My Trusty Cat came with a late rush to nip Ebony Breeze in the tightest of photo finishes Friday afternoon in the Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) for older fillies and mares at Saratoga. Carl Pollard's 4-year-old filly covered the six furlongs in 1:10.37 under strong urging by jockey Pat Day.
The early pace was set by Cologny, a 4-year-old daughter of Go for Gin
who grabbed the lead from the get-go from post five. The New York-bred stakes winner set the opening fractions of :22.63 and :45.31 while Ebony Breeze tracked from the rail. Summer Mis and Savorthetime gave chase early. On the turn, Cologny held her advantage while My Trusty Cat appeared to drop back as both Smok'n Frolic and Belong to Sea gained ground while traveling wide.
Coming out of the turn, with four challengers chasing Cologny, a hole opened on the inside, and jockey Jerry Bailey shot for the lead with Kinsman Stable's Ebony Breeze. She seized the lead, hitting the five-furlong marker in :57.49.
The Belong to Me
filly appeared home free with an open-length advantage, but Day went to work left-handed on My Trusty Cat on the far outside and they came with a rush, gaining ground with every stride. My Trusty Cat didn't get the lead from Ebony Breeze until the final jump at the wire to win by a nose.
"I came off the turn, and Jerry had the jump on me," Day said. "His horse kicked away from me, and all I could do was put her to task. She was eating into the distance, and it certainly occurred to me that we had a shot inside the sixteenth pole. She lunged right at the wire and got the job done."
Bailey, who became Saratoga's all-time leading rider earlier in the day, was gunning for his fourth win on the card.
"The other horse was tougher today," Bailey said. "My horse was right there, but she was idling. I was kind of surprised with her. I tried to hit her a few times, but that really didn't do much. She just lost to the better horse."
Smok'n Frolic finished third, 2 3/4 lengths behind. Savorthetime, the slight 5-2 favorite over Ebony Breeze, tracked the pace for a half-mile under Shane Sellers before fading to seventh.
Cologny finished fourth, followed by Summer Mis, Yell, Savorthetime and Belong to Sea.
My Trusty Cat, a daughter of Tale of the Cat, out of the Private Account mare Entrusted got her third win of the year in the Honorable Miss and sixth career win from 21 starts. The $130,000 Keeneland September sale graduate is trained by David Vance.
Winner of the seven-furlong Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington on June 19, My Trusty Cat was coming off a fifth-place effort in the one-mile H.B.P.A. Handicap at Ellis Park on July 10, which may explain why My Trusty Cat paid $30.20, $10,40,and $5.90. Ebony Breeze paid $4.80 and $3.10. Smok'n Frolic returned $4.40. The 6-1 exacta paid $123.50. The 6-1-7 trifecta was worth $686.
"I was surprised how big a price she was, but I didn't bet on her because I didn't bet on her in Chicago," said Vance. "She needs a lot of pace to run at, and I always thought that three-quarters was a little short for her. The last time Pat (Day) rode her, she did the same thing. She stumbled at the start and was last in a 12-horse field. I threw up my hands and said, `Well, this ain't going to work.' He worked his way through, and she won by a length and a half. That should have told me a long time ago that she was a sprinter. She's a good come-from-behind sprinter. She has a very good punch.
"We came up here with the Honorable Miss and Ballerina in mind," Vance added. "She got this part done, but the next race will be tougher. We'll see how it comes."
The winner carried 115 pounds in the Honorable Miss. Only three pounds separated the field. Smok'n Frolic was the 116-pound highweght.