04/14/2011 4:29PM

Aqueduct: Nicole H back from winter vacation in Distaff Handicap


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – In the enviable position of having two stakes-caliber fillies capable of doing similar things, trainer Mike Hushion and owner John Waken had the luxury of mapping out the schedule they wanted with both Nicole H and Harissa.

Thus far, things have worked out perfectly as the two 4-year-old fillies have combined to go 5 for 5 in stakes races since last December. While Harissa has carried the load recently, going 3 for 3 including a victory in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie, Nicole H will get the chance to uphold her end when she returns from a 13-week layoff in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.

Nicole H has not started since winning the Interborough Stakes here on New Year’s Day by the same 2 1/2 lengths she won the Garland of Roses here by four weeks earlier. Wanting to have a fresh horse for the more lucrative stakes that lay ahead, Hushion and Waken opted to give Nicole H a break.

Hushion said the harsh winter weather did not inhibit Nicole H’s training for the Distaff and pointed to a five-furlong work in 59.25 seconds on April 3 as an indication of the filly’s readiness.

“She had a real strong gallop out in 1:13, that was kind of giving her a race to get her ready for a race,’’ Hushion said.

The Distaff will be Nicole H’s first start at seven furlongs since the second start of her career, 15 months ago at Santa Anita. Hushion said in the Interborough Nicole H demonstrated the ability to relax.

“By far her best race as far as relaxing,’’ Hushion said. “Gave us more confidence as far as running seven-eighths.’’

Nicole H will break from the outside post in the five-horse field under Channing Hill.

Spacy Tracy returns to Aqueduct, where last Nov. 26 she won the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap, a one-turn mile race. She comes into this race off a last-place finish to Havre de Grace in the Grade 3 Azeri on March 19. Trainer Tony Dutrow said the Azeri was just a starting point for Spacy Tracy.

“She was only so far along,’’ Dutrow said. “I thought that would set her up just right to go into the Distaff. We’ll see if the best-laid plans work out.’’

Wild News, breaking from the rail under C.C. Lopez, looks the main speed of the race. Qualia, figures to be chasing in her first start since finishing third in last year’s Top Flight. Kid Kate will seek to bounce back from a last-place finish in the Barbara Fritchie.

◗ Due to an antiquated state law, Aqueduct will be dark on Palm Sunday (April 17).