Negligee makes 3-year-old debut in Ashland

Trainer John Terranova understands there may be some need for a refresher course where his filly Negligee is concerned.

While most of her comrades in the 3-year-old division have been battling for supremacy this season, Negligee has been cooling her heels for the better part of the last six-and-a-half months, having not run since a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 6.

But as she gears up for her 3-year-old debut in Saturday's Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, her connections hope she can remind everyone there are two champions in the field.

Eclipse Award champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner She Be Wild may be the glamour horse in the $400,000 Ashland Stakes, but Negligee has quietly racked up a respectful body of work in her four career starts.

Last October, in her first race outside of Canada, Negligee defeated She Be Wild by a half-length in the Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland, a victory that helped her secure the Sovereign Award as Canada's champion 2-year-old filly.

She Be Wild avenged that loss with her Breeders' Cup victory one month later, but Negligee was beaten just 13/4 lengths that day despite shying away from jockey Rajiv Maragh's whip in the lane.

The fact she recovered from her mid-stretch zig-zag was further evidence of Negligee's talent. It was also proof, however, the delicately built filly needed to mature before being thrown into her 3-year-old campaign.

"It was all by design," Terranova said of Negligee's extended break. "We wanted to give her the winter off and just freshen her up after the Breeders' Cup. She's kind of a lighter-build filly and we wanted to let her grow up a bit.

"She did run very well in the Breeders' Cup but ... when (Maragh) went to hit her left-handed and she ducked from it and made a right-handed turn, it knocked her off stride a bit, but otherwise she was going to be right there. She's a real talented little girl and I'm hoping for some good things for her this year."

Negligee's Breeders' Cup effort was not the first time she had impressed her connections in defeat. After breaking her maiden in her first time out at Woodbine last July, Negligee came back to run second behind the Terranova-trained Franny Freud in the Ontario Debutante on Aug. 15.

Despite the loss, Terranova and Sovereign Stables were so impressed with how she performed they decided to purchase her from then-owners Quintessential Racing and Norman Casse.

"We kind of knew how good the other filly (Franny Freud) was and we liked what we saw with it being just her second start," Terranova said. "We thought she looked like a filly who might stretch out. She just ran the right kind of race and that got our attention. And it's worked out really well so far."

She Be Wild has only made one start this season, a fifth-place finish in the Grade II, 7-furlong Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park — her first try over a dirt surface.

The Wayne Catalano-trained filly returns to her preferred synthetic surface in the Ashland. All four of She Be Wild's wins have come on synthetics.

Should neither champion filly give a top effort, the hard-trying Evening Jewel could get her first Grade I win.

Evening Jewel came within a nose of defeating multiple Grade I winner Blind Luck in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 13 and has been off the board just once in seven starts.

Evening Jewel also has run with top male contenders, finishing second to eventual Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Caracortado in an allowance race last December at Hollywood Park.

"The She Be Wilds and the Blind Lucks get a lot more attention than she does but she's trained well and she's a very honest filly," said James Cassidy, trainer of Evening Jewel. "She tries her heart out every time she runs and if she wins, she'll be right up there with them."

Negligee has already proven she can be among the elite members of her division. If she can duplicate that form on Saturday, Terranova's next mission will be to get his filly ready for the Kentucky Oaks off only one prep.

"Hopefully we have her ready. She's giving me all the right signs," Terranova said. "She is a real class filly so I guess we'll see how she does Saturday and play it by ear off of that, but she's coming in good."