Nicole H rang in the New Year in style Jan. 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack, pulling clear through the stretch to become the first mare to win three consecutive editions of the $75,000 Interborough Stakes (VIDEO).
Fourth in a tightly-packed bunch as Mildly Offensive took the field of fillies and mares through an opening quarter-mile in :23.06 and a half in :46.75, Nicole H turned for home behind a wall of horses but quickly found running room at the top of the stretch. Taking command with 220 yards to go, she edged clear under a hand-ride from Ramon Dominguez and completed the six furlongs in 1:11.01.
"It seemed like every other filly in here had a little tactical speed, and sure enough they all went and it set up perfect for me," said Dominguez, who won his fourth straight riding title on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2012. "Turning for home I was just with a handful of horse waiting to see which way I was going to go. Once the room opened up, she whistled through there."
Trained by Mike Hushion, the multiple stakes-winning daughter of Mr. Greeley is no stranger to big victories over the Big A's inner track, which include the 2012 Correction Handicap, the 2010 Garland of Roses, and the 2011 and 2012 Interborough. Six other horses have won two editions of the race since 1930, including champions Ta Wee (1969-70) and Affectionately (1963-64).
"Ramon rode her very cool, as he always does," said Hushion. "He likes to make one little short run with her at the end. All the horses in the race seemed to want to lay close, so I wasn't surprised to see her down in there. She's been training very, very well. We'll talk to the owners and see what's next for her."
Mildly Offensive held on for second, 1 1/4 lengths back, and was followed home by Singlet, Tanglewood Tale, and Silent Serenity. Celtic Chant, Hot Roots, and Ms. Cruisen' were scratched.
The 2-5 favorite, Nicole H returned $2.90, $2.40, and $2.10 and earned another $45,000 for her owners, Gem Inc. She is now 10-10-2 from 28 starts with a bankroll of $776,144.
Bred in Kentucky by JMJ Racing Stables, Nicole H is out of the Victory Gallop mare Hot Chipotle. She was a $115,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Earlier on the card, in the 142nd running of the $75,000 Ladies Handicap, favored Arena Elvira outdueled R Gypsy Gold through the stretch and prevailed by a neck to snap a three-race losing streak.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado, the 6-year-old mare tracked longshot Silver Prize through an opening half-mile in :49.66 seconds and three quarters in 1:14.04. Moving up three-wide to challenge the pacesetter on the far turn, Arena Elvira took command straightening for home and had enough left to fob off a determined inside rally from R Gypsy Gold.
Her winning time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:51.53.
"Lately, the last few races I've been riding her, she's not even taking me," said Alvarado of Arena Elvira, whose previous victory came in the Wayward Lass in March at Tampa Bay Downs. "Today, since the second step out of the gate, she took me right away. [In the stretch] my filly felt that other horse inside and she kept trying until past the wire."
The victory was the ninth in 17 career starts for Arena Elvira, who was bred in Kentucky by Northwest Farms out of the Twining mare Two Item Limit. including stakes wins in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II), the Turnback the Alarm (gr. III), the Sightseek and Madam Jumel. She returned $3.40 for a $2 win bet and with the winner's purse of $45,000 has earned $487,496.
R Gypsy Gold was 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Silver Prize, with Villanesca completing the order of finish. Dial Direct and Smart Cash were scratched.