Horse Profile: AshadoBy Teresa Genaro, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
|Sire:||Saint Ballado||Record:||21 - 12 - 4 - 3|
|Foaled:||February 4, 2001||Current Status:||Retired, broodmare|
|Breeder:||Aaron U. Jones & Marie D. Jones||Location:||Darley Stallions|
|Owner(s):||Starlight Racing||Honors & Awards:||Champion 3-year-old Filly: 2004
Champion Older Female: 2005
Hall of Fame: 2014
Foaled: February 4, 2001
Breeder: Aaron U. Jones & Marie D. Jones
Owner(s): Starlight Racing
Trainer(s): Todd Pletcher
Record: 21 - 12 - 4 - 3
Current Status: Retired, broodmare
Location: Darley Stallions
Honors/Awards: Champion 3-year-old Filly: 2004
Champion Older Female: 2005
Hall of Fame: 2014
If, like human parents, equine parents hope that their children will accomplish more than they did, then Ashado made her sire’s and dam’s dreams come true. Though both sides of her pedigree were successful racehorses, Ashado made more in her worst year on the track than the lifetime earnings of her parents combined.
The Ontario-bred Saint Ballado won the Grade 2 Arlington Classic and the Grade 3 Sheridan, both on the dirt at Arlington Park; Ashado‘s Florida-bred dam, Goulash, was second in the Grade 3 Linda Vista at Santa Anita and won the Las Ninas Stakes at Fairplex. His lifetime earnings were $302,820; hers, $162,975.
Saint Ballado began his stud career in Florida, but after siring 1997 Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Captain Bodgit, he was purchased by Taylor Made Farm and Aaron and Marie Jones, owners of Goulash, who boarded at Taylor Made.
Goulash had four foals by Saint Ballado; the first, Ballado’s Halo (1999), earned $80,000, her most notable races a couple of third-place finishes in listed stakes at Turfway Park. The second foal, Saint Stephen (2000), won the 2006 Native Diver Handicap (Grade 3) at Hollywood Park and finished third in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap in 2005 at Belmont. He retired with lifetime earnings of $313,214.
A 2003 Saint Ballado–Goulash colt, Sunriver, was a multiple graded stakes winner, winning the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Grade 2 Bowling Green; he took the 2007 Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in his final start.
Both Ballado’s Halo and Saint Stephen were sold as yearlings at auction, bringing $50,000 and $400,000 respectively, while Sunriver was raced by his breeders.
Ashado, the third product of the Saint Ballado-Goulash mating, went to auction as a yearling, bringing $170,000 at the Keeneland September sale in 2002. She was purchased by Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Racing, which had begun buying yearlings two years before.
In 2002, the Wolfs decided to bring in some partners. They bought about 10 horses that year, including Ashado, in whom they offered a half-interest to Paul Saylor, a friend of Wolf’s from Atlanta. Saylor brought in his friend John Martin, with each partner owning an equal third interest.
“That was our first partnership,” recalled Jack recently. “Everybody tells us how lucky Laurie and I are.”
His bloodstock agent Barry Berkelhammer had put together a short list for him for that Keeneland sale; Jack recalls that what stood out about Ashado was that she was by Saint Ballado.
“He was sort of out of favor at the time,” said Jack. “It was a couple of years before his offspring were selling well, and we were going against the trend.”
“The second thing I recall was that the physical on her was tremendous, though she did have some flaws.”
“She was a hair back at the knee,” added Laurie. “I don’t know if that threw people off of her. She was just gorgeous as a yearling. And she had a good mind from the get-go. That’s a lot on them, a lot of stress on them at the sale, and every time we saw her, she really just kind of held her own.”
Ashado’s name, like that of so many horses, alludes to her parents; not many horses, though, are likely to have been named by a toddler, or to represent a bittersweet legacy. Saylor’s daughter Olivia was about four years old when it came time to give the filly a name, and she combined the last syllable of the dam’s name with the last two syllables of the sire’s, a simple equation that added up to a name with vaguely exotic overtones. To those who knew Olivia, the name is also a sad reminder of the woman who was killed in a house fire in 2011 at age 21.
Ashado was sent to Florida to be broken at J.J. Pletcher’s farm; his son Todd would train the filly, and he recalled an incident early in her training career that gave a hint at the kind of racehorse she’d be.
“I remember one of the first days she was at Palm Meadows [training center in Florida],” he said. “She was a good-sized filly, even as a baby, and we had a pretty good exercise rider on her, out on the tow ring. I gave this kid a leg up and she went two or three strides and just started bucking. She launched this kid into the air and he went flying into a shrub.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this filly is athletic.’ It was kind of scary at the time, but also funny once we knew everyone was OK.
“Most of the time she was very quiet, very laidback, but she had some explosive moments, and she was like that on the track as well.”
Trainer Michelle Nihei was Ashado’s regular exercise rider; her first day at work in the Pletcher barn was the day that Ashado shipped north from South Florida.
“I remember getting on her,” said Nihei. “She came from J.J.’s, so she was very well-mannered and receptive. She listened to your hands well, and I came back from the track sort of relieved that the first horse I got on for Todd didn’t buck me off and make me look stupid.”
“She was pretty strong,” Nihei went on, “but you could ride her quietly. You could talk to her through your hands, to tell her to slow down or to give you a little more. You didn’t need to make big moves; tiny, slight moves, and she’d know exactly what you meant.”
