01/14/2013 3:34PM

Aqueduct: Stakes up next for Cluster of Stars

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – From the connections that brought you the Grade 1-winning New York-bred Haynesfield comes Cluster of Stars, a 4-year-old filly who made quite the auspicious return to the races Sunday at Aqueduct.

In her first start since a debut 5 1/2-length maiden win last February, Cluster of Stars cruised to a 6 1/4-length score in a first-level allowance for New York-bred fillies and mares. Receiving basically a hand ride from Ramon Dominguez, Cluster of Stars stalked the speedy six-time winner Golden Galaxy, took over from that one at the five-sixteenths pole, and galloped home an easy winner. She ran six furlongs in 1:10.65 over a muddy track and earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. In a field of 11, she was sent off the 4-5 favorite.

Toby Sheets, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen’s New York operation, said that Cluster of Stars always showed promise but had some nagging issues that needed to be addressed. He credits owner Harvey Weinstein, head of Turtle Bird Stable, with showing patience to let the filly develop and mature.

“Turtle Bird has always been exceptional about letting you do the right thing by the horse, giving them every shot at being a decent horse,” Sheets said. “We liked her in the beginning, from Day 1.”

Cluster of Stars is by Greeley’s Galaxy out of the Honour and Glory mare Babyurthegreatest. It remains to be seen where Cluster of Stars goes from here, but possibilities include the Broadway Stakes on March 30 and a pair of Grade 2 stakes on April 6 – the Ruffian Handicap at one mile or the Distaff Handicap at six furlongs.

“We hope to keep her together and get to enjoy her,” Sheets said. “We’ll get her back to the track and see how she’s doing and go from there.”

◗ After missing last week due to an ankle injury, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is named on five horses on Wednesday’s card. Ortiz is tied for third in the standings with Cornelio Velasquez. Both have 21 wins. Ortiz’s brother Jose is tied for first in the jockey standings with Ramon Dominguez. Both have 28 wins.

◗ Wilmer Garcia will be out at least six months with a broken neck suffered in a car accident Jan. 2, according to his agent, Jose Henriquez.

Henriquez has taken over the book of apprentice Guillermo Rodriguez and will now also book mounts for journeyman Luis Perez.