Nine days after My Wandy's Girl won the Pentelis Stakes in her introduction to racing in the continental 48 states, her connections will wheel her back for a stiffer test—the $350,000 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 24.
With an approximate post time of 3:49 p.m. EST, the Gazelle is the final grade I stakes route race of the year for 3-year-old fillies on the national calendar, and is race nine of 10 on Aqueduct's Heineken Holidayfest card. The 1 1/8-mile event is co-featured along with the $350,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I), while two grade II stakes races for 2-year-olds, the Remsen and Demoiselle, also will be contested. All will be televised by TVG; locally, the Gazelle and the Cigar will be broadcast live between 3 and 4 p.m. on MSG+.
Guillermo Berrios' My Wandy's Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Flower Alley, heads a seven-horse field in the Gazelle. She has a nine-race win streak after closing into the pace and scoring by a length in the $75,000 Pentelis Nov. 15. In that race, she ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.15 under jockey Ramon Dominguez.
Kentucky-bred but raced exclusively at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico prior to that win, My Wandy's Girl will attempt to stretch out 1 1/8 miles in the Gazelle. She has already won twice at the distance, both times by more than 12 lengths.
An Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. grad purchased for $15,000 out of the de Meric Sales consignment at the 2011 March sale, My Wandy's Girl has won 14 of 18 lifetime starts, including two Puerto Rican grade I events. She has been assigned morning line odds of 7-2.
"Mostly what you see from her you see in her form - she can run at any distance," trainer Mike Hushion said. "A friend recommended me [to owner Guillermo Berrios], and I got a phone call. She's been here awhile, for (about) three months."
Hushion believes the Pentelis victory set up My Wandy's Girl well for the Gazelle.
"She showed a lot last time; she ran very fast; she ate dirt," he said. "The way I read her form, a mile and an eighth might be her best distance."
My Wandy's Girl will break from the outside post position 7 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Her jockey for the Pentelis, Ramon Dominguez, will be aboard one of her principal rivals, 9-5 favorite Dance Card, for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Dance Card, a $750,000 daughter of Tapit, has won three of four career starts, most recently a 7 1/2-length score in the Sept. 23 Belle Cherie Stakes at Belmont Park.
"She's run four times and she won an overnight stake at Belmont, and we wanted to point toward this because it's a grade I, and it's very important to get a grade I placing or win," said McLaughlin, who trains Dance Card for Godolphin Racing. "We've been pointing to this since the summer. We had Questing for the same owners going in different directions, so we had Dance Card going in this direction.
"Last time, she drifted out through the lane pretty good," McLaughlin continued, "but Ramon said she's fine, don't worry about it. We schooled her at the gate several times. She'll be forwardly placed in the race at a mile and an eighth. She's a great mover, one of our favorite fillies."
Dance Card's only defeat came in her debut when Book Review beat her by 4 3/4 lengths in a seven-furlong sprint. That filly, trained by Chad Brown for owners-breeders Gary and Mary West, won three of her next four starts, including the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks and, last time out, Belmont's Oct. 24 Imperial Gesture Stakes.
The Gazelle will mark only the second time Book Review, 2-1 on the morning line, has raced around two turns.
"The race at Charles Town was two turns, but it's only seven-eighths [of a mile], so it's fair trade, and it wasn't a true two-turn test," Brown said. "Why [try a two-turn route] now? You get to run against straight 3-year-old fillies for the last time. She ran a mile and a sixteenth well and looks like she has another sixteenth in her. And she's a trier."
Book Review's only loss in her past four starts came when she suffered a poor break and finished seventh in the Test (gr. I) this summer at Saratoga Race Course. Brown's multiple stakes-winning filly Kid Kate was defeated in the Pentelis by My Wandy's Girl, but the trainer said he is not overly concerned heading into the Gazelle.
"It's not like I don't respect this horse, but I don't pay attention to the competition," he said. "Maybe that's my bad, but that's how I am. Maybe there are a handful of horses in the world I will look out for and try to avoid; otherwise I just try to find the right distance and right surface and condition for my horses and run them."
Lady Cohiba, second to Book Review in the Imperial Gesture, will run for trainer Christophe Clement. Jemima's Pearl, twice graded stakes-placed this year and most recently second in the Remington Park Oaks, is entered for trainer Bret William Calhoun. Wildcat's Smile and Sea Island complete the field.
$350,000 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 3:49 p.m. EST), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/18 Miles
PP., Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Lady Cohiba (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., C Clement, 10-1
2. Dance Card (KY), R.A. Dominguez, K P McLaughlin, 9-5
3. Wildcat's Smile (NY), E.S. Prado, D G Galluscio, 15-1
4. Jemima's Pearl (KY), J. Rosario, W B Calhoun, 8-1
5. Sea Island (KY), J. Lezcano, C R McGaughey III, 15-1
6. Book Review (KY), J. Castellano, C C Brown, 2-1
7. My Wandy's Girl (KY), J.R. Velazquez, M E Hushion, 7-2