Nicole H picked up her third straight victory and first in a graded stakes with an easy 2 1/2-length score in the $150,000 Distaff Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) for fillies and mares April 16 at Aqueduct.
Freshened following a pair of stakes wins over the inner track in the Dec. 4 Garland of Roses Handicap and Jan. 1 Interborough Stakes, Nicole H prompted the pace three-wide in third as Wild News carved out an opening quarter mile in :23.90. Taking over when prompted by jockey Channing Hill following a half in :46.81, she drew away under minimal urging to pick up her fifth lifetime win in 15 tries.
Runner-up Wild News was two lengths ahead of Kid Kate, who rallied for third in a field of five. The final time for seven furlongs on the fast dirt was 1:23.29.
Nicole H is owned by GEM Inc., and trained by Michael Hushion. She was bred in Kentucky by JMJ Racing Stables. The 4-year-old filly is by Mr. Greeley, out of the Victory Gallop mare Hot Chipotle.
“She seemed like the best filly in the race and I rode her that way and just tried to keep her happy,” said Hill.
Hushion said: “She just dragged him up there at the three-eighths pole. I felt awfully good at that point. Everyone else was driving, and she was just dragging him up. She was fresher than she usually is in the paddock, but when the gates opened, that first quarter-mile, thankfully, she got to settle the way you would have hoped the first time going seven-eighths against these.”
Nicole H, who began her career competing for trainer David Hofmans on artificial surfaces and turf in Southern California, is now 4-1-0 in seven starts since being transferred to Hushion and switched to conventional dirt. Overall, she has earned $279,344.
Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Nicole H returned $3.90, $2.70, and $2.10. The exacta (5-1) with 13-1 Wild News returned $33.40 and the trifecta (5-1-2) was worth $117.