OZONE PARK, N.Y. - An intriguing blend of up-and-coming fillies and hard-knocking mares is set to enter the starting gate on Friday at Aqueduct Racetrack for the Grade 3, $300,000 Go For Wand Handicap.
The one-mile Go For Wand, carded as the ninth race on a 10-race program, is the middle leg of the Thanksgiving Week stakes action at The Big A, which begins with the Grade 3, $300,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday and culminates with the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on Saturday. Also on Saturday are a pair of juvenile stakes - the Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen and Grade 2, $400,000 Demoiselle - as well as the Grade 3, $400,000 Comely for 3-year-old fillies.
Leading the contingent of up-and-comers in the Go For Wand is the 3-year-old filly Sweet Whiskey, who will making her first start against older competition. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Alto Racing, Sweet Whiskey took the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park in her seasonal debut, and finished second in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland and Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont Park in the spring.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the mount aboard Sweet Whiskey (5-1), and the duo will depart from post 4.
Unlike Sweet Whiskey, 3-year-old filly Princess Violet has a wealth of experience facing older fillies and mares. In her most recent start, the Mike Hushion trainee was a 5 Â½-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Empire Distaff Handicap against older New York-breds, which earned her a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. Prior to the Empire Distaff, all of Princess Violet's wins had come at sprint distances, though the daughter of Officer finished second to Breeders'Cup Distaff winner Untapable in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose on June 28 at Belmont Park.
Owned by Barry Schwartz, Princess Violet sits at 9-2 on the morning line. She will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 6.
The 3-year-old challengers will have their hands full with the New York-bred mare Willet, who shows no signs of slowing down at 6-years-old for trainer Jimmy Iselin.
A winner of eight of 20 lifetime starts, Willet has only one win to her credit in 2014, but has been faring well against talented competition. Three starts ago, the Jump Start mare finished third to Artemis Agrotera in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, and then came within a length of turning the tables on Artemis Agrotera in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom, in which she finished third, a length behind La Verdad.
In her most recent start, the 6 Â½-furlong Iroquois, Willet encountered La Verdad again, but had to settle for second behind the speedy filly after running out of ground in the stretch.
"[Willet] is 6, but she acts like a 4-year-old; she's been lightly raced by design," said Iselin, who also owns Willet in partnership with Charlotte Assoulin and Eli Gindi. "She's doing very well. She was second by a length last time to La Verdad, who is a very fast horse, and she came on in the end to almost beat her. One mile is a great distance for her. On her home ground, at this distance, we feel like the pendulum is swinging back in her favor."
Willet, the morning line favorite at 4-1, will break from post 5 with Dylan Davis aboard.
After coming within a neck of winning the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom and two lengths of taking the Grade 1 Ballerina in 2013, Classic Point seemed to tail off at the end of her 4-year-old campaign and into her 5-year-old season. In her last start, however, the chestnut mare may have hinted that a revival is underway.
Previously in the care of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, Classic Point was transferred to Jerkens' son, Jimmy, two starts ago. In her first start with her new trainer, the daughter of Flatter finished a well-beaten fifth in the 2014 edition of the Gallant Bloom, but her fortunes changed in her next start - the Punkin Pie at Belmont. The Joseph Shields, Jr. color-bearer shot to the front in the Punkin Pie, shrugged off her challengers at the top of the stretch, and dusted the field by 6 Â¼ lengths. For her effort, Classic Point earned a 93 Beyer, just one point shy of her career best.
Classic Point will break from post 10 with Angel Arroyo in the irons. She sits at 12-1 on the morning line.
Rounding out the field are Tapit's World, who will be making her second start for Michelle Nevin; Endless Chatter, winner of the Summer Colony at the Spa three starts ago; Street Girl, runner-up in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs last out; Moment in Dixie, fourth in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm; Geeky Gorgeous, winner of 11 of 22 career starts for trainer Daniel Lopez; Snowbell, who earned a 95 Beyer in an off-the-turf optional claimer in her most recent start; Zucchini Flower, third in the Summer Colony two starts ago; and Playful Love, third in a first-level allowance race in her latest outing.