10/20/2011 12:42PM

Suffolk: O'Malley brings six-figure class to card

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Barbara D. Livingston
Nicole H spent several months sidelined by a respiratory infection.

Despite some lean years lately, N ew England racing fans typically respond when good horses comes to town. Expect a party Saturday when Suffolk Downs brings a full field of female sprinters together for the $100,000 Robert M. O’Malley Stakes in the first six-figure stakes at the track since 2008.

The six-furlong headliner drew a field of 12 from throughout the Northeast, with three competitors having Grade 1 experience on their resumes and one of the favorites, Nicole H, a Grade 2 winner.

The celebratory mood comes days after the state Senate approved an expanded gambling bill that should eventually provide at least a basic subsidy for purses and could be a huge windfall if Suffolk becomes a resort casino site. The O’Malley was planned regardless of how the gambling bill fared and was placed strategically before the Breeders’ Cup but after most of the major prep races were completed.

Nicole H returns after six months getting over a respiratory infection, but has a three-race winning streak intact capped by a score in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in April. Raced by Dr. John Waken, the 4-year-old filly started her career on synthetics in California, but took off when shipped east to trainer Michael Hushion in the summer of 2010. In addition to the Distaff, she won the Garland of Roses and the Interborough Stakes on the Inner Dirt track at Aqueduct last winter.

“She’s shown what she can do on the dirt,” said Hushion. “She’s obviously very nice, and this should be good to get her going again. Hopefully it gets her started on a fun campaign.”

Hushion admits there aren’t many options for a sprinting filly like Nicole H at this time of the year, but the unexpected $100,000 opportunity makes it worth taking the risk.

The O’Malley is the latest tour stop for four fillies who have seemingly been on a round-robin run through the Mid-Atlantic. Golden Mystery has won two straight: the Mongo Queen Stakes at Monmouth and a Parx Racing allowance over D’Wild Ride. D’cats Meow had a three-race winning streak of her own stopped in the Mongo Queen. Winning Image has been third in the both the races won by Golden Mystery.

Golden Mystery will team with Philadelphia win machine jockey Kendrick Carmouche. D’Wild Ride has Suffolk’s leading jockey, Tammi Piermarini, while D’cats Meow gets Jackie Davis, second in the local standings. Former New England trainer Mike Aro sends Winning Image here along with a former leading Suffolk jockey in Jose Caraballo.

The back-class fillies include Ms Vanenzza, who was ninth in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Coax Liberty, who has made three Grade 1 starts in her career including most recently the Test Stakes at Saratoga in August.

It’s Me Mom brings jockey Willie Martinez back to Suffolk for the first time since winning the 2007 Massachusetts Handicap aboard Brass Hat.

Also on the card is the $50,000 John Kirby Stakes for 3-year-old Massachusetts breds. Silk Spinner, winner of the African Prince Stakes at six furlongs Sept. 24 stretches out to two turns for the first time while filly Sociano’s Legacy tries to regain her stakes-winning form from the Louise Kimball Stakes Sept. 10.

In addition to the two stakes on the 10-race card, Suffolk will host a food truck festival with more than a dozen rolling gourmet kitchens on hand from 12-5 p.m. Food truck events have been successful at Santa Anita and Del Mar, and Suffolk has invested a healthy amount to market its own festival.

Track gets NTRA safety nod

Suffolk became the 21st track accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association under their safety and integrity alliance on Thursday.

The program, developed in the wake of the ontrack death of Eight Belles following her second-place finish in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, puts NTRA tracks through a 48-page review and inspection covering track, safety and veterinary issues. It is the first time Suffolk has received the accreditation.