Thursday, March 19, 2009


SECRET GYPSY TRIES AQUEDUCT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DISTAFF


She loves Saratoga.

She’s not crazy about Belmont Park.

And Saturday afternoon, Secret Gypsy will reveal her feelings about Aqueduct Racetrack when she makes her Big A debut in the 55th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs on the inner dirt track.


A winner of three of her last four starts for trainer Ronny Werner, the Sea of Secrets filly has made the trip up from the Fair Grounds in Louisiana for this race, where she figures to put her speed to practical use.

“She seems to be the type that takes her track with her, although, having said that, she is not a big fan of tiring tracks like Belmont can be,” Werner said. “I mean, I really think you need a race over that track. We ran against Indian Blessing in the Prioress last year. First time out, Indian Blessing didn’t take to Belmont Park, but she sure did in the Prioress.”

With four wins from eight career starts, it is clear that Werner was ambitious with this filly early on. She broke her maiden at first asking at Saratoga in August of 2007, winning by nearly seven lengths. She didn’t race again until May of last year, then ran fifth and third in a pair of Grade 3 stakes before running fourth to Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont Park in the mud on July 5.

Back at Saratoga on August 31, she was a winner once again and, once again, got a layoff. Upon her return to racing on October 18, she tried Keeneland’s Polytrack and wound up running second to Informal Decision in the Grade 2 Raven Run.

She closed out her three-year-old season with a pair of impressive victories.

“We might have been a little ambitious with her, but she is a fast filly and you sure don’t set track records with slow ones,” Werner said. “They only have so many races in them, and you hate to waste any of them. She’s won at Churchill Downs and Saratoga and she is stakes-placed on Polytrack. Her last two races were confidence builders and now we’re here to get her a graded stakes victory.”

Secret Gypsy has trained well for her return, firing a bullet :59 1/5, breezing, for five furlongs on March 10. Because Werner couldn’t secure air travel for her, she vanned to Lexington, Ky. and then shipped on to New York, where she arrived on Saturday.

Jockey Robby Albarado will have the mount on Secret Gypsy, who will carry top weight of 118 pounds.

The hot horse for the Distaff is Sam Pollock’s Royale Michele, who has won five of eight starts and her last four in a row. Her latest triumph was also her first start of the year, when she scored a 1 ¾-length victory at Laurel in the Grade 2, seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie Handicap on February 14. Surprisingly, in both of her latest starts, the 4-year-old Elusive Quality filly went to post at better than 10-1.

“Todd (Pletcher) had her for her first four starts,” said trainer S. Matthew Kintz. “I got her after her race at Keeneland. I have trained for Mr. Pollock in various partnerships, and when she got beat for that claiming price, they decided they didn’t want to send her to Florida and gave her to me.”

The change has been extraordinary. Kintz, who owns a small farm in Ohio, about 25 miles from his base at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia, breaks ups the monotony by vanning Royal Michele back and forth.

She is so used to traveling that Kintz will ship her on Thursday to Fair Hill, Md., then ship up to Aqueduct on Saturday.

“She loves what we’ve done with her, and she has been an absolute dream to work with,” Kintz said. “After we got her, she put on weight and did everything we asked. She loves going to the farm –she’s there right now –and we figured it would be easier to ship to Fair Hill and then ship up and break things up for her. She is a very happy filly right now.”

Richard Migliore picks up the mount on Royale Michele, who drew the outside post 6 for the Distaff.

Pletcher has two entered here with Distorted Passion and Awesome Ashley, who will break from posts 3 and 4, respectively.

Distorted Passion has won three of her last four starts, with Awesome Ashley ending her win streak on February 27 in the overnight Feel the Beat here at six furlongs.

Breaking from the rail, Zada Belle has not raced since winning the Interborough here on January 1. The 5-year-old Indian Charlie mare has five wins and a second from six tries at this distance.

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel will be represented by Moonshine Alice, who has three wins and four seconds in eight career starts.


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