- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY. (AP) - Hooh Why turned in her best performance when and where it mattered most.

The Florida-bred filly was supposed to be an also-ran in the $400,000 Ashland Stakes Saturday at Keeneland, a race that seemed to set up as a coronation for Eclipse winner Stardom Bound’s attempt at a sixth straight Grade I win.

But instead, it was Hooh Why, the second longest shot on the board at 24-1, who had the star power. She took the lead before the quarter pole and never relinquished it _ although she came awfully close to doing so.

“My heart’s pounding out of my chest,” said trainer Donna Dupuy, who called the victory the biggest one of her career.

Bred in Florida and having won only twice in nine lifetime starts _ neither of them Grade I races _ Hooh Why now is on a path to crash the premier race for 3-year-old fillies, the May 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Owner Mark Hoffman acknowledged he was eyeing that race but had more pressing concerns Saturday.

“I just want the horse gods to bring my filly back in one piece,” Hoffman said. “Right now we’ll just sit and absorb all this because we’ve been waiting a long time.”

Corey Lanerie rode Hooh Why as a substitute for scheduled jockey Rene Douglas, who was sick.

Before the Ashland, the Oaks was looking like Stardom Bound’s race to lose. But Saturday, trainer Rick Dutrow, who trained Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown last year, couldn’t even guarantee that she would be running.

“We are going to re-evaluate where we are,” Dutrow said.

Stardom Bound failed to win for only the third time in eight lifetime starts. The Eclipse winner for the top 2-year-old filly had won twice this year after an impressive debut season that ended in the winner’s circle at the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

She was such a commodity that she fetched a whopping $5.7 million at auction last year at Fasig-Tipton, going to Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables. Bobby Frankel was hired to condition her for the West Coast races while Dutrow took over for the East Coast ones.

But Saturday just wasn’t Stardom Bound’s day. She was running last in the nine-horse field halfway through, and a late charge allowed her to only finish third, nearly four lengths behind the winner.

“My mare ran well, but she certainly didn’t run her A-game,” Stardom Bound’s jockey Mike Smith said. “A little eager down the backside, there was nowhere to go at that point. I had to tap on the brakes one time. She kind of dropped it and never was really into it after that.”

The only horse that seriously threatened Hooh Why was Gozzip Girl, who made a furious stretch run to take second, a neck out of the lead.

“I wish the race had been a sixteenth of a mile longer because I think I would have won,” Gozzip Girl’s jockey Miguel Mena said.

Hooh Why took $248,000 of the $400,000 purse and returned $50, $15.40 and $6.20 to bettors. Gozzip Girl paid $8.80 and $4.20. Stardom Bound, the 7-10 favorite, was $2.10 to show.

Hoffman acknowledged he was nervous as the other horses approached Hooh Why’s lead down the stretch. But that’s how she always runs, he said.

“I’ve been saying all week her turn’s coming,” he said. “Look how she does it. She just loves drama. She’s always right there, lets them come for her, then she just fights and fights.”

He says he wasn’t sure how Hooh Why got her name but suspected it had something to do with Al Pacino’s catch phrase in the movie, “Scent of a Woman.” If there were any thoughts in the Hooh Why camp that she wouldn’t be able to pull the upset, Dupuy said Hoffman kept assuring them it was her day.

“Mark told us last night he had a vision and that today was her day,” Dupuy said. “Of course, he says a lot of crazy things.”

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