Ashado made her eye-popping debut on June 18, 2003 at Belmont Park, winning by seven lengths with John Velazquez in the saddle. She took the Grade 2 Schuylerville and Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga, then finished third in the G1 Frizette at Belmont. That year’s two-year-old filly championship was decided in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, when the undefeated Halfbridled, who’d raced on the West Coast all summer, defeated Ashado by 2 1/2 lengths. Ashado wrapped up the year with a nose victory in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct.
The dark bay mare kicked off her sophomore campaign in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, not the easiest of spots after having been off the track since November, though she had remained in training throughout the winter.
“It was obviously a pretty big spot to jump into off a layoff,” observed Nihei, “and I remember thinking, when we were breezing early in the winter of 2004, ‘She’s going to get them all this year. I know she is.'”
Get them she did at Fair Grounds, with an authoritative 3 3/4 length score, but in her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the Ashland at Keeneland, she fell a half-length short of the undefeated Madcap Escapade. Though disappointed, Nihei didn’t waver in her faith in the filly.
“I remember Todd asking me what I thought when she came back from her last work before the Kentucky Oaks,” she said. “I said, ‘Nobody can beat her.'”
“Don’t say that!” she remembers Pletcher responding, to which she retorted, “She’s better than all of them.”
And once again Nihei was correct, Ashado‘s victory giving both the Wolfs and the Pletcher one of their top two most memorable races with the filly. Though the Wolfs had moved away from Louisville at that point, returning eight years ago, it was still a win at their hometown track, one that they shared with dozens of friends and family members.
Despite his reservations about Nihei’s comment, Pletcher said he was pretty much as confident as she was.
“I don’t recall being as confident inside that a horse was going to win a really big race as I was with her,” he said.
“But,” he added good-naturedly, “the superstitious side of me says you don’t tempt fate. I think we would all have been very disappointed if she hadn’t won, but you never take it for granted.”
He continued, “At the time, that was the biggest win of my career. Even though things had been going really well, we hadn’t won a so-called classic race, and when she was able to win the Oaks, I remember getting about as excited as I get during a race. It was a real breakthrough win for all of us, and it’s special to me for a number of reasons.”
Five months after giving her owners a hometown win, Ashado did the same for her trainer when she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park, sealing the 3-year-old filly championship. It was the first Breeders’ Cup win for both Pletcher and the Wolfs.
“I think at that point we were O for 12 in the Breeders’ Cup,” Pletcher said, “and it was somewhat of a homecoming for me. I’m from Texas, I was born in Dallas, I went to high school in San Antonio, friends and family were there to enjoy it. It was very exciting.”
Away from the track, the best filly in the country was, according to Laurie Wolf, one of the gentlest, kindest horses she’d ever seen.
“On race day, when we’d see her on her way to the track, she would just be pulling,” she said. “She knew what her job was and she knew she was good at it. Once it was over, she was back to her laidback, playful self.”
“I remember at Saratoga, Angel Cordero got on her in the morning towards the end,” said Jack. “She was so kind that we would put our daughter Eleanor up there with him. She was seven or eight years old then.”
Ashado repeated as champion in 2005, winning the Eclipse for champion older mare on the strength of wins in the Ogden Phipps, the Go for Wand, and the Beldame, all Grade 1 races. She capped the year, and her career, finishing third in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Belmont Park.
Though the Wolfs had a small broodmare band at the time Ashado was retired, they made the decision to sell her at the Keeneland sale of breeding stock in November of 2005.
“You look back on it,” said Laurie, “and the decision was a very emotional one. Jack and I would sit and have these discussions; we knew it was a business decision, but she has a very special place in our hearts. To let her go was very difficult for me.”
“He had to hold my hand,” she added, with a little laugh. Wolf is pictured to the right with Ashado prior to her sale.
“I think all three partners—Paul, John, myself—wanted to keep her as a broodmare,” said Jack. “We sent her through the ring without a reserve, and any of the three partners was more than willing and able to bid on her. I think we bid on her at about $4.2 million, and that’s where it stalled out.”
“That’s when I got a little nervous,” he admitted.
Said Laurie, “That’s where I was getting excited.”
Ashado ultimately sold for $9 million, setting a record at the time for a price for a broodmare sold at auction. She was purchased by John Ferguson, the agent for Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Darley breeding operation, and headed to Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
“It’s not like we were going to outbid Sheikh Mohammed,” said Jack, a little ruefully. He said that Coolmore were the underbidders.
Ashado’s first foal, a Storm Cat colt, was born in 2007; he was unraced, and her second, a 2009 Street Cry gelding, was winless from five starts.
Regent’s House, her 2011 filly by Street Cry, broke her maiden in her debut at Aqueduct in March of this year, then finished fourth in an allowance. She’s got a two-year-old colt by Street Cry named Ashland Park, and her two most recent offspring are by Bernardini: a 2013 colt and a filly born on January 24. None of Ashado’s offspring have been offered at auction.
Regent’s House Maiden Win
Michelle Nihei is no stranger to classy horses, having worked as an assistant to Pletcher and training her own Prince Will I Am to a win in the Grade 1 Jamaica in 2010. Still, she responded without hesitation when asked whether Ashado stands out to her as a special horse.
“Without a doubt,” she said. “She probably always will. She was very, very special, and not just because of her accomplishments.”
The following are the current available replays, we’ll continue to add them should more become available.
2004 Coaching Club American Oaks
2004 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
2005 Go For Wand