C C's Pal (inside) fights off Nicole H to win the Vagrancy Handicap.<br><a target="blank" href="http://photos.bloodhorse.com/AtTheRaces-1/at-the-races-2012/22274956_jFd5jM#!i=1881930645&k=7qML7wx">Order This Photo</a>

C C's Pal (inside) fights off Nicole H to win the Vagrancy Handicap.
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C C's Pal Ekes Out Neck Win in Vagrancy

It was the first graded victory for the 5-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal.

Front-running C C's Pal almost didn’t get her first graded victory. Favored Nicole H challenged her from the outside in the stretch of the $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) and looked determined to finish first. But after losing the lead, gritty CC’s Pal dug in and rallied, eking out the win in the final jumps by a neck at Belmont Park in New York June 2 (VIDEO) .

“Awesome horse, she’s just all heart,” said C C’s Pal’s owner, Eric Fein. “I was a little nervous. I said, ‘I can’t believe she is going to run second again in a graded race.’ I wanted the grade win for her. The jock turned her head a little bit, she saw the other horse, and she fought. She’s great.”

A 5-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal, CC’s Pal made her 2012 debut Jan. 1, winning the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct  Racetrack. She then finished third behind Magical Feeling and Nicole H in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park and was second to It's Tricky in the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct. In her last outing prior to the Vagrancy, CC’s Pal finished second in the May 26 My Juliet Stakes at Parx Racing.

“In the Barbara Fritchie, she was getting out so bad,” said C C’s Pal’s trainer, Rick Dutrow. “We didn’t know what it was, and it wound up being her foot. We got that straightened out and in her training, she’s been doing so good lately. She’s been very happy, like a different horse.”

C C’s Pal broke first in the Vagrancy’s field of five mares and one filly. Cruising along comfortably, she set opening fractions of :23.55 for a quarter mile and :47.07 for a half. At the stretch call, CC’s Pal was still in front, but Nicole H had moved up from fourth to second and was only a length behind. She then quickly reeled in CC’s Pal and the two battled furiously to the wire.

“At the sixteenth pole, I thought we were going to get beat, but we showed up,” Dutrow said.

Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Nicole H finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of She's Cheeky, who edged Belle of the Hall by a head for third. Kid Kate was fifth and Dontbeshy I'll Buy finished last.

“It didn’t look like there was much speed, so I just broke out of the gate and let her go,” said C C’s Pal’s jockey, Junior Alvarado. “Turning for home, I thought nobody would catch me; she really has a nice kick. When I saw Ramon’s horse, outside, I said, ‘Oh my God!’ When I put her next to the other horse, she gave me that extra heart.”

CC’s Pal covered the Vagrancy’s 6 ½ furlongs over a fast track in 1:16.10 while picking up her fifth victory in an added-money event. The bay mare improved her overall career record to eight wins in 29 races and raised her earnings to $663,086 with her $120,000 winner’s share of the Vagrancy’s purse.

Bred in Florida by Beth Bayer, C C’s Pal is out of the Noactor mare Roca. In 2007, Bayer, as agent, consigned C C’s Pal as a weanling to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. October mixed sale. Tristan de Meric purchased her for $7,500.

The following year, Bayer consigned C C’s Pal to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling auction, but ended up scratching her. CC’s Pal began her racing career carrying the colors of Candy Courtemanche, who also trained her for her first four races. Ronald Behrens then trained C C’s Pal for Courtemanche for two races. In February 2010, C C’s Pal began racing for Fein while being conditioned by Derek Ryan. Dutrow saddled C C’s Pal for the first time in October 2011 and has trained her ever since.

C C’s Pal, who was the Vagrancy’s second betting choice, paid her backers $5.70, $2.90, and $2.30. Nicole H returned $2.90 and $2.20. She’s Cheeky paid $2.60. C C's Pal, Nicole H, and She's Cheeky each carried 118 pounds, the race's top weight.

“We’ll just wing it, see where the good fillies are going, and try to duck them until we have to hit them,” said Dutrow of C C’s Pal’s future. “She’ll get a little break.”