The fourth time was the charm for Willet, who came from off the pace to
win the $100,000 Union Avenue presented by Northeastern Fine Jewelry
and BALL Watch Co. on Monday at Saratoga Race Course.
in three previous tries at the Spa, Willet collared pacesetter Clear
Pasaj at the top of the stretch and went on to a 1 ¾-length victory in
the six-furlong sprint for New York-bred fillies and mares.
at 7-5, Willet returned $4.80 for a $2 win bet, hitting the wire in
1:11.36. She earned $60,000 for the victory, pushing her career bankroll
race is for all the small, little trainers at Aqueduct," said winning
trainer and co-owner James Iselin. "Never, ever give up. There's always a
chance, right? I'm over the top. I have no words."
ran second in the 2012 Union Avenue, and returned to Saratoga this year
in the Lottsa Talc overnight stakes on July 25, staging a furious rally
on the outside but falling a nose short to Clear Pasaj.
got beat a nose the last time; it's part of the game," Iselin said.
"You lose a little once [in a while] to win the big ones."
Pasaj, the 5-2 second choice who was riding a two-race win streak,
sprang from the gate and sprinted to the front, leading through a
quarter-mile in 22.73 seconds and a half in 45.99, with Beautiful But
Blue in close pursuit.
jockey Joel Rosario, Willet was reserved in the early stages before
ranging up on the outside nearing the five-sixteenths pole. Steadily
advancing around the turn, she passed Beautiful But Blue and took aim on
inching clear past the three-sixteenths pole, Rosario went to the whip
with an eighth of a mile to run, encouraging Willet to the wire.
tried to save ground a little bit at the beginning," Rosario said.
"After that, it was easy for her. It looked like there were one or two
horses with speed. I thought I'd be laying third, but they went a little
bit quicker than I thought. My horse has natural speed, so she can put
me in the right spot."
race was just the third start this year for Willet, who has been turned
out by Iselin during the past two winters to point for a summer-fall
off by design," Iselin said. "If you race hard in the winter time in
New York, the money is there, but we want to run her in big races. You
can't run all winter long and expect to do well at Saratoga. It's too
Pasaj, trained by Bruce Levine for AnJes Farm and ridden by Jose Ortiz,
persevered for second, two lengths ahead of Beautiful But Blue. Cape
Cod Carol, Galiana and Miss Valentine completed the order of finish.
kind of broke the door when the doors opened at the same moment, so I
got lucky," said Ortiz. "She broke on top, but the other horse passed me
and she was still fighting for second."