At odds of 2-5, Madcap Escapade made an easy lead and cut fast fractions, but she had nothing left in the final eighth and was passed by a group of fillies in the $281,750 Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. I) Saturday at Churchill Downs.
My Trusty Cat and Javier Castellano made it a winning day for Carl Pollard, who is the chairman of the board of Churchill Downs, and trainer David Vance. The 5-year-old Tale of the Cat
mare won the Humana Distaff by three-quarters of a length to turn the tables on Madcap Escapade, who had defeated her in the Madison Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland April 13.
"I knew this wasn't going to be Madcap Escapade's kind of track,"Vance said. "It's playing just too fast. I told the boss (Carl Pollard) that if we were within a length at the eighth pole, we'd win. Our mare just ran a super race."
Molta Vita, always close, held on for a second by a head over Puxa Saco. Madcap Escapade faded to fifth.
Madcap Escapade came into to race having won six of seven lifetime starts, all on the front end. Jerry Bailey shot her to the lead from the outside post in the field of nine, and she drew out to a three-length lead going the quarter in :21.98 and the half in :44.37.
She was still more than two lengths on top when the field turned for home but, as she hugged the rail, it became apparent the field was closing in on her. When they hit the furlong pole in 1:08.44, My Trusty Cat and a group of others were passing Madcap Escapade.
"I knew that (Madcap Escapade) was the best filly in the race, but she was rank today and I saw that Jerry (Bailey) was fighting too much with that filly," Castellano noted. "I let my filly drop back at the break, which is what we wanted to do, and get a good trip. She responded very well. She didn't handle the sloppy track the other day at Keeneland, but today she got a good track, good conditions and pretty good luck."
Bailey said there was no point in pushing Madcap Escapade when she was engulfed by her rivals.
"She doesn't run even on this track," he said. "And she doesn't run any faster if you push her. Usually she'll open up, but she just struggles over this track more than any other."
The winner ran the seven furlongs in 1:21.18 and paid $23, $9, and $5.60. Molto Vita, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, returned $12.40 and $8.40, while Puxa Saco, with Mike Smith, aboard was $13.20 to show.
My Trusty Cat settled in the middle of the pack as Madcap Escapade sped away down the backstretch, steadily gained while four wide to loom into contention on the turn and reached the frontrunner near the eighth pole. She successfully dueled with Molto Vita in deep stretch, edging ahead in the final strides.
Out of the Private Account mare Entrusted, My Trusty Cat was bred in Kentucky by Vintage Racing. She was winning her eighth race in 27 starts while increasing her earnings to $869,753.
Bending Strings ran fourth, a half-length ahead of Madcap Escapade, with Heavenly Humor, Souris, Santa Candida and Josh's Madelyn trailing.