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Aqueduct: Nicole H goes for third Interborough victory
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – On New Year’s Day 2012, Nicole H became the seventh horse to win the Interborough Stakes in two consecutive years, and the eighth to win it twice overall in 91 previous runnings.
On Tuesday – New Year’s Day 2013 – Nicole H will be favored to become the first horse to win the Interborough three times when she takes on seven fillies and mares in the six-furlong race at Aqueduct. The Interborough shares billing with the Ladies Handicap on Aqueduct’s nine-race New Year’s Day card. Both races carry purses of $75,000.
Nicole H, now a 6-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, brings a two-race winning streak into the Interborough. She won the $100,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park on Oct. 13 and came back five weeks later to take the $100,000 Daylily Stakes at Penn National, earning a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure. Nicole H defeated Winning Image both times. Winning Image came back to win the $100,000 Willa on the Move Stakes at Laurel on Dec. 15.
“She was a powerhouse both races,” said Mike Hushion, who trains Nicole H for John Waken’s Gem Inc.
Nicole H, who is 4 for 4 over the inner track, has continued to train forwardly since the Interborough, including a bullet half-mile in 47.88 seconds on Dec. 16. She went an easy three-eighths in 39 seconds on Saturday at Belmont.
“She’s been very good these past few months,” Hushion said. “I’m happy with everything about her. She’s the one to beat. We’ll see. It’d be a nice way to start the year.”
Nicole H is the 123-pound highweight and will concede 3 to 7 pounds to the rest of the field. She will break from post 2 under Ramon Dominguez.
The primary competition figures to come from Singlet, who is 2 for 2 over the inner track with victories in the Xtra Heat and Dearly Precious as a 3-year-old in 2012. She went winless in her next four starts before winning the Garland of Roses over Aqueduct’s main track on Dec. 1. She will break from the outside post under Mike Luzzi.
Mildly Offensive, trained by Todd Pletcher, comes off a second-place finish to the multiple stakes winner My Wandy’s Girl in the Pentelis Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 15. Mildly Offensive, owned by WinStar Farm, is expected to be bred later this winter.
Ms Cruisen’, Celtic Chant, Hot Roots, Silent Serenity, and Tanglewood Tale complete the field.
Arena Elvira tops Ladies field
The Ladies Handicap ain’t what she used to be.
A Grade 1 race back in the 1980s, the Ladies – the oldest stakes race in the U.S. exclusively for fillies and mares – is now a listed race worth $75,000.
Interest in the race has waned to the point where it was not run in 2006 or 2009, and it took three supplemental nominations to make Monday’s 141st renewal go with six horses. It is carded as race 3.
Arena Elvira, the only graded stakes winner in the field, and R Gypsy Gold, a multiple overnight stakes winner, are the two protagonists in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies.
The two began their 2012 campaigns facing one another, with Arena Elvira defeating R Gypsy Gold by a head in the Wayward Lass at Tampa last March.
That was the fifth consecutive stakes victory for Arena Elvira, who had that streak broken when she finished third in the Sixty Sails at Hawthorne in April.
Following a break, Arena Elvira was soundly beaten in both the Turnback the Alarm and Fall City handicaps, but her connections believe she is ready to fire in her third start off a layoff.
Neil Poznansky, who is overseeing trainer Bill Mott’s New York string this winter, said earlier this week that Arena Elvira has “been training lights out” for this engagement.
Arena Elvira did win a 1 1/8-mile maiden race over the inner track in 2010. Junior Alvarado rides Arena Elvira, the 120-pound highweight, from post 5.
Following her loss in the Wayward Lass, R Gypsy Gold won the Endear Stakes at Belmont on July 4, but went winless in four graded stakes tries thereafter.
Villanesca is 2 for 4 but will be attempting 1 1/8 miles and two turns for the first time. Smart Cash and Dial Direct make up a Jose Corales-trained entry for Stronach Stables that was supplemented to the field, as was Silver Prize, a winner of two straight one-turn mile races restricted to New York-breds.
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