Carolyn's Cat spoiled an anticipated rematch between the fine sprinters Game Face and Any Limit in the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) when she went all the way for a front-running 3 1/4-length score at Belmont Park May 24.
Any Limit, the 3-2 second choice, and Game Face, the 6-5 favorite, brought up the rear in the five-horse field of older fillies and mares in the 6 1/2-furlong Vagrancy.
Ridden by Alan Garcia for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owners Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, the 4-year-old Carolyn's Cat snapped a three-race losing streak when she responded to a challenge from Any Limit and sprinted away down the lane to win convincingly in a time of 1:16.34 over a fast track.
Porte Bonheur, stuck on the inside of Game Face for most of the journey, was able to escape the rail in upper stretch under Ramon Dominguez and rallied to finish a clear second. She was 4 1/4 lengths in front of the late-running Are We Dreamin and Rajiv Maragh, who got the show spot after the top choices faded.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Carolyn's Cat went directly to the front on the inside for Garcia and dictated the pace while carving early fractions of :22.52 and :45.85. Any Limit was in striking distance on the pacesetter's outside and Game Face and Porte Bonheur were right behind them. Rounding the sweeping Belmont turn, Any Limit, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, moved up on the leader to get on even terms as they made their way into the stretch.
But Carolyn's Cat was up to the challenge, fighting back along the inside to regain command. She finished as much the best under left-handed urging from Garcia.
“It was a very easy trip," Garcia said. "She broke good and then I decided I would take advantage of my break and take the lead, and my filly just kept going.”
Winner of Aqueduct's Cicada Stakes (gr. III) 15 months ago, Carolyn's Cat went to the sidelines after finishing a distant second to Zaftig as the odds-on favorite in the Nassau County (gr. III) at Belmont in May 2008. The daughter of Forestry returned March 27 to run fourth in a stakes at Aqueduct. In her most recent effort, Carolyn's Cat finished second in Belmont's off-the-turf Elizabeth Bay, which was contested over a 'good' main track May 6.
“Her owner, Mr. Warren, has been very patient with this filly," said assistant trainer Artie Magnuson. "Last year, it was the same thing; she had time off over the winter. She seems to run herself into shape. She likes some time between her races – the goal is the Ballerina, so we’ll look for something in between.”
The $300,000 Ballerina (gr. I), for fillies and mares at seven furlongs, is Aug. 29 at Saratoga.
Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, Carolyn's Cat brought $650,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August 2006. The chestnut filly is out of People's Princess, by Meadowlake.
Improving her record to 4-3-0 in 10 starts, Carolyn's Cat carried 115 pounds, seven fewer than top-weighted Game Face and six less than Any Limit. She increased her lifetime earnings to $304,415 while rewarding her backers with a payoff of $13, $6.20 and $4.70
Port Bonheur, making her first start since winning the Ontario Fashion Stakes at Woodbine for trainer David Duggan last November, returned $5.40 and $6. The $2 exacta was worth $84.
Are We Dreamin, coming off back-to-back last-place finishes in graded route events, was worth $9 to show as the longest shot in the short field. A $2 trifecta returned $362.
The Vagrancy was the second poor outing in a row for Game Face, who drifted in and finished sixth as the favorite in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. Before that, she had won two of three sprint duels with Any Limit at Gulfstream Park this year, including a 2 1/2-length triumph in the Inside Information (gr. II) on March 15.