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OZONE PARK, NY – WinStar Stablemates Racing’s Paris Lights capped her sophomore campaign with a graded stakes score and made her anticipated 4-year-old bow with similar success, running down Portal Creek in the final jumps to capture Friday’s $150,000 Distaff Handicap by a half-length at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 66th running of the Distaff, a 7-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares, was the first stakes of the 11-day Aqueduct spring meet that started Thursday and runs through April 18.
Paris Lights Heads Crystal Ball in CCA Oaks
Paris Lights was last in action nearly 9 months prior, when she tracked in second position before edging Crystal Ball by a head to win the 9-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in July at Saratoga Race Course.
Off the respite, Paris Lights utilized a similar trip in the Distaff, breaking sharp from post 4 under jockey Junior Alvarado and sitting in second position behind pacesetter Portal Creek, who led the compact five-horse field through the opening 1/4-mile in 24.04 seconds and the 1/2 in 48.28 on the fast main track.
Kendrick Carmouche kept Portal Creek to the inside out of the turn, with Paris Lights tenaciously attempting to overtake her from the outside. The duo linked up in the stretch, with Portal Creek initially repelling her rival’s initial charge before Paris Lights re-gained command in the final 1/16, hitting the wire in 1:26.99.
The trainee of Hall of Famer Bill Mott won for the fourth time in 5 career starts and fourth straight following a third-place debut effort in April 2020 at Gulfstream.
“I was hoping she would give me a good break so I could put myself in the race in a stalking position, and that’s how it worked out,” said Alvarado. “I got to the lead and she started wandering a little bit and kind of waited on horses. Being off a little while, she got lost on me a little bit, but it was still a great effort.
“She doesn’t have a 6- or 7-furlong kick, she just grinds on little by little,” he added. “Once I got clear, she wandered a little. I tried to keep her attention and move my reins a little and keep her moving forward. This distance is not her game, she was just the best horse today.”
Alvarado, a stalwart on the NYRA circuit, was riding his first day back in New York since notching 53 wins – including 7 stakes – during Gulfstream Park’s championship meet. On Friday, he continued his success riding for Mott.
“We’ve been a great team for the past 8 years,” he said. “Last year and this year, we’ve been pretty strong with Bill Mott. I’m just enjoying the ride I’m on right now. It’s just been great working with him. I might call him before the race if something looks a little tricky and we’ll try and figure it out. I’ll say this is what (agent) Mike (Sellitto) and I want to do, but you decide. It works out most of the time.”
Paris Lights’ time off did not deter bettors, who made herthe 6-5 favorite. The Curlin filly, carrying 121 pounds, returned $4.60 on a $2 win wager. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Paris Lights improved her career bankroll to $370,412.
“Obviously, it’s not her best distance, but she showed up and ran well,” said Mott assistant Leanna Willaford. “This gives her plenty of time for the La Troienne (G1) (on April 30) at Churchill Downs. No complaints. She’s been here since Wednesday and has been doing great.”
Ten Strike Racing’s Portal Creek, carrying 120 pounds, ran second for a second consecutive stakes, edging a rallying Honor Way to her outside by a neck. The 5-year-old Shanghai Bobby mare was also the runner-up in the Heavenly Prize Invitational going a one-turn mile on March 6 at the Big A for trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero.
In the stretch, Portal Creek angled off the rail closer to Paris Lights, who was making her move near the middle of the track.
“The filly ran very game,” Carmouche said. “She only runs one way and she fought it out to the wire. Carlos had her ready today. My filly wanted to fight it out with the other horse, but she was so far out by the time you drift out there, you’re not going to win the race.”
Honor Way, who ended her 2020 year with back-to-back wins in the Garland of Roses and Pumpkin Pie, respectively, earned blacktype in her first start as a 7-year-old. Trained by Charlton Baker, Honor Way, the 124-pound highweight, has finished in the money in her last six starts.
Kansas Kis and Lady Kate completed the order of finish.
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