ARCADIA, CA — Full of run and fourth at the rail turning for home under Gary Stevens, California-bred Ashleyluvssugar exploded to split horses 1/16 of a mile from home en route to an impressive 1/2-length win in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Charles Whittingham Stakes.
Trained by Peter Eurton, the 6-year-old Game Plan gelding negotiated a mile and a 1/4 on turf in 1:58.49, his second win in the race named for racing’s legendary “Bald Eagle.” He previously won in 2015.
Reversing tactics from his third-place finish going a mile and 1/2 in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes on March 25, a race in which he went to the early lead, “Ashley” was taken back and covered up in the early stages by Stevens today.
“I talked to Pete this morning and were on the same page, we didn’t want to be sitting ducks like last time,” said Stevens. “My horse can’t sustain a long run, but he runs a long ways. I pulled on him, and he settled for me. They were lined up going down the backside, and they were going a fair enough pace for a mile and a 1/4. I was hoping for room, and I got the split I needed. He just exploded.”
Owned by his breeders, Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Ciaglia Racing Stable, LLC, Ashleyluvssugar picked up $120,000 for the win, boosting his earnings to $1,289,004. A perfect two-for-two now at a mile and a 1/4 on turf, he’s now 22-10-3-4 overall.
“At this point in his career, at his age, I think he’s much better when we can get him covered up and make a run,” said Eurton. “Being on the lead, going this far, at his age, he gets tired. It’s difficult to take all that pressure. As you could see, he was a little keen that first 1/4. He’s better off running this way.
“He’s like a little deer, he just keeps on going. He just has amazing lungs to do it, each and every time.”
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Frank Conversation sat second most of the trip to pacesetter Patentar and ran gallantly to be second, finishing a head in front of Irish-bred Syntax. Far off the early pace, Syntax and rider Rafael Bejarano surged through the lane to just miss the place, finishing a nose in front of Liam the Charmer. Itsinthepost, Texas Ryano, Up With The Birds, Patentar, Prince of Arabia, and A Red Tie Day completed the order of finish.
Fractions on the race were 23.86, 47.78, 1:11.16, 1:34.45, and 1:58.49.
Ashleyluvssugar returned $7, $3.80, and $3. Frank Conversation brought back $7.80 and $4.20, while Syntax paid $4.60 to show.
Additional Race Quotes
Co-Owner Joe Ciaglia, Ashleyluvssugar: “Gary’s really riding well now, and he’s got a lot of confidence in this horse. At this distance, this horse has a pretty good turn of foot when we’re able to take him off the pace. He had to wait, but it looked like he kinda re-rallied. Gary thought it looked like there was a lot of speed in the race, and he was right. This is such a neat horse.”
Santa Anita Park