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KENTUCKY DERBY NOTEBOOK: ASHADO ROLLS IN KENTUCKY OAKS.

Byline: Kevin Modesti Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - People told Todd Pletcher this winter that the trainer would be better off running Ashado in the Kentucky Derby than against other star fillies in the Kentucky Oaks. He didn't believe them.

Any second-guessing after Ashado and jockey John Velazquez scored a solid victory Friday in the $572,000 Oaks, beating Island Sand by 1 1/4 widening lengths and handing third-place Madcap Escapade her first loss of a five-race career?

``My filly is very good and has been doing very well, but she hasn't reached the dominant stage,'' Pletcher said, noting that fillies who beat colts - three fillies have won the Derby - are able to trounce their own gender first. ``There will be no second thoughts in my mind that we did the right thing.''

Pletcher has Limehouse and Pollard's Vision in the Derby today.

Churchill Downs attendance on a damp Oaks Day was 98,445.

After Halfbridled was scratched, seven of the 11 Oaks runners were Southern California-based, but Victory U.S.A.'s fourth was the best they could do.

Madcap Escapade, who has been running in Florida and Kentucky, burned herself out as Jerry Bailey couldn't restrain her through an opening 6-furlong run in an Oaks-record 1:09.99. The 1 1/8-mile final time was 1:50.81 on a track rated ``muddy'' after heavy morning rain.

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, includes the Spinaway, Demoiselle and Fair Grounds Oaks among six wins in nine starts.

Two-year-old fillies champion Halfbridled was scratched early Friday. Trainer Richard Mandella said she ``tied up'' - suffered from nervous cramping - after a morning gallop.

``She's been pretty delicate this year,'' Mandella said. ``We'll take her home (to Hollywood Park), and hopefully she'll travel better in the fall when we go to the Breeders' Cup (at Texas' Lone Star Park Oct. 30).''

--Early line: Early Kentucky Derby wagering Friday made Smarty Jones and Tapit virtual co-favorites at 5-1, with morning-line favorite The Cliff's Edge and Master David each 8-1.

Actually, Smarty Jones is the slight favorite, drawing $513 more in win bets than Tapit in a betting pool of nearly $460,000.

Birdstone, the 50-1 long shot on the morning line, was 15-1 in the early betting. Pro Prado's 65-1 was the biggest price on the board.

Friday's wagers are a drop in the bucket of a Derby mutual pool that last year topped $87 million by race time.

--Move over: With Wimbledon (leg injury) and St Averil (foot trouble) scratched Friday from the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs stewards decided to shift other horses toward the outside in the starting gate rather than the inside as usually is done.

Wimbledon had drawn post 5 and St Averil post 9 in what began as a 20-horse field.

The move allows No. 1 Limehouse and jockey Jose Santos to begin two lanes clear of the inside rail. It allows No. 14 Read the Footnotes and No. 15 Smarty Jones to stay in possibly advantageous slots next to the gap between the main and auxiliary starting gates.

--Bad policy? Why doesn't the Kentucky Derby have an also-eligible list, which could have allowed the excluded Rock Hard Ten and Eddington to take the scratched horses' places in the field?

Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said sticking points include Friday's advance wagering on the Derby and the unusual way post positions are chosen for the race.

Early bettors would have to put down money without knowing if the lineup would change before post time.

Churchill executives haven't figured out which post position an ``also-eligible'' horse would take if it drew into the field. In everyday races, an also-eligible simply takes the outside post. That might seem unfair in the Derby, in which horses' owners and trainers ``draft'' posts in an order determined by lot.

--It's only money: If all 18 remaining horses start, the Derby purse will be $1,154,800, the winner's share $854,800.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Jockey John R. Velasquez celebrates in the winner's circle after riding Ashado to a 1 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks.

Ed Reinke/Associated Press

Box:

VIEWER'S GUIDE

By Kevin Modesti

Staff Writer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:697
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