Fourth as the favorite in the My Juliet Stakes, Nicole H makes a one-week turnaround for trainer Michael Hushion in the $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) June 2 at Belmont Park.
Gem Racing's multiple stakes-winning mare has lost three in a row since she opened her 5-year-old campaign with victories in the Correction and Interborough at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Following a second-place finish in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) Feb. 18 at Laurel Park, the daughter of Mr. Greeley then turned in a pair of fourth-place efforts, first behind multiple grade I winner It's Tricky in the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct. In the May 26 My Juliet at Philadelphia's Parx Racing, she was beaten by three-quarters of a length after pressing a solid pace as the 8-5 choice.
“She ran a really good race over there,” said Hushion of Nicole H’s performance in the My Juliet. “I thought there would be a possibility, since she had had a nice rest before the race, that she could run back quickly. When I saw her the next day, and the day after that, with the way she came out of the race, I thought it was the thing to do.”
The 2-1 morning-line favorite, Nicole H drew post 3 under Ramon Dominguez for the 6 1/2-furlong race. A field of seven fillies and mares, including an entry, was drawn for the Vagrancy, which is the 10th race on the program with a 5:06 p.m. EDT post.
Nicole H won the 2011 Distaff at Aqueduct and also won her only start over the Belmont main track by 10 3/4 lengths against first-level allowance foes in September 2010.
Trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr., who won the 2008 running of the Vagrancy with Looky Yonder, has entered the duo of C C's Pal and Smart Stride as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line.
Winner of the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day, Eric Fein's C C’s Pal subsequently was third in the Barbara Fritchie and then finished second, ahead of Nicole H, in the Distaff and My Juliet. The 5-year-old Alex's Pal mare drew post 5 and will have Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Stablemate Smart Stride, co-owned by Fein, J.W. Singer, and Harris Fein, will be making her stakes debut in the Vagrancy. She has finished no worse than third in six starts this year and was most recently third as the 1-2 favorite in a seven-furlong optional claimer over a sloppy track at Belmont May 3. She will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez from post 2.
Grade I-placed She's Cheeky, 3-1 on the morning line for trainer Peter Eurton, is seeking her first victory since taking an allowance at Santa Anita Park Dec. 29, 2008. In three starts this year, the Southern California-based 7-year-old mare was second in the Vinery Madison (gr. I) at Keeneland, and third in the Santa Monica (gr. I) and Las Flores (gr. III), both at Santa Anita. She will be ridden by John Velazquez from post 7.
Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Belle of the Hall, second in the overnight Marta stakes last time out; Kid Kate, the winner of a pair of overnight stakes at Saratoga Race Course last summer who is making her first start of 2012; and Dontbeshy I'll Buy, third in the Distaff.
$200,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:06 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Belle of the Hall (FL), J Castellano, 115, T Albertrani
2. a-Smart Stride (KY), C H Velasquez, 114, R E Dutrow Jr.
3. Nicole H (KY), R A Dominguez, 118, M E Hushion
4. Kid Kate (KY), E Castro, 115, C C Brown
5. a-C C's Pal (FL), J Alvarado, 118, R E Dutrow Jr.
6. Dontbeshy I'll Buy (KY), E S Prado, 114, E R Reed
7. She's Cheeky (KY), J R Velazquez, 118, P Eurton
a- Eric Fein-owned entry.