New York-bred Sunny Desert will put her six-race win streak on the line when she tries to grab the first graded stakes victory of her career March 2 in the $200,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
During her streak, the Wild Desert filly won three stakes for New York-bred fillies last year and then opened this season with a victory against open company in the Cat Cay Stakes Jan. 6 at Aqueduct.
Sunny Desert continues to deliver for owners Saul and Max Kupferberg and trainer John Parisella, who claimed her out of a maiden race in December 2011. After a pair of runner-up finishes, Sunny Desert has reeled off six straight wins.
"You hope you can improve her enough where she can compete in New York-bred stakes, but I never thought, and I'm pretty conservative, that I'd be running in a grade II and really thought I had a legitimate chance," Parisella said. "The only thing going against her is that she has won six in a row; I hate streaks!"
While the win streak makes Parisella nervous, he also has a tasty good luck charm in his corner with the 4-year-old filly who was bred by Breed of Characters.
"With fillies, outside of maintenance, it's mental, to get them in the game," Parisella said. "I ordered a case of peppermints. It changed her around. She hears my voice. If I'm walking, she'll stop and wait. I don't know, but I'm not going to stop giving peppermints."
The only graded stakes winner entered in the field of eight fillies and mares is Summer Applause, who won last year's Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. Previously trained by Bret Calhoun, the 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly will make her first start for Chad Brown, who has been impressed since picking up Summer Applause after she finished off the board in the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park.
"She came in super shape," Brown said. "I breezed her about three times, and she went really well. I think (the Top Flight) is a good spot for her. We're taking it one race at a time. She's very straightforward."
$200,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II, race 7, approximate post time 3:38 p.m. EST), fillies and mares, 3YOs & Up, 1 1/16 miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Twice the Lady (KY), C. Velasquez, 116, A. Dutrow
2. Lady Gracenote (NY), I. Ortiz Jr., 112, J. Servis
3. Sunny Desert (NY), J. Rosario, 119, J. Parisella
4. Summer Applause (KY), J. Velazquez, 116, C. Brown
5. Natalie Victoria (FL), J. Davis, 108, G. Gullo
6. Royal Lahaina (KY), J. Ortiz, 114, R. Rodriguez
7. Withgreatpleasure (KY), T. Dunkelberger, 115, D. Nunn
8. Sisterly Love (KY), D. Cohen, 116, M. Casse