OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Godolphin Stable’s homebred Nostalgic challenged pacesetter and even-money favorite Venti Valentine before surging up the rail in the final furlong, posting a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Nostalgic, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and ridden by Jose Ortiz, completed the stretch-drive rally to win her first career stakes and in the process secure 100 qualifying points to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs on the eve of the Kentucky Derby. The Gazelle’s 127th running offered 100-40-20-10 points to the top-four finishers.
The New York-bred Venti Valentine broke on top in her first race since posting a seven-length romp in the Busher Invitational on March 5 at the Big A. Under jockey Manny Franco, Venti Valentine paced the seven-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.48 seconds, the half in 49.26 and three-quarters in 1:13.93 over the fast track.
The Jorge Abreu-trained Venti Valentine maintained the edge into the stretch. But Ortiz kept Nostalgic to task along the inside and tenaciously pursued the emerging seam along the inside, overtaking the pacesetter before hitting the wire in a 1:50.41 final time.
It marked the Medaglia d’Oro filly’s second consecutive win after besting allowance company by 6 3/4 lengths on March 3 at Gulfstream Park.
“Last time, we planned on putting her up in the race a little bit, which we did again today,” said Mott, who previously won the Gazelle with Close Hatches in 2013. “We wanted to see her engaged early a little more and she did it. She held her position and came through on the rail. I didn’t tell him where to be other than we didn’t want to be 15 lengths back.
“She just hadn’t learned how to put in that kind of a run yet,” Mott added. “She hadn’t learned how to get that position. It all goes together, it’s just maturity, time and she had a good winter at Payson Park.”
Off at 4-1, Nostalgic returned $10.60 on a $2 win bet. She improved her career earnings to $235,400.
After running fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle to cap her juvenile campaign in December at the Big A, Nostalgic ran ninth in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant in February at Gulfstream Park before earning a winner’s circle trip in her last two starts.
“I love this filly. She reminds me a lot of Elate,” Ortiz said. “I was very happy to ride her today. With Keeneland going on right now, you don’t know where you’re going to be riding, so I was happy to be on her. I rode her with a lot of confidence. I knew she was doing well. She ran amazing last time. She woke up which was the most important thing. As a 2-year-old, she won first time out but she was very green. She’s big and she’s supposed to keep going longer and longer. I am very excited about her. Moving forward, we’re going to be fine with her.”
Venti Valentine, bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, picked up 40 qualifying pints to the Oaks after being piloted by Manny Franco.
“She ran her race and I think like Manny said, he didn’t think that horse [Nostalgic] was going to come back at the eighth pole and by that time he looked, the horse was already there,” Abreu said. “But I think he gave her a great ride. She’s used to having a target and today she was by herself on the lead. It was a whole different scenario because there was no speed in the race. If she tracks somebody, that puts her on the bit.”
Abreu said the Kentucky Oaks is on the radar.
“Oh yeah; we’ll see how she comes out of it and we’ll consider it,” he said.
Shotgun Hottie, trained by William Morey, earned 20 points after finishing a half-length in front of Classy Edition, who garnered 10 points for Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher.
“She’s gutsy and always give 100 percent,” said Trevor McCarthy, Shotgun Hottie’s rider. “We always thought the mile and an eighth would suit her. I wish I had gotten out a little bit sooner. She’s a bit of a grinder and I had to wait until I could get out, but when she got out she really gave me 100 percent and a good effort.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card headlined by the $100,000 Top Flight Invitational. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Bohl
Photo: NYRA Photo