Willet’s fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Go For Wand at Aqueduct on Black Friday clearly fell short of her connections’ hopes, but when trainer and co-owner Jimmy Iselin confidently wheeled her back just seven days later to contest the Touch of Love overnight stakes for state-bred fillies and mares at Aqueduct, he knew she had plenty left to offer. The 1-2 favorite did not disappoint.
The muddy (sealed) racing conditions of the main track led to five early scratches for the 7 1/2-furlong Touch of Love: Floating alone, Kelli Got Frosty, La Verdad, Mischief Maker and What the Frost. A relatively robust field of six fillies and mares remained, however, led by multiple stakes winners Willet, Miss Valentine and Frosty Bay and stakes winner Harbor Mist.
After bringing up the rear of the four-horse vanguard for the first half mile (48.13), Willet moved out into the four-path entering the far turn and began her bid. She passed horses in the turn until she had picked off all but Harbor Mist by the time she began to straighten away for the drive two-wide.
Willet assumed the lead under Angel Arroyo with less than three-sixteenths to go, then kicked home to a no-doubt-about-it 5 1/4-length victory. Miss Valentine rallied to take second, one length clear of Harbor Mist. Completing the order of finish were Tahoe Tigress, Frosty Bay and Erin Enchanted. Willet’s final time for 7 1/2 panels was 1:32.12. [VIDEO]
Iselin attributed Willet’s sub-par effort in the Go For Wand to her having both worked and run on Lasix in close proximity and he cut back on the medication Friday.
Willet’s victory in the Touch of Love is her third stakes tally this year and fourth for her career for Iselin and co-owners Charlotte Assoulin and Eli Gindi. She romped in last year’s Iroquois Stakes by nearly ten lengths and this year won the Union Avenue and Princess Dixie. Only twice out of the money in 15 starts, her record stands at 7-5-1 with nearly a half-million dollars in earnings ($494,900). She is a perfect three-for-three over off-going.
The Touch of Love is possibly the last race for both Willet and 5-year-old Miss Valentine, an eight-time stakes winner for Waterville Lake Stable (26-9-7-3; $602,500).
Willet was bred by the late Michael T. Martin and foaled at Highcliff Farm in Delanson (now Saratoga Stud LLC). Her dam Katina K is a winning daughter of Distinctive Pro out of New York-bred Grade 3 winner Darlin Momma (Night Invader). Katina K has produced four winners from four starters, including 10-time winner Dr. Quirk (Tomorrows Cat) who earned $159,305. She was bred to Majestic Warrior in 2013.