June 7, 2023

Speech sets new Keeneland mark in Ashland

Speech wins the Ashland Stakes (Coady Photography)

Another stakes and track record fell in a Road to the Kentucky Oaks prep at Keeneland on Saturday when Speech romped to a three-length tally in the $392,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) in a time of 1:41.26 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast strip.

Tracking in second as odds-on favorite Venetian Harbor carved out fractions of :24.04, :47.14, and 1:10.44, Speech bid for the lead around the far turn, collared the long-time leader entering the short stretch, and drew off under Javier Castellano.

Scratched from Friday’s Beaumont (G2) in which Four Graces set a new track record for the Beard Course of 7 furlongs 184 feet, Speech earned her first stakes win here and paid $10 for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Madaket Stable. The daughter of Mr Speaker is trained by Michael McCarthy.

Venetian Harbor easily held second by 3 3/4 lengths over stakes newcomer Envoutante, with Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) heroine Bonny South fourth and Alta’s Award the trailer. Tonalist’s Shape was scratched.

Second in the Santa Ysabel (G3) in March and in last month’s Santa Anita Oaks (G2) to Swiss Skydiver, Speech added 100 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to her previous total of 60 points. Venetian Harbor earned 40 points, increasing her total to 90; Envoutante notched her first 20 points; and Bonny South increased her total 10 points to 110.

In addition to her good run against Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks, Speech’s quality was evident two starts back in an Oaklawn Park allowance, when she stretched subsequent Acorn (G1) romper Gamine to a neck after a thrilling stretch duel.

“Today it was more easy,” said Castellano when comparing the Oaklawn allowance to the Ashland. “Everything fell in the right [place] for the filly to win the race.”

An earner of $353,840 from a line of 7-2-4-1, Speech was bred in Florida by Gail Rice, Speech was a $190,000 OBS March juvenile purchase. She was produced by Scribbling Sarah, by Freud.