By Jack Shinar for the Blood-Horse

Odds-on choice Secret Gypsy made the long trip from New Orleans to earn the first graded stakes win of her career when she captured the $149,800 Distaff Handicap (gr. II) by 1 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct March 21.

Secret Gyspy inherited a clear advantage at the half-mile pole for jockey Robby Albarado when pace rival Zada Belle apparently broke down at the half-mile pole. She turned back a couple of challengers in the lane to win at odds of 7-10. Just five contested the six-furlong inner track test of older fillies and mares following the scratch of Moonshine Alice.

Richland Hills Stable and John Kuehl own the wining 4-year-old daughter of Sea of Secrets, who began her career by setting a 5 1/2-furlong record at Saratoga (:58 3/5) while earning a triple-digit Beyer figure Aug. 16, 2007. Injuries had kept Secret Gypsy from fulfilling the potential many expected after that auspicious debut, but she earned some newfound respect while winning in hand for Albarado in her seasonal debut.

“She’s a very nice filly,” Albarado said. “She really does it on her own.  I didn’t have to push her. When you ask, (she wins) by a hand ride. She just gives you what she has. I think I only her hit her once – and she came in second that time.”

Secret Gypsy has now won four of five starts with Albarado, including her last three in a row. The lone defeat came in a runner-up finish to Informed Decision in Keeneland’s Raven Run (gr. II) last October. Her previous win came by four lengths in the Dec. 20 Esplanade Stakes at Fair Grounds. Overall, she has won five of nine starts while earning $324,819. The chestnut filly earned $94,380 for the victory.

“It was fantastic [to get a graded stakes win] and tough to get,” said trainer Ronny Werner. “We’ve been hitting a couple dead spots as far as getting her running on a regular basis so this was just super.  She did break a little slow, for her, but Robby knows her well, works with her in the morning, and did a good job easing her up and didn’t rush her off her feet.”

Zada Belle, who made the lead from the rail, apparently suffered an injury and was pulled up immediately by Ramon Dominguez. The first quarter was run in :22.44 and Secret Gypsy went on to post fractions of :45.04 and :56.98. Both Distorted Passion and Royale Michele made late runs at her in the homestretch, but Albarado needed only his hands to coax her home in 1:10.01 on a fast track.

The winner, who was bred in Kentucky by Norman Cheng, paid $3.40, $3, and $2.10. She is out of the Rahy mare Miss Utada.

Distorted Passion ($5.70, $3.40), ridden by Rajiv Maragh, nosed Barbara Fritchie (gr. II) victress Royale Michele ($3) and Richard Migliore for the place. Awesome Ashley was last. Zada Belle was vanned off.