Godolphin's daughter of Mineshaft marked herself as one of 2011’s top sophomores when she defeated multiple graded stakes winner Turbulent Descent in the TVG Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park last June, then won the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Saratoga in July. She finished second to eventual champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta a month later in the TVG Alabama (gr. I).
The Alabama was the first of a trio of runner-up finishes for It’s Tricky, who also was second in the Cotillion (gr. II) at Parx Racing and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I), again to Royal Delta.
Last year, all of It’s Tricky’s races were contested at a mile or more. She started 2012 with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct on March 3. While routes are likely to be her focus going forward, her connections are comfortable with the cutback in distance.
“The seven-eighths is a turn back from the 1 1/16 miles of the Top Flight, but she ran a huge race at a mile around one turn at Belmont in the Acorn, and we’re pointing for the Ogden Phipps (gr. I, 1 1/16 miles) at Belmont on May 28, which is also run around one turn,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
It’s Tricky earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 104 for her victory over a muddy track in the Acorn, and broke her maiden going six furlongs over the main track at Aqueduct in November 2010.
Eddie Castro, regular rider of It’s Tricky in 2011 until he was sidelined with an injury, will be back aboard the 6-5 favorite and 123-pound highweight in the Distaff from the outside in post 7.
Last year’s Distaff winner, Nicole H, will attempt to defend her title following a neck loss in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park nearly two months ago. Like the Distaff, the Barbara Fritchie is contested at seven furlongs, and Nicole H won a pair of six-furlong stakes over Aqueduct’s inner track this winter, repeating in the Interborough on New Year’s Day and taking the Correction on Feb. 4.
“We ran her back a little quick in the Barbara Fritchie, so we gave her some time and this worked out well,” said Mike Hushion, who trains the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley for Gem, Inc. “She’s doing well; everything’s pretty straightforward with her, she’s not a quirky filly, very simple to train. I might prefer it to be six furlongs, but she’s run terrific going seven-eighths, too.”
Cornelio Velasquez will ride 3-1 second choice Nicole H from post 3.
Also exiting the Barbara Fritchie is Eric Fein’s consistent and versatile C C's Pal, who closed out her 2011 campaign with a victory in the six-furlong Garland of Roses Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 3. She scored in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies Handicap a month later.
Rick Dutrow trains the 5-year-old daughter of Alex’s Pal, who will be ridden by Junior Alvarado from the rail as the 4-1 third choice.
Stronach Stables’ Her Smile (5-1) is the third graded stakes winner in the Distaff field, having taken last summer’s Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont when owned by Bobby Flay and trained by Todd Pletcher. Sold to Frank Stronach for $1 million at the Keeneland November sale after a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, Her Smile was then transferred to trainer Chad Brown.
Third in her 2012 debut, Gulfstream Park’s Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) at 6 1/2 furlongs, Her Smile was most recently sixth in the Inside Information (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park on March 17.
Completing the field in the Distaff are Dontbeshy I'll Buy, neck winner of Aqueduct’s Bold Brat overnight stakes on March 2; White Merlot, winner of a handicap race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb.25; and Aquitania, who took an overnight stakes at Aqueduct on March 21.
$200,000 Distaff Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 4:52 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Dirt)