Waterville Lake Stable’s multiple stakes-winning and Grade 3-placed homebred Miss Valentine came back a winner at four on Saturday, going from last to first to capture the $75,000 Northern Willy Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares on Aqueduct’s closing weekend.
Paired for the first time with Cornelio Velasquez to go the mile on the Aqueduct main, Miss Valentine was coming off a five-month vacation following a successful sophomore campaign for trainer Christophe Clement. The late-running daughter of Afleet Alex went off as the 4-5 post-time favorite.
Breaking in a leisurely way from post two, Miss Valentine may have given her backers pause in the early stages of the running, as she raced fifth and last, and further off the pace than usual, traveling as much as nine lengths behind Risk a Chance, who won the battle for the lead from Lady Gracenote and set the early fractions (23.62 and 47.13).
Miss Valentine, however, showed her cards with a decisive move early in the far turn, advancing two spots before swinging out into the three path at the top of the lane with her sights set on the leader.
Gaining ground in the stretch, Miss Valentine overhauled Risk a Chance around the sixteenth marker and opened up to a 2 1/4-length lead by the wire. After six furlongs in 1:11.19, she completed the mile distance in 1:37.08. Second choice Great Gracie Dane, denied in the stretch by a game Risk a Chance, followed up in third another three quarters of a length back.
The Northern Willy is Miss Valentine’s fourth career stakes victory and second stakes score in state-bred company. The win boosts her career record to 12-5-4-0 and increases her earnings to $276,300.
Winner of the Swirlaway Stakes at two, she added a pair of open stakes victories last year, winning the Serena’s Song at Monmouth and Mom’s Command at Belmont. Her four additional runner-up stakes finishes are headlined by the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks last August. Miss Valentine has also finished second in the East View, Wandering Cloud and Bouwerie. In her last race of 2011, she was fifth to Awesome Feather in the Grade 1 Gazelle.
Foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Miss Valentine is one of five winners from five foals to start out of the multiple black type-placed Gilded Time mare Miss Yiayia ($175,970). Miss Yiayia’s other six-figure earner is New York-bred Thunder Chief, by Thunder Gulch ($161,093).
Miss Yiayia was purchased by Winter Quarter Farm (agent) for $195,000 at the 2001 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale. She changed hands again in 2009, at the Keeneland January Sale, selling to David J. Fiske (agent) for $10,000.