Stakes recap by Keeneland’s publicity department (Keeneland photo of Defining Purpose and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. winning the Grade 1 Ashland)
LEXINGTON, KY (April 7, 2023) – Magdalena Racing, 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.