09/12/2013 3:06PM

Belmont: Better Lucky has been waiting all summer for Noble Damsel


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ELMONT, N.Y. – The connections of Better Lucky are hoping there’s some truth to the adage about good things coming to those who wait as their 4-year-old filly makes her first start in three months in Saturday’s Grade  3, $200,000 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont Park.

There was nothing physically amiss with Better Lucky following her second-place finish to Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade 1 Just a Game here on June 8. It’s just that her connections didn’t think there was a race at the appropriate distance at Saratoga for Better Lucky, noting that a race like the Diana at 1 1/8 miles was probably too far.

“There was nothing at Saratoga for her. We had to wait for the right spot. This looked like the right race to bring her back off the Just a Game,” trainer Tom Albertrani said.

Albertrani said he is hoping to use this one-mile turf race as a stepping-stone to the Grade  1 First Lady at Keeneland in early October.

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Better Lucky has run well fresh in the past, winning her debut on dirt as a 2-year-old in December 2011 and running second in the Lake George last summer off a two-month layoff.

“She runs good fresh, there’s no downside about that,” Albertrani said. “She’s in good form, looks great, she’s training really well. We’re happy with her going into the race.”

Javier Castellano rides Better Lucky, the 123-pound highweight from post 3.

Hungry Island finished three lengths behind Better Lucky when third in the Just a Game and appeared to be going the wrong way coming out of the race. Trainer Shug McGaughey sent her to Fair Hill, a training center in Maryland, where her attitude changed. McGaughey brought her back in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, where she finished fourth, beaten four lengths in a race where the top three finishers ran 1-2-3 all the way around the course.

“She had gotten to where she was a little bit nasty, didn’t act like she was enjoying what she was doing,” McGaughey said. “Got her down there and changed her routine a little bit; seemed to work. We’ll find out more on Saturday.”

Hungry Island is a three-time winner over the Belmont turf course and has never finished worse than third in nine tries at a mile. John Velazquez rides from post 6.

Naples Bay won this race last year at 13-1 for Christophe Clement, but has not won since. She is coming off a decent second-place finish in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth on July 28.

Assateague, trained by Michael Matz, has won two straight, including an allowance here in June. She defeated fellow Noble Damsel entrant Laugh Out Loud in the De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga.

Peace Preserver, dominant winner of the Pebbles Stakes here last year, is 3 for 6 at a mile and may appreciate a return to Belmont, where most recently she finished second to Hessonite in the Grade 3 Beaugay.