The New York-bred Willet will look to get her 2015 campaign off and running when she contests the $100,000 Interborough at six furlongs for older fillies and mares on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Now a 7-year-old, Willet enters the Interborough off a pair of disappointing performances at the Big A: a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Go For Wand Handicap on November 28, and a third-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Garland of Roses on December 6.
The Go For Wand and Garland of Roses were not the norm for Willet in 2014. Trained by Jimmy Iselin, the daughter of Jump Start enjoyed a very productive year, including third-place finishes in the Grade 1 Ballerina and Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap. The bay mare also earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 99 when taking a New York-bred allowance race on July 30 at Saratoga Race Course.
Iselin, who owns Willet in partnership with Charlotte Assoulin, is confident his star pupil's best days aren't behind her.
"We've never run her before in the winter, but she's really flourishing, both physically and mentally," said Iselin. "[The Garland of Roses] was run on a very sloppy track; a sloppy track on the inner [track] at Aqueduct is not the same as at Belmont or Saratoga. We hope that's the reason she didn't run to her potential. We obviously have the option to breed her, but she's doing so well, we'd like for her to go out on a high note."
Willet, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, will break from post 3 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard.
Mid-Atlantic raider Stormy Novel will go out for trainer John Servis and Cam Allard. The newly minted 4-year-old filly most recently delivered a strong performance in an optional claimer on December 17 at Laurel Park.
Away in second, the daughter of Bernardini tracked the early pace before blowing by the pacesetter around the turn en route to a six-length victory over a muddy track. For the performance, Stormy Novel earned a career-best Beyer of 93.
Kendrick Carmouche will be aboard Stormy Novel, 5-1 on the morning line, from the rail.
Aireofdistinction, a recent acquisition by trainer David Jacobson, will be making her first start since winning the Open Mind Stakes by two lengths on September 13 at Churchill Downs for her former trainer, Steve Asmussen.
In 2014, the Songandaprayer mare also earned a hard-fought victory in the 5 ½-furlong Spring Fever Stakes on February 22 at Oaklawn Park, capping a four-race win streak that dated back to the fall of 2013.
At 5-2 on the morning line, Aireofdistinction will be ridden by Fernando Jara from post 7.
Rounding out the field are Bridgehampton, a stakes winner from the barn of Mike Hushion; Cape Cod Carol, who took an optional claimer at the Big A in her most recent outing; Expression, winner of the Garland of Roses; and Atlantic's Smile, who won an allowance race by 5 ¾ lengths in her latest start.