On a day when the 22-degree temperature with the wind-chill made it more like Christmas than Easter, it figured Christmas Kid would win the $500,000 Ashland Stakes.
It also figured Hucking Hot would not be a wise bet -- because the day was not. It so happened Hucking Hot dumped rider Rafael Bejarano and ran off from the post parade.
In the day's most carefully enunciated disclosure, track announcer Kurt Becker informed the crowd of 12,937 that Hucking Hot was scratched.
That left eight fillies to break from the gate for the 11/16-mile, Grade I stakes that constitutes a major prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
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Bursting through on the rail turning for home, Christmas Kid initially got a 2-length lead, then managed to hold off the favorite, Octave, through the stretch to win by a head.
With Dawn After Dawn finishing third, the winner completed the race in 1:42.90, paying $21.
Christmas Kid's breeder and owner, Edward P. Evans, has Kentucky Derby history in his family. His father bred and raced Derby winner Pleasant Colony. Does the Oaks similarly figure in Christmas Kid's future?
Evans wasn't sure.
"The Oaks will have a different cast of characters," Evans said cautiously, referring specifically to the Todd Pletcher-trained Rags to Riches.
Yet Steve Moyer, assistant for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, seemed ready to throw caution to fate.
"Who wouldn't be thinking of the Oaks?" Moyer asked. "She's a Grade I winner on Polytrack. She's a graded stakes-winner on dirt (Davona Dale) and a stakes winner on turf (Tropical Park Oaks). What more could you ask for?"
Jerkens and Evans will talk it over.
Christmas Kid shipped to Keeneland last Sunday from New York, her home base. According to Moyer, the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of Christmas Gift acted "very confident" during the week leading up to the Ashland Stakes. I was excited about running her."
Christmas Kid had been engaged in a rivalry with High Again, with both winning one race apiece over the other. Another rivalry loomed in this race, between Mistical Plan and Octave, who had finished 1-2 in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
But on the Keeneland track, all rivalries collapsed. High Again did not get close to Christmas Kid. Octave finished ahead of Mistical Plan but had to settle for second.
The battle came down to Christmas Kid and Octave in the deep stretch, with the latter chipping away at Christmas Kid's lead until she got within a head.
"She was coming, but my horse had plenty left," insisted Christmas Kid's rider, Rene Douglas.
Garrett Gomez, who rode Octave, said that once his filly got going, "she ran a good race."
Mistical Plan might have been victimized by the pressure she got from Elitist through the first three-quarters. Jockey Robby Albarado said the pressure "compromised our chances at the end."
Earlier on the program, Carnacks Choice, with Julien Leparoux riding, took the $114,200 Lafayette Stakes by a neck over Call Me Clash, with Ollie Jet finishing third. Larry Richardson owns the winner.
When: Through April 27. No racing today, Monday or Tuesday.
Post time: 1:15 p.m.; gates open at 11 a.m.
Admission: Grandstand $3. Reserved seats $6 weekdays, $8 Saturdays and Sundays. Parking is free.
Stakes schedule, C13