12/04/2010 5:40PM

Nicole H redeems herself in Garland of Roses

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NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Nicole H cruises to victory in the Garland of Roses under Ramon Dominguez, who won four races on the day.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Mike Hushion’s faith in Nicole H was restored Saturday as the 3-year-old filly rolled to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $65,000 Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct. Meese Rocks, who bobbled at the break, rallied to be second by a head over Tar Heel Mom.

The victory was the third of the afternoon for Hushion and fourth for jockey Ramon Dominguez.

More importantly, for Hushion, Nicole H demonstrated the talent she showed winning a first-level allowance race by 10 3/4 lengths at Belmont in September. That performance prompted Hushion to think Nicole H was a good enough prospect to run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
Nicole H didn’t make it into that field, and instead she ran in the $88,000 Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill, a race in which she finished seventh as the even-money favorite. After watching her train following the Breeders’ Cup, Hushion decided to simply throw the Dream Supreme race out, chalking it up to perhaps Nicole H disliking the track.

She certainly liked the inner track, quickly taking up a stalking position outside of Tar Heel Mom, who set fractions of 23.04 seconds, before taking over at the five-sixteenths pole. Nicole H ran a half-mile in 45.66 seconds, came a little wide into the stretch and cruised home a relatively easy winner, running six furlongs in 1:10.44. Nicole H returned $5.20 as the 8-5 favorite.

"It’s nice to be right once in awhile,’" Hushion said. "Around the turn and from what I could see from the 4 1/2 [furlong pole], it looked just like the race that she won by 10 when she won that allowance race and dragged him around there. Ramon said she was a little keener today early than she had ever been; he was a little concerned the next time she’s not quite that keen.’’

Hushion didn’t know when Nicole H would run next. Hushion is not taking stalls in south Florida this year, but that wouldn’t preclude him from shipping her to Gulfstream for any of the three graded sprint stakes that track runs for fillies and mares, the first of which is the Grade 3, $100,000 Sugar Swirl on Jan. 15.

* Trainer Todd Pletcher also won three races on Saturday’s card, taking a trio of 2-year-old races. He won the second with Thunderwave ($9.70), the fourth with Reproduction ($5.20), and the fifth with Big Fearless ($6.20).