Eric Fein's C C's Pal searches for her second straight graded stakes victory July 1 at Belmont Park, facing six seasoned sprinters in the $150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. II).
A determined winner of the June 2 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) last time out, the bay mare carries high weight of 122 pounds for the seven-furlong test.
It has been a solid, if not altogether winning first half of the year for the 5-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal, who is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line and breaks from post seven under jockey Junior Alvarado.
She kicked off the season with a score in the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct Jan. 1, then trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. sent her to Laurel Park, where she was third by a neck in the Feb. 18 Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II). On April 14 she ran second to multiple grade I winner It's Tricky in Aqueduct's Distaff Handicap (gr. II), then missed the My Juliet Stakes at Parx Racing by three-quarters of a length.
The Vagrancy victory was hard-earned in wire-to-wire fashion as Nicole H closed in on the frontrunning C C's Pal and valiantly battled to pass in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint. But C C's Pal inched away in the final 70 yards and dug in stubbornly to remain clear.
"She's always been as honest as they come, but she's shown that she's a better sprinter than a two-turn horse; that's been the key," said Fein.
C C's Pal has won at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, but Fein and Dutrow have recently been focusing on one-turn events with an eye on the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita in November.
Derwin's Star, third in the My Juliet, will be making her Belmont Park debut as she seeks her first graded stakes victory. Derwin's Star is trained by Steve Klesaris, who claimed her for $10,000 in 2009 and who now co-owns the 5-year-old Wildcat Heir mare with Marcia Cohen. She has one win in four starts over the past year, taking a starter handicap at Aqueduct on April 22 prior to the My Juliet.
Ramon Dominguez rides Derwin's Star, who carries 114 pounds as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, from post 4.
Like C C's Pal, Island Bound will be going after her second straight graded stakes victory, having charged from far back to take the Winning Colors (gr. III) at Churchill Downs June 2. After closing out 2011 running for $30,000 tags at Gulfstream Park and Churchill, the Speightstown mare launched her 5-year-old campaign with a six-length allowance score at Tampa Bay Downs, and subsequently was runner-up in overnight stakes at Tampa, Parx Racing, and Charles Town in addition to an optional claiming win at Tampa.
"She certainly has gotten good," said Ian Wilkes, who trains Island Bound for Robert Manfuso. "She showed some talent early on, but then hurt herself when she was 2. When she came back she was a little disappointing, but this year she's matured and stepped up to the plate."
Leandro Goncalves will ride Island Bound, the 7-2 third choice on the morning line under 118 pounds, from post position two.
Twice the Lady, claimed from Dale Romans for $62,500 three starts back, will be making her stakes debut for trainer Anthony Dutrow and owner Michael Dubb on Sunday. The 4-year-old Quiet American filly finished second in an optional claimer at the Big A in her first start for her new connections and was a six-length winner going a mile at Penn National May 30 last time out.
"We know that she's not going to be one of the favorites," said Dutrow, "but we have a very, very happy horse right now who thinks that she's the best thing that's happened to horse racing. We'd like to take advantage of that frame of mind, and we're hoping something good will happen."
At 12-1 on the morning line, Twice the Lady will carry 114 pounds, including Javier Castellano, as she leaves from post position 2.
Completing the field from the rail out, are Catch a Thief, third in the May 19 Allaire DuPont Distaff (gr. III) last time out; Honchis'n Ponchis, coming off a three-month freshening following three straight runner-up finishes in stakes; and Catinatree, a 7 1/4-length optional claiming winner in her first start for new trainer Mike Hushion on June 3.
$150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:06 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Catch a Thief (MD), E. Castro, 115, T A Hills
2. Island Bound (KY), L.R. Goncalves, 118, I R Wilkes
3. Twice the Lady (KY), J. Castellano, 114, A W Dutrow
4. Derwin's Star (FL), R.A. Dominguez, 114, S Klesaris
5. Honchis'n Ponchis (KY), R. Maragh, 115, D L Romans
6. Catinatree (KY), M.J. Luzzi, 113, M E Hushion
7. C C's Pal (FL), J. Alvarado, 122, R E Dutrow Jr.