By MICHAEL COMPTON
It’s Tricky, one of the leading 3-year-old fillies a year ago, makes the first start of her 2012 season in today’s Top Flight Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct.
Second behind subsequent Eclipse Champion Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs in November, It’s Tricky adds to what is already a strong returning filly and mare division.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains the daughter of Mineshaft for Godolphin Stable, watched with keen interest this past weekend as Awesome Maria and champion Royal Delta made their first appearances of 2012 in the Sabin at Gulfstream Park. He knows Horse of the Year Havre de Grace is working toward her debut as well.
McLaughlin hopes the Top Flight is It’s Tricky’s launching pad for a big year.
“She’s training real well,” said McLaughlin. “I hope she maintains that Grade 1 status. She won two last year, and it’s hard to maintain that. We expect her to be in the top five in her class. Hopefully, it works out well for us.”
Trainer Mark Casse should have some say in the Top Flight. Casse sends out John Oxley’s Florida-bred Delightful Mary. The 4-year-old daughter of Limehouse, a $500,000 OBS April graduate in 2010, has had the benefit of two starts this year.
She captured the Ocala Stakes for state-breds on Jan. 8 at Gulfstream Park and most recently chased home Awesome Feather in the Sunshine Millions Distaff. Delightful Mary made a threatening move around the far turn of that $300,000 race, but simply could not get close to the undefeated winner.
“She kind of made a big move and looked like she would be there,” Casse said. “[Jockey] Luis [Contreras] decided to go inside and at the top of the lane lost his momentum for a second and then angled back out and it cost him a length or two, but I don’t think it cost him the race. The thing I thought was encouraging about the race is she could have given up and finished third. I was happy she won that battle. We had some questions whether she could go that far (1 1/8 miles).”
Asked about cutting Delightful Mary back a sixteenth of a mile for the Top Flight, Casse said, “That’s not going to hurt her feelings.”
Delightful May is produced from the French Deputy mare Deputy’s Delight. She was bred by Hobeau Farm Ltd.
Rounding out the Top Flight are: Coco Ecolo, Slepless Dixie, Bahama Bound and Love and Pride.
NYRA Press contributed to this report.