04/01/2010 12:00AM

She Be Wild at her best on Polytrack

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Haven't we seen this before? Hasn't Wayne Catalano returned to Kentucky after wintering in Florida with a defending 2-year-old filly champion who had struggled in opening her 3-year-old season?

Yes, indeed. But when 2009 Eclipse honoree She Be Wild returns Saturday to face seven other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, Catalano is hoping for markedly different results than what occurred in 2007, when champion Dreaming of Anna was soundly defeated in the Kentucky Oaks after losing her first two starts at 3 at Gulfstream Park.

"This is something different," Catalano said.

The many backers of She Be Wild, who will start from post 5 with Jose Lezcano aboard in the $400,000 Ashland, will be hoping that Catalano is right. By returning to a synthetic surface, over which she had all five of her starts at 2, She Be Wild figures to be far more competitive than when she finished fifth at Gulfstream in her lone start this winter, the Jan. 31 Forward Gal on dirt.

"She didn't handle that surface at all," Catalano said. "I'm not going to totally rule out the dirt for her, but I noticed when I breezed her myself down there in Florida, she was just kind of scrambling around the turn. Polytrack is definitely her best surface."

But if Catalano is wrong, and if the rest of the class has caught up with She Be Wild, then the 1 1/16-mile Ashland could fall any number of ways.

Negligee, who dealt She Be Wild her lone defeat at 2 when finishing a half-length ahead of her in the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland, is one of the prime candidates to run well Saturday and stamp her ticket to the April 30 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Trained by John Terranova, Negligee will be making her 2010 debut after a lengthy series of workouts, the latest being a solid half-mile in 49.60 seconds Tuesday over the Keeneland Poly. Terranova has maintained throughout the winter that Negligee has trained in terrific fashion.

Also meriting serious consideration are Evening Jewel and Beautician.

Evening Jewel was beaten just a nose at 18-1 in her last race, the Grade 1 Las Virgenes on Feb. 13 at Santa Anita, by Blind Luck, who has claimed divisional leadership through the first quarter of 2010. Evening Jewel arrived here Tuesday night, and trainer Jim Cassidy arrived the following night.

Beautician, a troubled fifth at 2-1 in the Alcibiades last fall before being narrowly defeated by She Be Wild in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, comes off a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

"We were really pleased with that race," said Ken McPeek, trainer of Beautician. "Hopefully, it'll set us up the right way for the Ashland and beyond."

Rounding out the field for the 73rd Ashland are Upperline, It's Tea Time, Apple Charlotte, and Protesting.

Of those, Protesting might be most dangerous, partly because the late-running Phipps Stable filly won her lone start over Polytrack, a two-turn maiden race here last fall, by five lengths.

"She had two good races in Florida, but her style worked against her," said trainer Shug McGaughey, a three-time Ashland winner. "It was just too hard to catch up down there."

All 1 1/16-mile races on the Polytrack at Keeneland begin and end at what otherwise is the sixteenth pole.

With idyllic spring weather and temperatures nearing 80, the Ashland will be run before a crowd that might well surpass 30,000. Last year, 30,550 turned out in what was an all-time high for Ashland Day.

First post Saturday is 1:05 p.m., with the Ashland, the ninth of 10 races, going at 5:20. TVG will have live coverage throughout the day.

There is no racing here Sunday because of the Easter holiday.