A non-threatening fourth in her stakes debut in the Dec. 4 Demoiselle (G2), Godolphin’s homebred Nostalgic was an entirely different proposition when returning to Aqueduct for Saturday’s $250,000 Gazelle (G3). The maturing Medaglia d’Oro filly drove through on the rail to deny 1.10-1 favorite Venti Valentine, and book her Kentucky Oaks (G1) ticket.
Nostalgic reminded winning rider Jose Ortiz of another daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, also trained by Bill Mott – multiple Grade 1 star and $2.6 million-earner Elate.
“I love this filly. She reminds me a lot of Elate,” Ortiz said. “I was very happy to ride her today. With Keeneland going on right now, you don’t know where you’re going to be riding, so I was happy to be on her.”
Nostalgic was on the upswing at Gulfstream Park. After a forgettable last of nine in her turf experiment in the Feb. 5 Sweetest Chant (G3), Nostalgic rebounded with a vengeance back on dirt, rolling to a 6 3/4-length allowance score March 3.
Yet Venti Valentine remained the one to beat, as the Demoiselle runner-up who conquered the March 5 Busher in her impressive reappearance. The scratch of potential pacesetter Greatitude, and the flying start by Venti Valentine, put the favorite right on the early lead.
As Venti Valentine dictated splits of :24.48, :49.26, and 1:13.93, Nostalgic was tailgating her on the inside. The outside stalkers, Classy Edition and Divine Huntress, took aim turning for home, but Venti Valentine had their measure.
When opening up on them, though, the favorite left the door open for the rail-skimming Nostalgic. The 4.30-1 shot took a few strides to reach top gear, but she soon outkicked Venti Valentine by 1 1/4 lengths. Nostalgic negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.41 to garner 100 Oaks points. Plus the one she received from the Demoiselle, she now sports 101.
Venti Valentine, best of the rest by two lengths, added 40 points to increase her tally to 94. Shotgun Hottie closed to grab 20 points in third, with 41 overall in her account. Classy Edition picked up another 10 points for her fourth-place effort, and her haul stands at 30. Divine Huntress, Morning Matcha, and the eased Caragate concluded the order of finish.
Nostalgic, a stunning last-to-first debut winner at Belmont Park, has bankrolled $235,400 from her 5-3-0-0 line.
“I rode her with a lot of confidence,” Ortiz said. “I knew she was doing well. She ran amazing last time. She woke up which was the most important thing. As a two-year-old, she won first time out but she was very green. She’s big and she’s supposed to keep going longer and longer. I am very excited about her. Moving forward, we’re going to be fine with her.”
Mott commented on the value of getting Nostalgic into the game, rather than letting her dawdle early.
“Last time, we planned on putting her up in the race a little bit, which we did again today,” the Hall of Famer said. “We wanted to see her engaged early a little more and she did it. She held her position and came through on the rail. I didn’t tell him where to be, other than we didn’t want to be 15 lengths back.
“She just hadn’t learned how to put in that kind of a run yet. She hadn’t learned how to get that position. It all goes together, it’s just maturity, time and she had a good winter at Payson Park.”
Venti Valentine’s trainer, Jorge Abreu, believes that she would have preferred playing the huntress.
“She ran her race, and I think like (jockey) Manny (Franco) said, he didn’t think that horse (Nostalgic) was going to come back at the eighth pole and by that time he looked, the horse was already there,” Abreu said. “But I think he gave her a great ride. She’s used to having a target and today she was by herself on the lead. It was a whole different scenario because there was no speed in the race. If she tracks somebody, that puts her on the bit.”
Kentucky-bred Nostalgic inherits her name from her dam, Been There Before, a stakes-placed Tapit mare. This is the family of 2006 Wood Memorial (G1) winner Bob and John, and further back, champion Capote and transatlantic star Exceller.