07/23/2013 3:06PM

Saratoga: Willet makes second start of year in Lottsa Talc

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer James Iselin believes Willet is better than her most recent race shows.

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Trainer James Iselin is hoping the “real Willet” will show up on Thursday when the New York-bred filly makes her second start of the year in the $100,000 Lottsa Talc Stakes, the co-feature on Thursday’s 10-race program at Saratoga.

Willet, who was Grade 2-placed against open company last season, returned from a seven-month layoff with a disappointing fifth-place effort in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses Handicap on June 15. She’ll race against statebreds Thursday for the first time since cruising to an easy nine-length win in the seven-furlong Iroquois at Belmont in October.

“That wasn’t the real Willet we saw last time,” said Iselin, who is also part owner of the mare. “Maybe I missed something, or she wasn’t fit enough, but she’s done real well since that race and I’m convinced she’s still the real deal. She’ll just have to go out on Thursday and show everybody else how good she is.”

Willet, who came within a neck of being a Grade 2 winner when narrowly defeated in the Go for Wand at Aqueduct in her 2012 finale, is one of six fillies in the seven-furlong Lottsa Talc. She’ll go up against a field that also includes defending champ Miss Valentine, recent stakes winner Clear Pasaj, Beautiful But Blue, Jitney, and Cape Cod Carol.

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Miss Valentine has captured four of her last five starts, all stakes, dating back to November 2012. She won the Lottsa Talc that fall, rallying to a 1 1/4-length decision over Jitney, when the race was run at Aqueduct. Her lone setback during that span came at Belmont on June 1, when she finished a disappointing fourth as the 2-1 favorite behind Clear Pasaj in the Dancin Renee Handicap.

Clear Pasaj has been freshened since leading throughout and holding on for a head victory in the seven-furlong Dancin Renee. A model of consistency for trainer Bruce Levine, Clear Pasaj has finished first or second in each of her last eight starts and 10 of her last 11.

“The next stakes for statebreds after the Dancin Rene was at a mile so I took a pass because I think she’s better at six or seven furlongs and I knew this race was coming up on Thursday,” said Levine. “Even though she was on the lead in her last win, I don’t think she has to be in front if somebody else wants to be out there. And she’ll run over any surface, broken rocks if she had to, so I’m not concerned if the track is still a little off after all the rain we took here on Tuesday.”

Beautiful But Blue, who finished third in the Grade 1 Test here last summer, was run down late by Miss Valentine after taking the lead turning for home in the one-mile Princess Dixie earlier this month at Belmont. She’s now been stakes placed in each of her last three starts and is the only multiple winner in the field at seven furlongs.