Royale Michele, the Mountaineer Park shipper who won the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) in a 10-1 surprise in her last start, takes on a small but tough field in Aqueduct's $150,000 Distaff Handicap March 21.
Six fillies and mares entered the six-furlong event over the Big A's inner dirt course. Secret Gypsy is the 118-pound high weight in an evenly-matched group.
Royale Michele, on a four-race winning streak for owner Sam B. Pollock and trainer Matthew Kintz, starts from the far outside with Richard Migliore aboard for the first time. She carries 116.
A 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality, Royale Michele came from off the pace to win Laurel Park's Barbara Fritchie Feb. 14 by nearly two lengths over favored Seventh Street. Her previous three victories during the current streak all came at Mountaineer after she was shipped to Kintz from the Todd Pletcher stable last fall. The bay filly has won five of eight starts and earned $182,935.
New Orleans shipper Secret Gypsy makes her 2009 debut for trainer Ronny Werner. Another 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality, Secret Gypsy won the Esplanade at Fair Grounds Dec. 20 by four lengths. The chestnut filly ran second to Informed Decision in last October's Raven Run (gr. II) at Keeneland. Regular rider Robby Albarado makes the trip.
Darley Stable's Zada Belle brings back-to-back stakes victories into the Distaff, her most recent triumph coming on the inner course. The 5-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie has won six of nine lifetime starts and earned $247,899, which leads the field. She'll break from the rail with Ramon Dominguez aboard.
Pletcher has entered a pair in the Distaff -- Gulf Coast Farms' Distorted Passion and Alex Campbell Jr.'s Awesome Ashley. The latter defeated her stablemate in a stakes contsted over the course Feb. 27 by 1 1/2 lengths.
A 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, Awesome Ashley has won two of her past three starts, all on Aqueduct's inner dirt course. The gray/roan mare is to be ridden by A. R. Napravnik, who was aboard her for the first time in the Feb. 27 race, in which Awesome Ashley was forced to steady in traffic near the quarter pole yet rallied for victory.
Before her defeat last time out, Distorted Passion had a three-race win streak, including back-to-back stakes victories over the inner track. A 4-year-old Distorted Humor filly, Distorted Passion has a 4-4-3 mark in 13 starts and earnings of $198,240. Rajiv Maragh rides the bay.
Moonshine Alice ships from Southern California for trainer Bobby Frankel in search of her first graded stakes win. Prior to weakening to sixth in the Honest Lady at Santa Anita March 7, the 4-year-old Straight Man filly posted three consecutive runner-up finishes under allowance conditions. Chuck Lopez rides Moonshine Alice, who has been first or second in seven of her eight starts.
$150,000 Distaff Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Inner Track)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Zada Belle (FL), 117, Ramon A. Dominguez
2. Moonshine Alice (FL), 114, Charles C. Lopez
3. Distorted Passion (KY), 115, Rajiv Maragh
4. Awesome Ashley (KY), 115, A. R. Napravnik
5. Secret Gypsy (KY), 118, Robby Albarado
6. Royale Michele (KY), 116, Richard Migliore