Valentine went after Someday Soon, and after catching her with a sixteenth of a mile remaining, edged clear and held off the belated rally of runner-up Daddys Lil Darling to win by a half-length.

A 3-year-old gray daughter of Mizzen Mast, Sailor’s Valentine ($46.40) earned black type for the first time in the Ashland, a race that had only two graded winners in the field. She completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in a slow 1:45.54, approximately four seconds off the stakes-record time of 1:41.60 from 1999 Ashland winner Silverbulletday, also the winner of the Kentucky Oaks that year.

Late-running Daddys Lil Darling did all she could to close the gap on the winner, but was hampered by the slow pace. She finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Someday Soon, with Tapped another half-length back in fourth.

The favored Elate - one of two in the race to be eased along with Meanie Irenie – was pulled up before the finish and left in the horse ambulance. Trainer Bill Mott said “she seems fine,” when asked of her condition 45 minutes after the race.

Trainer Eddie Kenneally, who trains Sailor’s Valentine for owners Semaphore Racing and Homewrecker Racing, said his filly would return in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5 if she comes out of the race well.

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Winning rider Corey Lanerie said Kenneally’s pre-race confidence encouraged him, recounting, “He said, ‘She’s doing phenomenal. I look for her to run a big race. She’s going maybe to be a longshot, but she’s not going to run like one.’ He was right.”

According to trainer Ken McPeek, Daddys Lil Darling is expected to join Sailor’s Valentine in the Kentucky Oaks. McPeek said jockey Robby Albarado felt his mount would have won the Ashland if the race was a little farther, as the Kentucky Oaks is, at 1 1/8 miles.

The Ashland is a point-qualifying race for the Oaks, and the top two secured enough qualifying points to gain entry in the Oaks if the race is oversubscribed.