Pletcher-trained Julia Shining breaks her maiden on debut at Keeneland Oct. 16, 2022 (Coady Photography)
Keeneland Press Release
LEXINGTON, Ky.— When entries are taken each spring for the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), it is a safe bet that trainers Todd Pletcher and Kenny McPeek will have horses in the race. Such is the case again this year for the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies – the division’s first Grade 1 event of the year and the centerpiece of Friday’s 10-race program on opening day of Keeneland’s Spring Meet. Pletcher is represented by Stonestreet Stables’ Julia Shining, and McPeek will send out Defining Purpose, who races for Magdalena Racing, Colette Marie Vanmatre and James Ball.
Pletcher and McPeek, who both are seeking to win the race for the third time (joining trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Shug McGaughey, Stanley Rieser and four-time winner Woody Stephens), have stats in the race that are remarkably similar. Each has had 14 starters. Pletcher has been runner-up on six occasions, while McPeek’s four second-place efforts have occurred in the past six years.
Pletcher captured the Central Bank Ashland with Nest last year and Malathaat – Julia Shining’s full sister – in 2021. Both earned Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old filly. With a win by Julia Shining, he would be the first trainer to take the Central Bank Ashland three years in a row.
The Central Bank Ashland, Pletcher said, “has been a great race for us the last few years with Malathaat and Nest going on to have very successful campaigns. It’s a super prep race for the (Grade 1 Kentucky) Oaks since it is in Kentucky, has Grade 1 status and points for the Oaks. It is a logical place to run at the highest level. Hopefully we will be back every year.”
Julia Shining comes to the Central Bank Ashland off a third-place finish in Tampa Bay Downs’ Suncoast (L) behind Dreaming of Snow and champion and Central Bank Ashland entrant Wonder Wheel. Late last year the daughter of Curlin emulated sister Malathaat by winning the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct.
McPeek won the Central Bank Ashland in 2002 with Take Charge Lady and in 2014 with Rosalind, who finished in a dead heat for the victory.
He is optimistic about Defining Purpose’s chances following her sixth in the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 25.
“She had an excuse or two in the Honeybee – in traffic and went wide,” McPeek said about the daughter of Cross Traffic. “Any time we feel we can be third or better, we are going to make the effort. You can’t win it if you are not in it. The timing of the race fits her schedule, and she has trained well at Keeneland (where she has been stabled for about a month.)”
The Central Bank Ashland is the ninth race on the 10-race program with a 5:16 p.m. ET post time. The first race is at 1 p.m.