'Getting Better And Better,' Nest Overpowers Ashland Stakes Competition - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘Getting Better And Better,’ Nest Overpowers Ashland Stakes Competition

Nest pulls away from her competition to win the Ashland by 8 1/4 lengths

Last year, Todd Pletcher brought unbeaten Malathaat to Keeneland to win the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, then four weeks later sent the Curlin filly out to win the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. On Friday's chilly and wet opening-day spring meet program at the Lexington, Ky., track, Hall of Famer Pletcher made it back-to-back Ashlands with another filly by Curlin, the once-beaten Nest, who like Malathaat had won the G2 Demoiselle  as a 2-year-old at Aqueduct the previous year.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. for the partnership of Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Michael House, Nest raced just a few lengths off the pace while in fourth, made a four-wide move on the far turn, then drew off to win by 8 1/4 lengths, covering the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:44.16. Nest paid $5.40 as the favorite.

Finishing second by a nose was Cocktail Moments, with 9-5 second choice Interstatedaydream third and Awake at Midnyte fourth in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies. Sterling Silver, Happy Soul, Miss Mattie and Heavenly Hellos completed the order of finish

The Ashland is a qualifying points race for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, awarding 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.

Updated Kentucky Derby/Oaks leaderboard

Nest, produced from the stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Marion Ravenwood, was bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables and purchased for $350,000 as a yearling from Ashview Farm as consignor.

This was Nest's fourth win in five starts, her only defeat coming in her second start when third in the Tempted at Belmont Park Nov. 5. She followed that up with a victory in the Demoiselle, then won her 2022 debut in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 12.

Interstatedaydream set the pace in the Ashland under Florent Geroux, clocking fractions of :24.24, :48.82 and 1:13.25 for the opening six furlongs. Nest took command into the stretch, passing the mile marker in 1:38.16, then pulled away in the final furlong. Cocktail Moments edged Interstatedaydream for second in the final jump.

“Irad got her into a good, comfortable rhythm going down the backside, and we didn't want anyone to get away from us with the short run to the finish line,” said Pletcher. “I knew when he had her revved up she was doing it pretty easily. Then she kicked on down the lane and he wrapped up on her late. So it was everything we could have hoped for.

“She's a filly that's improved all the time. She was able to win her debut going a mile and a sixteenth, which you don't see many horses do. We've always felt like as she matured and the races got longer, she was going to get better. I really liked the way she's been training since the Suncoast. She's just kept getting better and better.”

“I was a little shocked that we were on the lead,” Cox said of Interstatedaydream. “We were in a good spot, with comfortable fractions and well within herself. The race quickened, but she stayed on. Just no match for the winner. I will talk with (owner) Staton Flurry, but probably we will skip the (Kentucky) Oaks and shop around for a Grade 2 or 3 race. We will have her ready for the Oaks if there are some defections.”

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