Nefertini fights off Willet to win the Go for Wand.<br><a target="blank" href="!i=2232527890&k=NHgjtGZ">Order This Photo</a>

Nefertini fights off Willet to win the Go for Wand.
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Coglianese Photos/Jessica Hansen

Nefertini Too Tough for Willet in Go for Wand

Daughter of Empire Maker earns her first grade as odds-on Fantasy of Flight fades.

Nefertini disposed of heavily favored Fantasy of Flight on the turn for home and outfought a game Willet in the final furlong to register her first graded stakes victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 23 (VIDEO).

Alan Garcia drove the the 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker to victory by a neck at odds of 9-1 for owner Robert Masterson and trainer Alan Goldberg. The final time for the one-turn mile was 1:35.80 on a fast track.

Hard Life finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Willet. Pacesetting Fantasy of Flight, the 7-10 choice, faded to finish last of the five 4-year-old fillies that contested this year's Go for Wand.

Winner of the Monmouth Beach Stakes in May, Nefertini was coming off a third-place finish behind Afleeting Lady in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

The winning dark bay/brown filly, bred in Kentucky by Tenlane Farm, is out of the multiple stakes-placed Broad Brush mare Looking Afar and cost $80,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2009. She was purchased in the name of Greathouse Bloodstock from the consignment of Trackside Farm, agent.

Nefertini was forwardly placed early on, moving into second as Fantasy of Flight broke on top and opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage while stepping an opening quarter-mile in a leisurely :23.99 and the half in :46.92. Nefertini advanced on the lead rounding the bend to get the lead at the quarter pole while timed in 1:10.52.

Fantasy of Flight showed little resistance when headed and Nefertini grabbed control in the homestretch. But Willet, angling off the inside for Rajiv Maragh, gradually drew abreast of Nefertini past the eighth pole and those two slugged it out to the line with Nefertini prevailing in the final strides under encouragement from Garcia.

Garcia said that Goldberg told him to put Nefertini "right in the game."

"(Willet) came to me, and (Nefertini) was fighting and didn't want to get beat."

Maragh said he could tell Willet was tiring late.

"By the sixteenth pole, she was at the end of her rope," he said. "It wasn't for lack of effort. The effort was good."

Nefertini, who did not race at 2, posted her fourth win in seven starts this year for Goldberg and improved her career mark to 5-2-1 in 10 tries.

The winner paid $20, $5.30, and $6.90 as the second-longest shot in the field. Willet, who was coming off a 9 1/4-length romp in the muddy Iroquois Stakes for New York-breds for trainer James Iselin, returned $3.40 and $4.50 while rounding out a $69.50 exacta. Hard Life, ridden by Joel Rosario paid $7.90 to show and completed a $2 trifecta worth $358 in the small field.

R Gypsy Gold was fourth, 9 1/2 lengths in front of the trailing Fantasy of Flight.

The Go for Wand, previously the Maskette Stakes, was renamed for the ill-famed Hall of Fame filly in 1992 and had been held at Saratoga Race Course since 1994. Not contested in 2010, it was shortened to the one-mile distance and transferred back to Aqueduct one year ago.