Wonder Wheel Returns to Site of Breeders’ Cup Victory in G1 Ashland

April 4, 2023

Wonder Wheel drives clear to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Keeneland Press Release

LEXINGTON, Ky.— D. J. Stable’s champion Wonder Wheel headlines a field of seven 3-year-old fillies entered Tuesday morning for the 86th running of the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), the centerpiece of a 10-race program on opening day of the 15-day Keeneland Spring Meet.

Scheduled as the ninth race on the program with a 5:16 p.m. ET post time, the Central Bank Ashland will be contested over 1 1/16 miles on the main track. First post Friday is 1 p.m.

The year’s first Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies, the Central Bank Ashland offers 200 points on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale for the first- through fifth-place finishers toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Oaks, which will be run May 5 at Churchill Downs, is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box.

Trained by Mark Casse, Wonder Wheel is perfect in two Keeneland starts with victories in the Darley Alcibiades (G1) and the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last fall. She has compiled a career mark of 6-4-2-0 and in her lone start of 2023 finished second in the Suncoast (L) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11.

Tyler Gaffalione, who has been aboard for all of Wonder Wheel’s starts, has the mount Friday and will exit post position two.

The Central Bank Ashland winner the past two years has gone on to earn the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Todd Pletcher trained both of them, starting with Malathaat in 2021 and Nest last year.

Julia Shining breaks her maiden on debut at Keeneland Oct. 16, 2022 (Coady Photography)

Pletcher brings Malathaat’s full sister Julia Shining into this year’s renewal. Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Julia Shining comes into the Central Bank Ashland off a third-place finish in the Suncoast in which she was 1¼ lengths behind Wonder Wheel.

Luis Saez, who has been aboard Julia Shining in all of her starts including the victory in the Demoiselle (G2), has the call Friday and will depart post position four.

Pletcher is the fourth trainer to win the Central Bank Ashland in consecutive years. No trainer has won the race three years in a row.

Also coming from Florida is CHP Racing’s Guns n’ Graces for trainer Chad Brown. Guns n’ Graces finished second in the Davona Dale (G2) Presented by FanDuel TV at Gulfstream Park on March 4 in her stakes debut. Joel Rosario has the mount from post position three.

Coming from California is West Coast Stable’s Pride of the Nile, trained by Doug O’Neill. A two-time winner on grass as a 2-year-old, Pride of the Nile was runner-up in the Starlet (G1) and the Las Virgenes (G3) before finishing fifth in the Santa Ysabel (G3) in her most recent start on March 5 at Santa Anita.

Frankie Dettori has the mount on Pride of the Nile from post position one.

The field for the Central Bank Ashland, with riders from the rail out, is: Pride of the Nile (Dettori), Wonder Wheel (Gaffalione), Guns n’ Graces (Rosario), Julia Shining (Saez), Punchbowl (Flavien Prat), Defining Purpose (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Effortlesslyelgant (Ricardo Santana Jr.) All starters will carry 121 pounds.

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