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Cluster of Stars Comes Back in Distaff 'Cap

After conceding the lead on the far turn, Cluster of Stars came back under jockey Junior Alvarado’s patient ride to win Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 2, $200,000 Distaff Handicap on Saturday and remain unbeaten in five starts.


Backed at 1-5 in her graded stakes debut, Cluster of Stars was quickest from the gate and was pressed by Miss d’Oro and Los Ojitos through an opening quarter-mile in 22.52 seconds. Los Ojitos was sent to the lead along the rail inside the three-eighths, but Alvarado was content to let Cluster of Stars race in second.


Nearing the three-sixteenths pole, Alvarado shook the reins, and Cluster of Stars dispatched Los Ojitos and drew clear to a 2 ¾-length victory. Miss d’Oro overtook Los Ojitos in the final strides to nab second. Nakano trailed throughout and finished last.


“She broke sharp. She was doing it nice and easy,” said Alvarado. “I didn’t want to be too close to the rail. I actually didn’t want to start using my horse at that point just to block somebody. By the three-eighths pole, the five-sixteenths pole, I knew what I had in my hands. I wasn’t worried about the other horse. I just kept my horse clear and cool. Turning for home, the other horse was trying, but that was it. When I asked my horse, she just took off right away.”


Cluster of Stars, a New York-bred daughter of Greeley’s Galaxy, returned $2.40 for a $2 win wager and completed six furlongs in 1:10.14.


 “I told [Alvarado] to be patient and not get in a hurry,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “I didn’t know what anybody else was going to do. I didn’t like it scratched down to four. You know how it changes everything. You have some obvious speed horses, and then you don’t have any.”


Owned by Harvey Weinstein’s Turtle Bird Stable, Cluster of Stars has raced exclusively in six-furlong races at Aqueduct, winning the Correction in February and an optional claimer on March 14 in her two most recent starts. She has earned $279,600, including $120,000 for her Distaff win.




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