Teresa Viola Racing Stables and St. Elias Stable’s Nonna Madeline cuts back to one mile for Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Go for Wand is part of a lucrative card headlined by the 32nd renewal of the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up and also includes a pair of Grade 2, $150,000 events for juveniles at nine furlongs on the main track in the Remsen and its filly counterpart, the Demoiselle.
Live coverage of Cigar Mile Day will be available with America’s Day at the Races on FS2 from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern and on MSG+ from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Free Equibase-provided past performances will be available for races that are part of the America’s Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Nonna Madeline boasts a consistent record of 13-4-3-2 with purse earnings of $275,128. The 4-year-old Candy Ride bay, bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, broke through in stakes company this summer when capturing the restricted Summer Colony at nine furlongs on the Saratoga Race Course main track.
Following an off-the-board effort in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Shuvee on August 30 at the Spa, Nonna Madeline made amends with a nose score over Royal Flag in the 1 1/16-mile Lady’s Secret on October 7 at Monmouth Park.
She enters from a prominent third in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm, won by familiar foe Royal Flag on November 7 at the Big A.
“She shows up every time and runs hard every time, so I wouldn’t expect her to do any different this time,” said Pletcher. “It will be interesting backing her up from a mile and an eighth to a mile. She should appreciate that as well.”
Pletcher will also saddle Whisper Hill Farm homebred Graceful Princess, a 4-year-old Tapit bay who ran fifth last out in the Turnback the Alarm.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will guide Nonna Madeline from the inside post, while Joel Rosario has the call on Graceful Princess from the outside post 6.
Sharp Starr, bred in New York by the Stonewall Farm of owner Barry Schwartz, earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure last out with a 15 3/4-length romp in a one-mile state-bred allowance tilt on November 7 at the Big A.
Trained by Horacio DePaz, the 3-year-old Munnings dark bay graduated in July at fourth asking in a one-turn mile against state-bred maidens at Belmont in her second start back off a layoff caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She was entered the Friday that racing was cancelled back in March and she was the favorite that day,” said DePaz. “We had that little break with no racing and when we brought her back, she just needed to run. We ran her three-quarters first time back and we knew that probably wouldn’t be to her liking but she would benefit from the experience. It ended up working out when we stretched her out to a mile and she won pretty convincingly.”
Sharp Starr tried a pair of nine-furlong events at Saratoga over the summer, finishing third in a state-bred allowance in July ahead of a closing third in the restricted Fleet Indian in September. Despite a troubled start in the Fleet Indian, Sharp Starr closed within one length of winner Makingcents and runner-up Ice Princess, who exited that effort to run second in the Grade 3 Comely on Friday for trainer Danny Gargan.
“It was an unfortunate start,” said DePaz of the Fleet Indian. “At the beginning of that race, horses were all over the place. But it’s also been a productive race. Danny Gargan’s filly came back last weekend and she ran an honest effort and ended up hitting the board.
“She made up ground in both her races at Saratoga,” added DePaz. “Even in the allowance race, that track was playing very speed favoring and she was the only horse that made up ground during the day.”
Following an off-the-board effort in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on October 3 at Pimlico Race Course, DePaz said Sharp Starr appreciated the cutback in distance last out.
“After the Black-Eyed Susan, I thought maybe I wasn’t reading the filly right but she came back with a very honest effort back at Aqueduct,” said DePaz. “I thought maybe we could redeem ourselves and maybe she really takes to the one turn.”
The 35-year-old DePaz, in search of his first graded stakes win, said a big effort from Sharp Starr on Saturday would be very meaningful.
“It would be great and I’d be very happy for Barry,” said DePaz. “We’ve had her since she was a 2-year-old and got her started. I’ve tried to manage and maintain her. It would be really exciting considering how tough this year has been for everybody and also because it’s my first year coming full time to New York.”
Jose Ortiz, aboard for the maiden win and Fleet Indian efforts, has the call from post 3.
Rounding out the field are Ten Strike Racing’s Portal Creek, an eight-time winner making her stakes debut for trainer Juan C. Guerrero [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche]; Dark Horse Racing Stable’s Overheated [post 4, Dylan Davis]; and Michael Dubb, Coyle Boys Stable, St. Elias Stable and Bethlehem Stables’ Stand for the Flag [post 5, Manny Franco].
The Go for Wand is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s 10-race card. which will feature a mandatory payout of the Empire 6. First post is 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
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Edited Press Release/ Photo Credit: Chelsea Durand