01/12/2008 1:00AM

Stage Luck digs in for Affectionately win

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Much as her connections persevered with her, Stage Luck persevered through the Aqueduct inner-track stretch to get up in time and win Saturday's $82,200 Affectionately Handicap by a neck.

Aliysa, who set all the pace under Ramon Dominguez, held second by a neck over Baby Bird. Homerette finished fourth and was followed by Lucky Revival, Runway Rosie, Victory Pool, and Dinner Break.

The win was the third straight for Stage Luck and her first in a stakes race. Stage Luck, a 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song out of the multiple Grade 1-winning mare Golden Ballet, was purchased for $1.6 million as a yearling by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley Stable. She didn't make it to the races until August of her 3-year-old season.

"We knew she had talent," said Andy Rehm, assistant to trainer Tom Albertrani. "It was important to get some black type with her pedigree and what they paid for her."

In midstretch, it appeared as though Stage Luck was going to be third or fourth. Aliysa, under Ramon Dominguez, was about to turn back a challenge from Lucky Revival and at the 70-yard marker Aliysa was more than a length in front. But she lost her momentum when she switched to her left lead, Dominguez said, and Stage Luck and a resurgent Baby Bird came charging.

Stage Luck, under Stewart Elliott, was going the better of those two and got up in the final strides. Stage Luck covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.73 over a fast track and returned $6.10 as the favorite.

"She really didn't make much of a move, she just steadily kept digging in," said Elliott, who won six races in two days. "She was just grinding away, and I think [Aliysa] came back to me. It worked out."

Rehm said that Stage Luck would likely have her races spaced out, meaning she could skip next month's $75,000 Rare Treat Handicap and point to the Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Handicap here on March 29.