The spring has been far from a flawless season for Carl Pollard's My Trusty Cat, but trainer David Vance hopes to get the daughter of Tale of the Cat back on track in Saturday's $100,000-added Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Just a few weeks ago, My Trusty Cat appeared to be headed to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) as a major contender. After a third-place finish to the then-unbeaten Lady Tak in the Tiffany Lass Stakes at the Fair Grounds, Vance outfitted the filly with blinkers for a five-length romp in the Honeybee at Oaklawn Park. She went into the $200,000 Fantasy (gr. II), Oaklawn's premier race for 3-year-old fillies, as a strong favorite off the strength of that victory, but she finished fourth that day to Ruby's Reception.
Vance was disappointed in the filly's effort that day. She had done so well in her training in the weeks leading up the Fantasy that Vance had thought that the real race that day was for second.
"I just didn't think she'd get beat," he said. "In my mind, I thought there was no way she'd get beat -- but she did. Things happen. Maybe I did something wrong -- maybe I let her go a little too fast or whatever. She was parked out the whole trip and when it came time for her real run, she just didn't respond."
Despite that setback, Vance had still hoped to run My Trusty Cat in the Oaks. But he and Pollard decided after her final pre-race work to skip that race and adjust their goals for the season. The 1 1/16-mile Dogwood will be the first step in her campaign for the second half of the year and her training has led Vance to believe that she is back in top form.
"I feel like she's as good or better than she was then," he said. "It's just racing. You make mistakes and you hope you don't make them again."
Vance said My Trusty Cat will again be outfitted with blinkers in Saturday's race. She was ridden by Don Pettinger in her two races at Oaklawn, but Lonnie Meche will get the call in the Dogwood.
"I just want her to be focused where you can put her where you want to in a race, in case you don't have any speed in the race," he said. "She's very easy to rate -- you can put her any place you want to. I was a little upset with the situation down in Hot Springs because she didn't have to be three-wide. He could have tucked her back and waited and I think she'd have run well."
On her best day, Vance would be very comfortable with matching My Trusty Cat against any of this year's talented group of fillies in her age group.
"I told Carl before the Oaks that I thought we were in the top five -- I really do and I still believe that," he said. "This fall, if everything goes well, maybe we'll have a chance to prove it."