Turtle Bird Stable's undefeated Cluster of Stars repelled the challenge of Los Ojitos and preserved her perfect record April 13 at Aqueduct Racetrack, winning the $200,000 Distaff Handicap (gr. II) while heavily favored at odds of 1-5 (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Greeley's Galaxy came into the six-furlong stakes off a 9 1/4-length allowance victory at Aqueduct March 14, preceeded by three other wins at the distance, and is now five-for-five.
Scratched down to a field of four, the Distaff gave a few moments of concern to trainer Steve Asmussen's assistant, Toby Sheets, but Cluster of Stars delivered in her stakes debut.
"I told Junior Alvarado to be patient and not get in a hurry," Sheets said. "I didn't know what anybody else was going to do. I didn't like it scratched down to four. You know how it changes everything. You have some obvious speed horses, and then you don't have any.
"I thought she ran super. Very nice. We'll just enjoy the moment. I have no idea where we're going next."
Alvarado, who rode Cluster of Stars for the first time, allowed her to take her natural place at the front of the pack. Chased by Miss d'Oro momentarily, she went a quarter in :22.52 and a half in :45.16, and was actually passed by Los Ojitos, who made a rail move heading into the turn and struck the lead turning for home.
Out in the center of the track for five-eighths in :57.30, Cluster of Stars dug down to reclaim the advantage and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The final time for the distance was 1:10.14; Miss d'Oro got up for second after Los Ojitos weakened and finished 2 3/4 lengths back in third.
"She broke sharp," Alvarado said. "She was doing it nice and easy. I didn't want to be too close to the rail. I actually didn't want to start using my horse at that point just to block somebody. By the three-eighths pole, the five-sixteenths pole, I knew what I had in my hands.
"I wasn't worried about the other horse. I just kept my horse clear and cool. Turning for home, the other horse was trying, but that was it. When I asked my horse, she just took off right away."
With show wagering canceled, Cluster of Stars returned $2.40 and $2.10, while Miss d'Oro paid $2.90. Los Ojitos and Nakano completed the order of finish, with Hearts of Red, Spectacular Sky, and Villanesca scratched.
Bred in New York by Michael McPoland and Sean Finn out of the Honour and Glory mare Babyurthegreatest, Cluster of Stars now has earnings of $279,600.