12/30/2011 4:06PM

Aqueduct: Nicole H seeks fresh start in Interborough


OZONE PARK, N.Y. − The way she reeled off three consecutive victories here last winter and spring, Nicole H had her connections thinking big. But after an illness sidelined her for the summer and most of the fall, Nicole H will have to start over again if she is to realize those lofty expectations.

Nicole H will attempt to start 2012 the same way she began 2011 − by winning the Interborough Stakes, which will be run for the 91st time Sunday as part of a nine-race New Year’s Day program at Aqueduct. The Interborough, which carries a $75,000 purse and is run at six furlongs, shares billing on the card with the $75,000 Ladies Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

Nicole H won last year’s Interborough by 2 1/2 lengths as part of a three-race winning streak that began with the Garland of Roses and concluded with the Grade 2 Distaff over Aqueduct’s main track in April. Nicole H then suffered from a severe illness that kept her away from the races until October, when she came back with a nose loss to It’s Me Mom in the Robert M O’Malley Stakes at Suffolk on Oct. 22.

“The hope then and the hope again was she’d be a Grade 1 filly,” said Mike Hushion, who trains Nicole H for John Waken’s GEM Racing. “We hope this race would be a stepping-stone to the Barbara Fritchie [at Laurel in February] and then off to the spring.”

Hushion said his filly ran well in the O’Malley at Suffolk, though he thought his filly was “a work short” of being at her best.

Though Nicole H does have to carry top weight of 123 pounds under Ramon Dominguez, her stalking style would appear to work in her favor with speed types Winning Image, Isn’t She Grand, and Don’tgetsuspicious in the field.

Nicole H will spot seven pounds to Aquitania, who carries a four-race winning streak into the Interborough for trainer Hamilton Smith. Aquitania has won 5 of 6 since getting blinkers added; her lone bad race came over yielding turf at Delaware Park.

“We tried her long on turf, but she prefers to be a sprinter on the dirt,” Smith said. “As of right now we have no excuses going in. We hope she runs her last two races back. With all the speed in there, she should be sitting back off the pace. Let’s just hope she likes the inner track.”

Bold Affair won three of her first five races, including the Jostle Stakes at Parx in June. After finishing third in the Dearly Precious at Monmouth, Bold Affair needed to have a chip removed from a knee. She came back with a pace-pressing neck victory in a third-level allowance at Parx on Dec. 13.

“She beat a decent field, and that’s not her style to press the pace,” said trainer Howard Wolfendale, the father of NYRA paddock personality Maggie Wolfendale. “There looks like there’s plenty of pace in there. We’ll give her a test because there are some fillies in there that can run.”

Stewart Elliott, who is 2 for 2 on Bold Affair, will ride her Sunday.