TORONTO, April 4 – Nipissing, a bay Chiefswood Stables homebred undefeated in four juvenile starts, makes her three-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes, at Keeneland.
The Ashland, a key stepping stone towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, on the eve of the Kentucky Derby, has drawn a full field of 14, plus two horses on the also-eligible list, as Nipissing will make her sophomore debut against a talented group that includes graded stakes winners, and Woodbine-based fillies, Spring Venture and Spring in the Air.
Nipissing, however, with a pair of stakes wins to her impressive resume, doesn’t lack for class as she embarks on a campaign that will lead to the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, on June 9.
Trained by Rachel Halden, the talented Ontario-bred filly was a winner at first asking in August.
“She’s always been a classy and sensible filly,” said Halden. “She showed potential early and acted like she’d been there before.”
In her second start, Nipissing ran down Leinan, a Kentucky-bred filly who would later win the Glorious Song Stakes, with a driving finish under regular pilot, Steve Bahen, completing seven furlongs on the ‘Poly’ in 1:23.12.
That result prompted Nipissing’s first foray into added-money company, the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, and Halden’s star miss did not disappoint, while tackling two turns for the first time.
“She didn’t break as sharply, but Steve got her settled nicely and into a good position,” recalled Halden. “Barb Minshall’s horse (Strut the Course) made a move and blew by her on the turn and looked like she was going to go on and win. But, once she (Nipissing) got straightened away, and had that filly in her sights, she ran her down. It was an impressive performance.”
(Rachel Halden and Nipissing.)
Nipissing completed her campaign with a four-length win in the South Ocean Stakes on April 18 and enjoyed a little rest and relaxation before starting up again at Payson Park in January.
“She’s grown a little bit,” noted Halden. “But, she was mature and straight forward, even as a two-year-old.”
Halden, who gallops her own horses in the morning, is pleased with how Nipissing has been training – – and the filly boasts a long string of works, every seven days like clockwork, since early February.
“She’s real competitive in her training and when she sees horses in front of her she jumps on the bridle to pull you by them,” laughed Halden. “She’s definitely got the right attitude.”
Having run through her conditions as a juvenile, finding the right spot for a 2013 debut has been difficult.
“We’re actually very limited where she could go, and while this isn’t an ideal spot for a comeback, it is Polytrack and the right distance, so here we are and we’re going to give it a shot,” said Halden.
Halden is cautiously optimistic regarding her filly’s chances on Saturday when she breaks from post 2, with Bahen in command.
“We’re in a good post. I’d rather the inside than the outside here going a mile and a sixteenth,” said Halden. “She’s very versatile and very rateable. Steve’s just going to have to figure that out, what the pace is, and hope for a good trip.”
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FIELD FOR THE GRADE 1 ASHLAND
PP / Horse / Jockey / Trainer
1 / Tuttipaesi (IRE)/ Alan Garcia/ Graham Motion
2 / Nipissing (ON)/ Steve Bahen/ Rachel Halden
3 / Private Ensign (KY)/ Corey Lanerie/ Dale Romans
4 / Spring Venture (KY)/ Miguel Mena/ Mark Casse
5 / Broken Spell (KY)/ Joe Rocco/ D. Wayne Lukas
6 / Redressthebalance (IRE)/ Jesus Castanon/ Doug O’Neill
7 / Kitten’s Point (PA)/ Edgar Prado/ Graham Motion
8 / Kitten’s Dumplings (KY)/ Shaun Bridgmohan/ Michael Maker
9 / Allanah (KY)/ Norberto Arroyo/ Kellyn Gorder
10 / Every Way (KY)/ James Graham/ Michael Stidham
11 / Spring in the Air (ON)/ Patrick Husbands/ Mark Casse
12 / Wave Theory (KY)/ Julien Leparoux/ Chad Brown
13 / Emollient (KY)/ Mike Smith/ Bill Mott
14 / Magical Moon (MD)/ Rosie Napravnik/ Albert Stall, Jr.
15 / Adriani (KY)/ Joel Rosario/ David Fawkes
16 / Cash Is Queen (KY)/ Robby Albarado/ Stephen Lyster