Carolyn's Cat, wire-to-wire winner last out in the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II), will look to take her five older filly and mare rivals all the way again when she goes to post for the $150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) June 28 at Belmont Park.
A two-time graded stakes winner in New York, front-running Carolyn’s Cat drew the rail for the seven-furlong First Flight, which nearly guarantees that she’ll try to go to the front once again under regular rider Alan Garcia. But she’ll have to contend with other early speed in the race, including Spritely, a stakes winner at Charles Town in April, and Sunday Geisha, who flashed early speed when winning in allowance company this winter.
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Warren Jr. and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Carolyn’s Cat won the May 24 Vagrancy after setting aggressive early fractions, and finished the 6 1/2-furlong event in solid final time 1:16.34 on Belmont’s main track. It was her lone win in three tries this season.
A 4-year-old daughter of Forestry—People’s Princess, by Meadowlake, Carolyn’s Cat also won the Cicada (gr. III) in front-running style at Aqueduct last season. She is 4-3-0 from 10 starts with earnings of more than $300,000.
"She ran great her last time out, and she's in great shape coming in,” said McLaughlin, who won back-to-back editions of the First Flight in 2003 and 2004 with Randaroo and Bending Strings. “It helped being on the lead, but we don't have to be there. If she jumps out there and makes the lead, great. We'll see how it goes.”
Also coming out of the Vagrancy is the runner-up, Porte Bonheur, who happens to be the only other graded stakes winner in the field. A 4-year-old chestnut daughter of Hennessy, Porte Bonheur stalked the pace in the Vagrancy but was no threat to Carolyn’s Cat in the stretch, finishing 3 1/4 lengths behind in her season debut.
As a 3-year-old, Porte Bonheur won the Victory Ride (gr. III) at Saratoga and also the Ontario Fashion Stakes on Woodbine’s Polytrack. Ramon Dominguez will ride for David Duggin.
Entering off a stakes victory is Edward Evans’ Spritely, winner of the $250,000 Sugar Maple April 18 at Charles Town when she took over before the half-mile marker and cruised to a 3 1/4-length score under John Velazquez. A month prior to that the Touch Gold filly led from gate to wire in a one-mile optional claimer at Aqueduct.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Spritely has produced a solid 5-2-3 lifetime record from 11 starts. Velazquez stays aboard.
Another to consider is Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Turn Away. The 4-year-old Bobby Frankel trainee won her season debut on a sloppy Belmont track May 29 in optional claiming company. The lightly-raced 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker finished third in Churchill’s Golden Rod (gr. II) as a juvenile.