June 13, 2024

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Ce Ce Defends Princess Rooney Title

6 min read

After winning the race last year, Bo Hirsch’s Ce Ce  emphatically repeated in the $300,000 Princess Rooney Invitational Stakes (G2) July 2 at Gulfstream Park, earning another fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland in the fall.

The Michael McCarthy-trained daughter of Elusive Quality  captured the Princess Rooney by 3 1/4 lengths last year before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar to secure an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter.

“I just don’t have enough superlatives and good things to say about her,” McCarthy said, who watched the Princess Rooney in his Southern California living room before heading to Santa Anita Park. “She’s very special.”

Ce Ce’s encore performance may well have topped her first visit to Gulfstream Park. She scored by 6 1/2 lengths as the 2-5 favorite.

The 6-year-old mare rated in fourth along the backstretch as Make Mischief  set the pace along the backstretch after breaking alertly from her no. 6 post position just outside Ce Ce.

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Gulfstream-based Spirit Wind  closely tracked the pacesetter along the backstretch and on the far turn before challenging Make Mischief on the turn into the homestretch and taking over the lead. Meanwhile, Ce Ce responded when asked for her run by Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, sweeping three-wide into the stretch and drawing clear with a commanding outside drive.

“I got kind of lucky the outside horse cleared us and I just stocked the leaders. I didn’t want to stay too far back today. I wanted to be close to the pace,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t want them to sneak away from me, but at the three-eighths I asked her to go and she went on.”

Ce Ce ran seven furlongs in 1:22.20 to collect her 10th victory and push her career earnings to $2,277,100. Carrying high weight of 124 pounds, she paid $2.80 to win.

“I told Victor to just bounce on out of there. I wasn’t sure what the filly outside of us was going to do. When she ended up catching a flyer out of there, Victor was content to just let her go and sit outside the speed,” McCarthy said. “She did what I expected her to do. Obviously, it’s never convenient when you ship all the way across the country, but it’s a racetrack that she’s fond of. The spacing of the race was great.”

For McCarthy, Ce Ce’s triumph continued his good fortune at Gulfstream Park, where he saddled City of Light   for a victory in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1). McCarthy reported that plans for Ce Ce’s next start are undecided.

“We’ll play it by ear, but we might follow the same program we followed last year,” McCarthy said, whose champion mare went on last year to run in the Ketel One Ballerina Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, and the Chillingworth Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita before her Breeders’ Cup score.

Ce Ce is out of the grade 1-winning Belong to Me mare Miss Houdini . The dam has nine winners out of 10 foals to start including Papa Clem , a winner of the Arkansas Derby (G2) and the San Fernando Stakes (G2). She also produced the stakes placed Stradella Road . Her last reported foal is a 3-year-old American Pharoah   colt named Native Thunder.

Video: Princess Rooney Invitational S. (G2)

Willy Boi Captures Smile Sprint, Drain the Clock Fourth 

Lea Farms’ Willy Boi  benefited from a perfect trip under Chantal Sutherland to register a comfortable length victory earlier on the card in the $150,000 Smile Sprint Invitational Stakes (G3).

Slightly favored at 4-5 over grade 1 winner Drain the Clock , Willy Boi also collected a $50,000 ‘Win Only’ bonus available to Florida-bred winners.

Drain the Clock advanced to the lead three-wide on the turn into the stretch but was quickly joined to his outside by Willy Boi, who had rated behind the contested pace. Willy Boi went on to open a clear lead in the stretch and was in control to the wire, holding off a late-running Pudding .

Willy Boi ran six furlongs in 1:09.71. Pudding rallied from last to finish second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Absolute Grit . Drain the Clock tired to finish another length back in fourth.

Willy Boi wins the Smile Sprint Invitational Stakes Saturday, July 2, 2022 at Gulfstream Park
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Ryan Thompson

Willy Boi wins the Smile Sprint Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park

“I did get a little nervous in the gate because there was a little bit of noise and commotion,” Sutherland said. “We broke a little slow, but the track has been playing a little for closers from off the pace and not holding speed as well, so it kind of worked in our favor.

“I was comfortable, but I kept my eye on (Drain the Clock). I thought he ran a great race. In the lane when I came to him, I wanted to get away from him because I know he’s a pit bull and he’ll fight, and I didn’t want to fight with him today, so I wanted to stay away from him.”

The 4-year-old gelding who captured the Hutcheson Stakes and finished fourth in last year’s Smile, is now undefeated in three starts since being transferred to trainer Jorge Delgado, having come off an eight-month layoff to capture an April 8 optional claiming allowance at Tampa Bay Downs before going on to prep for the Smile with an impressive win in the May 28 Big Drama Stakes at Gulfstream.

“I’m so grateful that Lea Farms gave me the chance to train these kinds of horses,” Delgado said. “I hope I can get more of this quality of horse because I love to win these kinds of races.”

For Sutherland, the Smile Sprint victory continued a career resurgence at Gulfstream Park.

“It meant a lot to me at the beginning, being at the top, but now having been to the top and been on the bottom, to be coming back, it’s means so much more,” Sutherland said.

The Smile is one of 12 graded dirt stakes included in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen, an incentive-based participation bonus program. Willy Boi earned a $30,000 credit toward the entry fee for the $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Second-place finisher Pudding earned a $15,000 credit, while third-place finisher Absolute Grit earned a $7,500 credit.

Delgado said he had no definite plans for Willy Boi’s next start.

“It’s undecided but I think we’ll go to Saratoga with him,” Delgado said, whose ultimate goal for the 4-year-old son of Uncaptured  is the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Willy Boi is out of the stakes-winning Yes It’s True mare Shining Moment  who has six winners out of six foals to start. Among those she has produced is Petulant Delight , a winner of $182,029. Willy Boi is her last reported foal. 

Video: Smile Sprint Invitational S. (G3)

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