02/16/2012 3:58PM

Laurel: Nicole H returns on two weeks' rest in Barbara Fritchie


Though Mike Hushion isn’t normally one to run his horses back on short rest, the veteran trainer sounds almost giddy about running Nicole H in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park just two weeks after her last start.

“This is one case where I’m really loving it,” Hushion said Thursday morning outside his Belmont Park barn. “You see her out there, you see how big and round she’s getting. Two weeks and a nice half-mile work to go seven-eighths, I really like it.”

Perhaps it’s simply the Barbara Fritchie that Hushion really likes. Hushion has won two of the last four runnings of this race – in 2008 with Golden Dawn and last year with Harissa – and is taking two shots at winning another. In addition to Nicole H, Hushion will also send out the New York-bred Lovely Lil.

The Barbara Fritchie tops a nine-race Laurel card that also includes the $100,000 John B. Campbell Stakes for older males at 1 1/8 miles. Also Saturday, Laurel will pay homage to Rapid Redux, the sprinter who strung together 22 consecutive, including a perfect 19 for 19 campaign in 2011. A ceremony honoring the connections will take place after the third.

Nicole H is a nose loss away from bringing a six-race winning streak into the Fritchie. She won three stakes last year in New York – including the Grade 2 Distaff at seven furlongs – before going to the sidelines with a respiratory illness. She returned in the Robert O’Malley at Suffolk, where she was beaten a nose by It’s Me Mom, who has come back to win three more races.

Nicole H came back to win two stakes, including the Correction, a race Hushion felt was pretty easy on his mare.

“I think it was a three-sixteenths of a mile sprint,” Hushion said. “She kind of acted like that after the race. At the holding barn afterward she was very calm, and cool didn’t drink much water.”

Though the majority of her wins have come at sixfurlongs, Hushion has no issues with an added eighth of a mile.

“I’m not concerned about the distance,” Hushion said. “If she brings her 'A’ race that’s all I want.”

Lovely Lil brought her 'A’ race when she won the Grade 2 Go for Wand at Aqueduct in November. She was upset as the 1-5 favorite in the We’ll See Ya Stakes going two turns over the inner track on Jan. 13.

“Just hoping the reason was the two turns,” Hushion said. “She was a little wired that day.”

Hushion expects Lovely Lil to be on near the lead.

C C’s Pal finished two lengths behind Lovely Lil in the Go for Wand but has since come back to win two stakes.

Red’s Round Table leads the locally-based contingent. A 4-year-old daughter of Cuvee, Red’s Round Table has won 8 of 10 starts and is 4 for 5 at Laurel.

Trainer Tim Keefe believes his filly will likely be on the front end and may benefit from having trained regularly at Laurel.

“The track here can be a little heavy,” he said.

Aquitania is 3 for 3 and tries seven-eighths for the first time. Magical Feeling, Lily Quatorze, and Silver Heart complete the field. Terra Rolla has already scratched.

Heart Butte tops Campbell field

Heart Butte, who had a four-race winning streak snapped when he ran fourth in the Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct last out, seeks to start a new streak when he tops a six-horse field entered in the Campbell Stakes.

Heart Butte came off an 11 1/2-month layoff to win the Auld Lang Syne Stakes at Parx on Dec. 31. He was going to skip the Evening Attire until a snowstorm pushed the race back a week. He was not factor that day.

“First time back in 11 months hard fought nose decision and comes back in a race he wasn’t supposed to run in . . . there could have been some bounce there,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Jimanator, who finished behind Heart Butte at Parx and ahead of him at Aqueduct, and Houston Bull, who could be the lone speed, are the main treats.

Barbara Fritchie H. (G2), Post Time: 3:55 ET Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 7 furlongs





ML Odds



H. Smith

E. Rodriguez



Red's Round Table

T. Keefe

S. Russell



C C's Pal

R. Dutrow. Jr.

J. Alvarado



Magical Feeling

A. Iwinski

R. Alvarado, Jr.



Lovely Lil

M. Hushion

J. Pimentel



Lovely Lil

M. Hushion

R. Dominguez



Lily Quatorze

T. Tagg




Silver Heart

G. Capuano

T. Dunkelberger