By Keith McCalmont
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and Ten Strike Racing’s Lady Rocket made every pole a winning one to make the grade in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Go for Wand, a one-turn mile handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Brad Cox and piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 2, Lady Rocket shook off an early challenge from Miss Marissa to establish the opening quarter-mile in 23.22 seconds over the fast main track.
Lady Rocket, last out winner of a division of the Pumpkin Pie in October at Belmont, maintained her advantage through a half-mile in 46.54 with Miss Marissa stalking from the rail and Truth Hurts racing to the inside of California shipper Bella Vita.
Sharp Starr, who won this event last year, rallied outside of Bella Vita through the turn but Lady Rocket found another gear, opening up a 4 1/2-length advantage at the stretch call en route to a nine-length score in a final time of 1:36.52.
Bella Vita, with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, veered in down the lane near the path of a rallying Truth Hurts, under Tyler Gaffalione for trainer Chad Summers, but Bella Vita stayed on strong to complete the exacta 4 3/4-lengths clear of her rival. An objection by Summers for interference in the stretch run was denied.
Sharp Starr, Honor Way and Miss Marissa rounded out the order of finish. So Darn Hot was scratched.
Ortiz, Jr. said the Tale of the Cat bay was full of run when asked.
“She was nice today. She’s always tries hard. The mile was a question mark, but she handled it really well,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “I was waiting, biding my time. I just took it easy and tried to get her to relax up front and she relaxed. She waited for my call and that was the key. This was one of her best performances in her whole career.”
Dustin Dugas, assistant to Cox, said a good break was paramount for Lady Rocket.
“We were kind of worried about the break and wanted to focus on her standing there,” Dugas said. “Her very first start at Saratoga, she stumbled. She has this tendency to want to break too fast. We make sure she stands right and gets a good start. They did a great job getting her out of the gate today. We were expecting a big performance but she exceeded our expectations with that one.”
Lady Rocket, a $420,000 purchase at the 2019 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, captured the seven-furlong Pink Ribbon in August at Charles Town. She followed with a prominent second to Grade 1-winner Bella Sofia in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap in September at Belmont ahead of her Pumpkin Pie coup.
Bred in Kentucky by La Ciega LLC and Tale Of The Cat Syndicate, Lady Rocket banked $137,500 in victory, while improving her record 11-6-3-1. She returned $4.40 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 10-race card on Closing Day of the Big A fall meet featuring the $150,000 NYSSS Staten Island in Race 5 and the $150,000 NYSSS Thunder Rumble in Race 10. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule. NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
Press Release: NYRA