So Sweet a Cat, ridden by leading jockey John Velazquez, disposed of pacesetter South Wing with a furlong to go and drew away to a one-sided victory in the $250,000 Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallions Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course Thursday.
Trained by Finger Lakes conditioner Ralph D'Alessandro for owner/breeder Jane M. Freed, the daughter of Tomorrow's Cat-Sly Damsel (Damascus) completed the 1 1/8-mile event for New York breds in 1:51 3/5 on a fast track. Sent off at odds of 3-1, she was making her first start at a distance greater than seven furlongs.
"Everybody was questioning her ability to go long. I really didn't have a problem with that," said D'Allesandro. "I knew she could go long. It was just a matter of finding her a race to stretch out in. Back home (Finger Lakes), we don't have the ability to go in a lot of distance races; whereas, on this circuit, that's all you run are distance races.
"John did a great job rating her off the speed and when he asked her to run, she just gave it all."
South Wing, the 2-1 favorite in the 12-horse field, held on for second eight lengths behind the winner, with Cat's Roar third. Priscilla's Flag finished fourth.
So Sweet a Cat broke well and was taken back as South Wing and Jorge Chavez forged to the lead from their inside post. South Wing established an unchallenged lead through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 3/5 and 1:13 2/5 as Dinner Date and Raf's Society Girl tracked the leader. On the far turn, So Sweet a Cat and Cat's Roar began to move up as Dinner Date and Raf's Society Girl fell back.
So Sweet a Cat challenged South Wing for the lead soon after reaching the stretch and assumed command when prompted by Velazquez while So Sweet a Cat lost ground.
The winning rider said he was concerned So Sweet a Cat would be difficult to hold.
"I was worried about going from three-quarters to a mile and an eighth, where she would be rank," Velazquez said. "I put her right behind horses. She was so kind. I was so surprised. It worked out great. Once I asked her, she switched leads, got into a good rhythm and it was over."
Chavez noted, "My horse ran hard, but the winner was just a little too much today. My horse was clearly second best."
Velazquez and So Sweet a Cat were reunited for the first time since teaming to win the New York Stallions' 15th Avenue for 2-year-old fillies at Aqueduct four starts ago Nov. 9. That was her only other stakes victory, although she had four runner-up finishes in such events.
Coming off an allowance win over state breds at Fingerlakes July 18, So Sweet a Cat has missed the board only once in 11 career starts. She improved her record to 5-4-1 while upping her earnings to $244,438. Freed pocketed another $20,000 in owner/breeder awards.
So Sweet a Cat paid $8.50, $4.10 and $3.60. South Wing returned $3.60 and $3.50 while completed a $26.40 exacta. Cat's Roar, ridden by Pablo Fragoso, was $9.40 to show.