DISTAFF HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 2 | 6 FURLONGS
Turtle Bird Stables' Cluster of Stars moved her record to a perfect five-for-five when taking Saturday's Grade 2, $190,000 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct as the prohibitive 1-5 favorite. The Greeley's Galaxy filly faced only three rivals in the six-furlong sprint over the good main track, and paid $2.40 and $2.10 after show wagering was canceled.
Cluster of Stars and Nakano bumped as they broke from their inside stalls, but that didn't stop the former from rushing up to take command under jockey Junior Alvarado. Miss d'Oro took up position just off her flank while Los Ojitos settled into a stalking spot just in behind along the inside through an opening quarter in :22 2/5.
As the field exited the backstretch, Los Ojitos suddenly scooted through on the rail and grabbed the lead for the :45 half-mile mark while floating Cluster of Stars a bit wide around the turn. The dark bay filly attempted to draw off but Cluster of Stars came running to her outside and easily took control once again. The Steve Asmussen pupil was 2 3/4 lengths clear on the wire while stopping the clock in 1:10.
"She broke sharp. She was doing it nice and easy," Alvarado said. "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."
"I told (Alvarado) to be patient and not get in a hurry. I didn't know what anybody else was going to do," assistant trainer Toby Sheets explained. "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."
Miss d'Oro maintained a steady pace and passed Los Ojitos nearing the wire for the runner-up spot. Nakano trailed throughout and finished out the field under the wire after Hearts of Red, Spectacular Sky and Villanesca were all withdrawn.
Cluster of Stars has now earned $279,600 to go along with her unbeaten mark. Prior to Saturday the bay four-year-old had raced exclusively on Aqueduct's inner dirt, breaking her maiden by 5 1/2 lengths over that surface on February 12, 2012. She wasn't seen again until showing up on January 13 of this year to take an optional claimer by 6 1/4 lengths, then just eked out a head victory while making her stakes debut in the Correction three weeks later. She entered the Distaff off a 9 1/4-length wire job in an optional claimer on March 14.
Bred in New York by Michael McPoland and Sean Finn, Cluster of Stars is the first registered stakes scorer out of the winning Honour and Glory mare Babyurthegreatest. Her fourth dam is stakes diva Supper Show, who produced Grade 3-placed stakes victor Prince Daniel, and farther back this female family also contains Group 3 hero Sperry.