03/04/2011 4:07PM

Humana Distaff the target for Harissa

Barbara D. Livingston
Harissa, winner of Laurel Park’s Barbara Fritchie Handicap, has the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs in May as her primary target this spring.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Harissa, who has won stakes around one turn and two, will be kept sprinting for the time being, with a mid-term goal being the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs in May, trainer Mike Hushion said Friday.

Harissa recorded her most prestigious win to date last month, capturing the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park by 2 1/4 lengths. She earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Since Hushion also trains the multiple stakes-winning sprinter Nicole H for the same owner, John Waken’ GEM Stable, he thought he might be stretching Harissa out in distance for her next start. Last year, Harissa raced well around two turns, winning the Sunland Park Oaks and running a good second in the Prairie Meadows Oaks and third in the Indiana Oaks. A start in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom – a two-turn, 1 1-16-mile race – would not have been out of the question.

“I guess they figure the best fillies in the country will be in the Apple Blossom,” Hushion said. “There’ll be no slouches in the [Humana] either. Either way, she’s going to belong.”

Meanwhile, Nicole H is being pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Stakes at six furlongs here April 16. Nicole H has not raced since winning the Interborough Stakes here on New Year’s Day. Prior to that, she won the Garland of Roses in December.

Hushion opted to skip the Correction with Nicole H, who on Thursday worked three furlongs in 37.22 seconds over Belmont’s training track.

“There wasn’t really a problem, it was more to set her up for a campaign for the rest of the year,” Hushion said of the three-month break.

The Hushion-trained Rodman, winner of the Grade 3 Queens County Stakes in 2009, worked five furlongs in 1:03.28 Friday morning, his first work since running second in an allowance race here Feb. 18. That was Rodman’s first race in 14 months.

“I thought it was fine,” Hushion said of Rodman’s return, in which he was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Hewitts. “I was a little disappointed when I saw the Beyer [78]. . . . We’ll see, he should he take a step forward.”

Hushion said he would likely seek another allowance race for Rodman.

It’s Tricky headed to Gulfstream

It’s Tricky, eight-length winner of the Busher Stakes here Feb. 20, left Belmont Park by van Friday morning headed for south Florida, where she is expected to make her next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks on April 2.

Following the Busher, her connections indicated that It’s Tricky could be pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Comely Stakes here or the Grade 1, $400,000 Ashland at Keneeland, both on April 9. But the Comely is run around one turn, while the Ashland is run over a synthetic surface. By running in the Gulfstream Oaks (formerly the Bonnie Miss), It’s Tricky is able to remain racing around two turns over conventional dirt.

It’s Tricky, a daughter of Mineshaft owned by Shiekh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Darley Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, is 3 for 3 overall and 2 for 2 around two turns. The Gulfstream Oaks also would give It’s Tricky an extra week to prepare for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, should she earn a spot in that race.

“She’s a really nice filly, we need to step up and see if she can compete at the top level around two turns,” McLaughlin said. “The one-turn mile Comely didn’t seem like the right thing to do. We had a lot of choices – Ashland, Fair Grounds Oaks, Fantasy, and the Gulfstream Park Oaks – we opted for the Gulfstream Oaks because we’re here. I’m sure R Heat Lightning is pointing that way. We’ll get a good line on our filly to see if she’s Kentucky Oaks bound.”

McLaughlin said that he will consider shipping In Step, a debut winner at Gulfstream on Feb. 20 to New York for the Comely. In Step, a half-sister to champion Vindication, was purchased for $1 million at auction by Darley Stable.

“We’re double jumping a little bit, but it is a graded stakes,” McLaughlin said.

Hawthorne shipper tops feature

The state of racing in New York is such that a horse who won a $5,000 claiming race at Penn National in his last start will likely be favored to win a weekend feature at Aqueduct.

Copper Forest, based at Hawthorne with trainer Larry Rivelli, looms the horse to catch under Ramon Dominguez in Sunday’s $41,000 New York-bred first-level allowance race going a mile over the inner track.

Copper Forest, a 5-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, will be making his first start against New York-breds in this spot. He has made only three starts on dirt, winning a $5,000 claimer at Hawthorne on Nov. 24 by 2 3/4 lengths and a $5,000 claimer at Penn National by 7 3/4 lengths on Jan. 17. His win at Hawthorne came over a wet track, which may serve him well since heavy rains are forecast for the New York area on Sunday. The rest of the field is 0 for 15 over a wet track.

Brunelli ran a decent third at this level over a wet track last out and looms the major threat.