Ashland will feature Stars and Pears
While many are anticipating Stardom Bound's run in the Ashland, trainer Joseph Parker will only have eyes for WHAT A PEAR (E Dubai), who will put her undefeated mark on the line in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Polytrack test. The chestnut lass has increased her margin of victory with each of her four races, culminating last out with a 10 1/4-length score in the Busher S. at Aqueduct on February 22.
Parker, his wife, Betsy, and What a Pear left Aqueduct on a van about 2 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday and arrived at Keeneland around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. Several hours later, the New York-bred seemed quite content in her stall, and the Parkers were eager to talk about her.
"This filly keeps amazing us," Joe Parker said. "Every race that she has run, it's a different dimension. I'm looking forward to seeing what she's going to do next. We want to know how great she is; that's why we're here."
What a Pear will become the first Keeneland starter for Parker, who trains the filly for Ira and Bernice Cohen's Tri-Bone Stables. Parker met the Cohens through their son, New York track veterinarian Russell Cohen, who bred What a Pear. Russell Cohen advises Parker on What a Pear's career.
"He suggested the Ashland, and here we are," explained Parker, who had made one previous trip to Keeneland to visit and is excited to be back with a starter. "What I love about Keeneland is that it's all horse country. To be here is a thrill. I love this place. I love the smell of this place. I love the people here, too. They treat horse people with a lot of respect. I met the racing secretary (Ben Huffman) and the guys in the (racing) office, and they welcomed me. I'm so happy to be here."
The Ashland will be What a Pear's first start on Polytrack, but Parker said the filly will not set foot on the track before the race. He said she would walk the shedrow each morning.
"She's fit enough just to enter into the race, to walk right into the race and possibly win it."
Channing Hill, who has ridden What a Pear in each of her previous races, will fly in from California for the Ashland.
While What a Pear will be seeking to keep her record perfect, DREAM EMPRESS (Bernstein) is looking to return to the winner's circle. Queen of the Alcibiades S. (G1) during Keeneland's fall meet, the Kenny McPeek-trained bay was second to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup. She could do no better than fourth against Kentucky Oaks contender Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) when trying Churchill Downs' dirt in the Golden Rod S. (G2), and has made just one start since, that coming as an unplaced run in the Herecomesthebride S. (G3). Dream Empress will keep Kent Desormeaux aboard for her second start of the year.
Grass filly GOZZIP GIRL (Dynaformer), winner of the Herecomesthebride, could challenge in the Ashland if she takes to the Polytrack, and other contenders include Third Dawn, who shocked at 35-1 in the Santa Anita Oaks after having just broken her 21 days earlier in her fourth try, as well as BE FAIR (Exchange Rate), who suffered her first career loss when fourth in the Honeybee S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
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