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2023 Ashland Stakes Replay | Defining Purpose Upsets Punchbowl, Julia Shining In Oaks Prep
Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

2023 Ashland Stakes Replay | Defining Purpose Upsets Punchbowl, Julia Shining In Oaks Prep

Defining Purpose won the 2023 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, a major 100-point prep race for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), while upsetting the likes of Punchbowl, Julia Shining, & Wonder Wheel. Is this Kenny McPeek-trained daughter of Cross Traffic for real, or is another filly a better play in the Oaks? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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Blue Grass Day 2023 Betting Bible

The Racing Dudes Betting Bible features the EXACT race-by-race wagering plan for Aaron Halterman and Jared Welch, the two founders of, on April 8, 2023 at Keeneland. Includes pace analysis, Pick 4 and Pick 5 tickets, ROI stats, and Top 4 picks for each race from our team of expert handicappers!

The track press release:

MagdalenaRacing, Colette Marie Vanmatre and James Ball’s Defining Purpose surged to the front at the top of the stretch and then held off late bids from favored Punchbowl and Julia Shining to score a half-length victory in the 86th running of the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies to highlight opening day of the 15-day Keeneland Spring Meet. 

Trained by Kenny McPeek and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Defining Purpose covered the 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:43.31. The victory is the third in the race for McPeek, who also won in 2002 with Take Charge Lady and in 2014 with Rosalind. 

The victory in the Central Bank Ashland, the year’s first Grade 1 race for sophomore fillies, was worth 100 points toward the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run May 5 at Churchill Downs. Defining Purpose has 107 points and is third on the Oaks leaderboard with three points races remaining until the Run for the Lilies. The Oaks is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box. 

The cutoff line for the Oaks after Friday is 46 points, and that spot is held by Julia Shining, who picked up 30 points for finishing third. Punchbowl picked her initial 40 points and ranks 16th while Guns n’ Graces picked up 20 points to boost her total to 40 points and is 18th on the leaderboard. Champion Wonder Wheel, who finished sixth, has 48 points and ranks 12th

In the Central Bank Ashland, Effortlesslyelgant led the field of seven through unopposed fractions of :23.62, :47.25 and 1:11.64 with Defining Purpose tracking second to her outside. Meanwhile, Punchbowl, with Flavien Prat aboard, raced along the rail with Julia Shining and Luis Saez to her outside racing a joint third a couple of lengths back. 

At the top of the stretch, Defining Purpose kicked clear and had enough left to hold off Punchbowl to her immediate outside and Julia Shining three wide. 

Defining Purpose, a Keeneland sales graduate, is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Cross Traffic out of the Strong Hope mare Defining Hope. The victory was worth $362,700 and improved her earnings to $543,688 with a record of 7-3-0-1.  

Defining Purpose returned $42.68, $11.66 and $5.74. Punchbowl returned $3.46 and $2.78 and finished a neck in front of Julia Shining who paid $3.74 to show. 

It was another 3¼ lengths back to Guns n’ Graces with Effortlesslyelgant, Wonder Wheel and Pride of the Nile following in order. 

Quotes for the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1)

Kenny McPeek (winning trainer of Defining Purpose)

On whether the win was as big an upset as her 20-1 odds on the tote board reflected 

“I’m not overly surprised. She had a couple of reasons why: She fell off a little bit of form in her last two (third in the listed Martha Washington Stakes and sixth in the Grace 3 Honeybee, both at Oaklawn). She hooked a couple of muddy race tracks. The last trip (in the Honeybee) she had was really wide and wider.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. (winning rider)

“(Her early position) was great. When she went around the first turn and got her position so nice and smoothly and settled into a nice rhythm, going down the backside I was just thinking to myself, ‘Be patient, just wait and wait and let her travel well.’ And that’s what she did. When she turned for home she kicked on, and with the short stretch to the sixteenth pole, I was pretty confident in her.”

Flavien Prat (rider of runner-up Punchbowl)

“Unfortunately she had to wait to get out (of traffic.) I couldn’t go by the winner. She made a good run.”

Luis Saez (rider of third-place finisher Julia Shining)

“She’s still learning. We came to the half-mile pole and I thought we were going to win the race, but the horse on the lead never stopped. (The blinkers) helped a lot. She was way better. She was in the bridle the whole way. I feel like she has so much talent, she just needs to put it together.”

Tyler Gaffalione (rider of champion and second choice Wonder Wheel, who finished sixth)

“She broke well and put herself in a good spot. It just wasn’t her day.”