09/25/2013 4:42PM

Belmont Park: Willet goes a little longer in Princess Dixie Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Willet has shown she can get the 7 1/2-furlong distance in Friday's feature, finishing a strong second at a mile in the Grade 2 Go for Wand last November.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Jimmy Iselin didn’t want Willet, his New York-bred stakes-winning mare, to go nine weeks between starts, so while it might not be ideal, Willet will run in Friday’s $100,000 Princess Dixie Stakes at Belmont Park.

Iselin is pointing Willet to the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, a race she won last year by 9 1/4 lengths. The Iroquois is at seven furlongs. Friday’s Princess Dixie is scheduled for 7 1/2 furlongs.

“We need to run her,” Iselin said. “It’s the only race in the book available, so we’re going to be happy to run her. Right now, she’s doing well. We’ll see how she does at 7 1/2.”

Iselin noted that Willet was beaten just a neck in the Grade 2 Go for Wand Handicap at one mile last fall at Aqueduct, so “the distance shouldn’t be an issue.”

Willet, a 5-year-old daughter of Jump Start, is coming off a 1 3/4-length victory in the Union Avenue Stakes going six furlong at Saratoga. One race prior to that, Willet was beaten a nose by Clear Pasaj in the Lottsa Talc Stakes going seven furlongs.

Joel Rosario had ridden Willet in her last two starts, but he is recovering from a broken foot and is not scheduled to return until Oct. 12.

Iselin has named Angel Arroyo to ride Willet. Arroyo has made a favorable impression since moving his tack to New York from Parx Racing, winning four races from his first 26 mounts.

Willet’s prime competition figures to come from Miss Valentine, who is coming off a last-place finish to Willet in the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga, a race from which did not come out well.

“She ran awful in the stakes last time. She came back sore and somewhat unfit,” said Christophe Clement, trainer of Miss Valentine. “She seems to be training great. She looks great. She’s never run a bad race at Belmont. Let’s go.”

Clement said that the Iroquois is not necessarily the goal for Miss Valentine, who finished second behind Willet in that race a year ago.

Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Miss Valentine.

Mischief Maker has been a huge disappointment since returning from a layoff in June. She was third in the Saratoga Dew Stakes going 1 1/8 miles last out.

Fiftyfour Forever, scratched when she acted up in the gate Sunday, Dreaming of Cara, and Princess Mara complete the field.