04/11/2013 1:33PM

Aqueduct: Cluster of Stars aims for first graded stakes win in Distaff Handicap


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The connections of Cluster of Stars are acting like the shy, quiet type this week, electing to let their filly do the talking on race day.

By winning her first four starts, Cluster of Stars has made it plain and clear that she is extremely talented. On Saturday, the 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Greeley’s Galaxy seeks her first graded stakes victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.

The Distaff, carded at six furlongs, is the final graded event of the winter/spring meet at Aqueduct, which concludes April 21.

Cluster of Stars, owned by Harvey Weinstein’s Turtle Bird Stable and trained in New York by Steve Asmussen’s assistant, Toby Sheets, debuted in February 2012, winning a six-furlong maiden race by 5 1/2 lengths. She was away for 11 months due to some “nagging issues,” Sheets said in January after the filly’s successful return in a New York-bred allowance.

On Feb. 2, Cluster of Stars was most impressive in gutting out a head victory over eight-time stakes winner Nicole H in the Correction before winning an open-company allowance by 9 1/4 lengths March 14.

Cluster of Stars drew post 4 for the Distaff Handicap, which may make it easier for new pilot Junior Alvarado to rate her just slightly off the pace, if need be.

The southern Florida-based trainer Marty Wolfson, who won last weekend’s Grade 1 Carter with Swagger Jack, has the uncoupled entry of Spectacular Sky and Nakano. Spectacular Sky has plenty of early speed, something she displayed in winning the Manatee Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs two starts back. She also raced on the lead in the Grade 2 Inside Information at Gulfstream in March but was overtaken by Aubby K.

Wolfson said he was considering the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland for Spectacular Sky but said, “She doesn’t carry her speed on Poly like she does on dirt.”

Luis Saez rides Spectacular Sky from post 2.

Nakano is only 3 for 18 and is coming off a third in the Hurricane Bertie and a fourth in the Inside Information.

“If there’s a lot of speed, she’ll run well,” said Wolfson, who has Alex Solis to ride from post 4.

Villanesca is 2 for 2 at six furlongs, including a second-level allowance win over the inner track March 1. In her only start over the main track, last December, she won a first-level allowance race going 6 1/2 furlongs. She is well drawn in post 7 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., who is using a designated race exemption to ride this race during a time in which he is suspended.

“Obviously, she’s better under a mile and drew a great post,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.”She has to step it up; tough race.”

Hearts of Red, Lost Ojitos, and Miss d’Oro complete the field.