2023 Ashland Stakes Odds, Field & Betting Pick

The Keeneland spring meet starts on Friday with a fanfare and the 2023 Ashland Stakes, featuring a rematch between last year’s champion juvenile filly Wonder Wheel and the superbly bred Julia Shining. The G3 Transylvania brings together a host of upwardly mobile turf runners including Nagirroc, Candidate, and Andthewinneris, while former Kentucky Derby hopefuls Gulfport, Corona Bolt, and Hejazi put their speed to the test in the ungraded Lafayette.

Ashland Stakes

G1, $600,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo fillies, 5:16pm ET

The opening day of the Keeneland meet on Friday packs a real punch, with the Ashland taking center stage and offering 100 RTKO points to the winner on the last weekend of major prep races – and two big names certainly need a push up the leaderboard.

This is probably make or break for last year’s champion two-year-old filly Wonder Wheel, already twice a G1 winner over course and distance following success in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Alcibiades last year.

She came off second-best on her return behind fluke winner Dreaming Of Snow – beaten twice since then – in a mile stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but it was conditioning not lack of ability that led to that neck defeat, as she looked likely to strike all the way down the stretch but was just outgamed by a fitter rival.

The extra yardage today is a positive, as it is for Julia Shining, who was a length and a quarter back in third there when also looking a little ring-rusty. Julia Shining – blinkered for the first time today – already has a win over a mile-eighth in the book, the G2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct in December when she beat recent Gulfstream Park Oaks winner Affirmative Lady, and she can be expected to move right up for that reappearance.

That pair are proven class acts, whereas Punchbowl needs to establish herself after going two-for-two at Oaklawn Park, a maiden, and then a blitzing all-the-way score by four and a quarter lengths in an allowance over today’s distance. That was full of promise, although the runner-up sank without trace in the G3 Fantasy last weekend and the form may not be that strong.

California girl Pride Of The Nile is zero-for-three in Graded stakes on dirt after going two-for-two on the lawn in minor company, which serves as a warning, while Guns n’ Graces did well enough on her stakes debut when runner-up in the G2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream over a mile, but longshot winner Dorth Vader missed the board in the Gulfstream Park Oaks next time and Guns n’ Graces faces much stronger opposition now.

Defining Purpose and Effortlesslyelgant ran sixth and tenth in the G3 Honeybee at Oaklawn and it doesn’t appear that they’re up to G1 level at the moment.

Ashland Stakes Prediction

She will be much sharper for her comeback and loves this track, so the way looks clear for champion filly WONDER WHEEL to land her third G1 over course and distance.

2023 Ashland Stakes Odds

Pride of the NileLanfranco Dettori+1200
Wonder WheelTyler Gaffalione+160
Guns n’ GracesJoel Rosario+800
Julia ShiningLuis Saez+300
PunchbowlFlavien Prat+200
Defining PurposeBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1500
EffortlesslyelgantRicardo Santana, Jr.+2000


Transylvania Stakes

G3, $400,000, 1m 1/16 turf, 3yo, 4.44pm ET

Bettors have a tricky puzzle to solve in the Transylvania, with a full field of largely unexposed sophomores improving – or regressing – at different rates.

A number of these met in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf here over a mile, in which Nagirroc did best as a willing third, although never in a position to threaten the front two. He was three-quarters of a length better than pace-chasing Mo Stash in fourth, with Andthewinneris a length further back in seventh and Webslinger 11th, and is a solid benchmark given his previous victory in the G3 The Futurity at Aqueduct, when he scrambled home by a neck over an inadequate six furlongs, although he has a five-month layoff to overcome.

Andthewinneris also has a Graded win to his name, gained over course and distance in the G2 Bourbon in October when he cleared away to beat an uninspiring field with some comfort – Rarified Flair was fourth, beaten four lengths.

Candidate was a neck ahead of Dude N Colorado when they ran two-three in the G3 Kitten’s Joy over a mile-sixteenth at Gulfstream Park, and Dude N Colorado then boosted that form when beating Webslinger by a half-length in a mile stakes at the same circuit.

That puts all three in the mix, while Wonderful Justice, unbeaten in two at the Fair Grounds, may not be anywhere near his ceiling judging by a neck victory over a mile-sixteenth on his stakes debut, with disappointing favorite Andthewinneris a length and a half back in fourth.

One to watch on his stakes debut is Carl Spackler, who hails from a barn with a deep wealth of turf runners and looked a horse with a big future when breaking his maiden over a mile at Gulfstream, hosing the opposition by eight and three-quarter lengths.

Transylvania Stakes Prediction

An absolute minefield. There is no form stand-out so perhaps very impressive maiden winner CARL SPACKLER can bridge the class gap for a real Cinderella story.

Transylvania Stakes Odds

Freedom TrailLanfranco Dettori+2000
WebslingerJavier Castellano+500
AndthewinnerisCorey J. Lanerie+1200
Wonderful Justice (GB)Florent Geroux+1200
Rarified FlairChris Landeros+2000
Mi Hermano RamonJohn R. Velazquez+1500
Mo StashLuis Saez+600
CandidateJoel Rosario+1000
NagirrocFlavien Prat+800
MovisitorAdam Beschizza+500
Carl Spackler (IRE)Tyler Gaffalione+300
Dude N Colorado (GB)Irad Ortiz, Jr.+450

Lafayette Stakes

Ungraded, $400,000, 7f dirt, 3yo, 4.12pm ET

The Lafayette is full of former Triple Crown hopefuls trying to reinvent themselves as sprinters, and is a very intriguing contest as a result.

It’s been six months since we last saw Gulfport, who chased home Forte in the seven-furlong G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga before running third in the G1 Champagne at Aqueduct over a mile. If he’s ready to rumble first time back he holds a distinct edge on form, but the opposition have race-fitness on their side.

The Kentucky Derby trail was too much for some of these – G3 Southwest flop Corona Bolt is perfect in sprints, including six-furlong stakes at the Fair Grounds, and tries seven furlongs for the first time; Determinedly was last in the G2 Risen Star and cuts right back after previously going coast-to-coast in a mile-sixteenth allowance at the Fair Grounds; Lugan Knight won a mile stakes at Aqueduct before being beaten a long way in the G3 Gotham Stakes.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile seventh Hurricane J returns to the scene of his six-furlong allowance win in October but must rebound off a terrible effort on the Turfway Park synthetic, while the over-hyped Hejazi ships in from California with a one-for-five resume, although that single win did come at six and a half furlongs.

Lafayette Stakes Prediction

 This could be the ideal spot for CORONA BOLT, who is three-for-three in sprints and whose talent for front-running can put those cutting back out of their comfort zone.

Lafayette Stakes Odds

GulfportTyler Gaffalione+350
Lugan KnightLuis Saez+800
HejaziJohn R. Velazquez+160
DeterminedlyFlavien Prat+500
Corona BoltFlorent Geroux+250
Freezing PointGerardo Corrales+3000
Hurricane JJoseph Talamo+2000

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