Robert Masterson's Nefertini earned the biggest win of her 10-race career with a game performance in Friday's Grade 2, $196,000 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct.
Tracking a length behind 3-5 favorite Fantasy of Flight through splits of :23 4/5 and :46 4/5, Nefertini was sent to the lead by jockey Alan Garcia around the far turn. After dispensing with the favorite and opening up a one-length advantage after six furlongs in 1:10 2/5, the 9-1 chance was then forced to repulse a serious bid by second choice Willet through the final furlong. She did so, gaining the victory by a neck in a time of 1:35 4/5 for one mile over a fast track.
"I was very close to the speed," Garcia said. "(Trainer Alan Goldberg) said to put her right in the game. (Willet) came to me, and (Nefertini) was fighting and didn't want to get beat."
"I think the mile got her at the end," jockey Rajiv Maragh said of runner-up Willet. "By the sixteenth pole, she was at the end of her rope."
A daughter of Empire Maker, Nefertini rewarded her backers with mutuels of $20, $5.30 and $6.90. Willet finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of 17-1 outsider Hard Life. R Gypsy Gold and Fantasy of Flight completed the order of finish.
Nefertini made just three starts in her first season of racing, capturing her debut over the turf at Parx Racing before securing minor awards in a pair of grass allowances. In her four-year-old debut on March 4, she prevailed by a half-length over Fantasy of Flight in an allowance on Aqueduct's inner dirt. After a more dominating allowance win at Parx in her next start, Nefertini entered the stakes ranks with a second in the Heatherten at Belmont and a half-length victory in the Monmouth Beach at Monmouth Park. She entered the Go for Wand following a fourth in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and a third in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap. Her record now stands at 10-5-2-1, $316,320.
Bred in Kentucky by Tenlane Farm, Nefertini was an $80,000 Keeneland September yearling. She was produced by the stakes-placed Looking Afar, a daughter of Broad Brush, who was a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Survivalist, stakes winner Power Game and multiple Grade 2-placed Polish Miner.
Nefertini's second dam was Miner's Game, a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner and noted sire Seeking the Gold, and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Fast Play and Grade 3 victor Stacked Pack. This old Phipps family pedigree also includes 1967 juvenile filly champion Queen of the Stage and noted sire Reviewer. More recently, this female family has yielded multiple Grade 2 victor King Cugat.