Hooh Why wins Ashland Stakes

For much of her career, Hooh Why has been the reliable one — always there for support while others snatched away the spotlight.

After months of being in the shadows, Hooh Why decided it was about time she stole some thunder for herself.

Champion Stardom Bound may have commanded the attention prior to the Grade I Ashland Stakes on Saturday, but it was Hooh Why who ruled over the 11⁄16-mile contest before a crowd of 30,550 at Keeneland.

The hard-trying but overlooked daughter of Cloud Hopping scored a gate-to-wire upset at odds of 24-1, holding off a charge from Gozzip Girl to earn her first career graded stakes win by a neck with Stardom Bound third.

Although Hooh Why had not won since taking an allowance race at Woodbine last October, the chestnut filly has only been off the board once in her 10-race career, even finishing second against males in Woodbine's Display Stakes on Dec. 6.

Then, on March 7, the improving filly flashed her high-quality potential when she was beaten just a head by Stardom Bound in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks.

"It was her turn today, I've been saying all week her turn is coming," exclaimed Mark Hoffman, who co-owns Hooh Why along with breeder Gail Gee. "We've been waiting patiently and look what she does, she loves drama.

"She's always right there, she fights and fights. She won this for all the small people, she represents all the small breeders."

Now, Hooh Why represents the first Grade I win for both her owners and her faithful trainer, Donna Dupuy.

As Stardom Bound — who was seeking her sixth straight Grade I win — took her customary position near the back of the nine-horse field, Hooh Why maintained a one-length advantage over Be Fair as she cut fractions of :24.44 and :48.58 on the front end.

Stardom Bound started to roll as the field reached the far turn, but by that point Hooh Why had opened up by 11/2 lengths and was still moving well under jockey Corey Lanerie — who gained the mount when jockey Rene Douglas had to take off his mounts because of illness.

"With our horse's running style, she looked like she could maybe go all the way," a breathless Dupuy said. "Stardom Bound closes from way back but I think the track was a little better suited for our horse to win. She gives her heart every time she runs and she did it today, too."

With Stardom Bound struggling to deliver her patented closing kick, Hooh Why had just enough to hold off Gozzip Girl, who closed gamely from midpack as the winner hit the wire in 1:43.80.

"My filly ran well but she certainly didn't have her 'A' game," said Mike Smith, jockey for Stardom Bound. "I was able to get her out in good order and I didn't lose much ground, but when I called on her she just seemed to climb down the lane.

"She seemed to come back great jogging back, it was like she didn't run. I don't know if it was the track or what."

When asked if Stardom Bound would go on to the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Rick Dutrow said, "We are going to re-evaluate where we are."

The Oaks may or may not be in Hooh Why's future as she did run a solid third in the Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, her lone start on the dirt.

For the time being, however, her connections are thrilled she has finally moved into the spotlight — a place they always believed she belonged.

"When we were getting her ready last summer, we thought she was pretty special because every thing she did she's come back like 'Is that it?'," Dupuy said. "I can't even describe this to be honest, my heart is pounding. She's a gamer."