They were appetizing fractions.
“I started lickin’ my lips,” trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said.
He started, but didn’t have time to finish before the pace-setters backed up and his mare C C’s Pal charged into the lead to win the Grade II $200,000 Honorable Miss at Saratoga Race Course on Friday.
It’s Me Mom led the field through a quarter-mile of the six-furlong dirt run in 21.14, then the half-mile in 43.78 before fading. Winning Image and Roman Treasure were close behind, and all three horses hit a wall after exiting the turn.
“It was awful quick up front. We wanted to kind of save ground around the turn,” Dutrow said. “We knew we could out-quicken the first two horses on the inside of us, we knew there was a ton of speed. This filly can win on the lead, stalking, coming from off of it. And she just fired another bullet, man. What are you going to do?”
With the win, C C’s Pal has been in the money in her last 10 races.
Jockey Junior Alvarado spotted a seam at the top of the stretch, but was beaten to it by Maple Forest. He swung her to the outside, and she surged past the leaders with Island Bound applying pressure through to the wire. C C’s Pal prevailed by a neck over the daughter of Speightstown. In 2004, Speightstown earned a share of the track record for six furlongs of dirt in 1:08.04. It would have taken a comparable effort for Island Bound to follow in her father’s footsteps, as C C’s Pal finished in 1:09.88.
“My filly has enough speed to be close if they are going slow, or if they’re going fast, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Alvarado said. “That’s pretty much what happened. They went real, real fast, and I was in a nice spot saving ground. She really gave me a nice kick at the end.”
Alvarado swept the stakes for the day at Saratoga, winning the John’s Call in the previous race aboard Harrods Creek, pushing his total wins for the meet to 12.
“It’s a little easier when you ride this kind of horse,” he said. “Rick Dutrow really had her ready, too.”
She didn’t perform quite as well in her last start, finishing third in the Grade III Bed ‘o Roses at Belmont on July 1. Dutrow said a busy race schedule may have led to that result, but he wasn’t sure. Three starts back, she ran at Parx, then ran at Belmont a week later to win the Grade II Vagrancy before faltering in the Bed ‘o Roses.
He said he was going to let her relax while he looks for her next spot, but he’ll keep her around this distance, even though she has won over longer courses, such as the 11⁄8-mile Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day.
“Right now, we’re going to keep her running short, because that’s where her best game is. She can get the job done long, but she’s better short. So we’ll just keep her there for now.”