Yesterday's muddy track produced a rash of scratches from the $75,000-added Miss Preakness Stakes, but it might not have mattered to Nic's Halo whom she ran against.
As usual, the filly came out of the gate a step slowly, but once she got going, she rolled to the front and went on to a two-length score over Palette Knife.
"I told Rick [jockey Rick Wilson], she always breaks a step or two slow, but then she gets right into it," said winning trainer Bill Badgett. "A couple of speed horses scratched, so that helped."
The 6-furlong sprint attracted quickness galore, but Bubbleover and Last Buoy were pulled from the race as was the real closer, Dance for Jan.
That left a mad dash for the lead among the four remaining and previously unbeaten Houston Miss quickly took charge from the rail.
But Nic's Halo was striding strongly by the quarter-mile point and she had plenty to withstand mild bids for the lead by Palette Knife and Crafty But Sweet, a Grade III stakes winner last year.
"I'm very happy. She doesn't run many bad races," said Badgett of a horse that is 5-for-12 lifetime and has been on the board in 10 of 12 starts.
It was Nic's Halo's first start since April 5, when she finished fourth in a Grade II stakes at Keeneland. "She hasn't been hurt," the trainer said. "We'd entered her in some races in New York that didn't go."
In her first attempt at stakes competition, Houston Miss faded to fourth, beaten in a photo by Crafty But Sweet.
Today, females continue to take center stage with the Grade II, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-olds and the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for older horses.
Seven will be taking aim on the D. Wayne Lukas filly Cara Rafaela, who seeks to repeat for the trainer. Lukas won this race with Serena's Song last year.
The front-runner in the 72nd edition of the 1 1/8 -mile test figures to be Little Miss Fast, a New York filly who has won four of her last five after trainer Juan Serey went to Lasix.
But Ginny Lynn, with the rail and Chris McCarron, Cara Rafaela and Birr figure to be tough.
In the Gallorette, a Grade III race at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, betting play may center on last year's runner-up, Churchbell Chimes, and the beaten favorite, Mz. Zill Bear, who won her 1996 debut by 4 1/2 lengths.
Mz. Zill Bear was undermined in last year's race when the Gallorette was taken off the grass to a wet main track. She finished fifth.
Another to reckon with is Logan's Mist, who, with Mz. Zill Bear, won the divisions of the Searching Stakes in late April.
Pub Date: 5/17/96