The afternoon of Feb. 15 was a tough one for those who wager on horses saddled by Mark Hennig. First, in the seventh race, his Pleasant County was so well-regarded in a second-level allowance that $396,410 of the $406,934 in the show pool was wagered on her. When she staggered across the line fifth, the tote board lit up: the 5-1 winner Emory Board paid $86 to show while a show bet on runner-up Man I Love Clare, whose place price was $45.80, returned $351.40, believed to be the highest show price ever. Raging Fever, the 6-5 favorite for the card's featured Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. III), appeared poised to redeem her stablemate when she hit the eighth pole with a two-length lead after shrugging off a wicked pace duel with Tugger and Vague Memory. But Cat Cay, with jockey Pat Day sporting the black and cherry red silks of Ogden Phipps, got up in the final strides for a neck victory. "Usually you get a faster pace at six furlongs, which suits her style better," said trainer Shug McGaughey, contrasting the win with Raging Fever's galloping two-length score over Cat Cay in last month's First Lady Handicap (gr. III). "But today they were all set on going and that helped me." Noting the 5-year-old daughter of Pleasant Colony trailed the field of seven distaffers by some seven lengths after a :44.09 half-mile, he added, "I was a little worried when I saw she dropped back that far but then I looked up and saw the 44 and I knew why. When I first put Pat on her I told him she has a short run. When he got off he looked at me and said, 'It's a very short run.' " Cat Cay used it ideally for her third stakes win and eighth overall victory in 21 starts. McGaughey indicated that Aqueduct's Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on March 30 would likely be next. OVER THE MOON
Trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Jerry Bailey were the very ones who last year brought a talented European daughter of the grade I-winning broodmare Infamy to a first stateside stakes win in The Very One Handicap (gr. IIIT). And, as if to prove how easy it was, they repeated the accomplishment again in 2002. Last year it was Innuendo, racing as a Gerald Leigh homebred who did the trick, romping to an easy four-length score in the 1 3/8-mile turf race. The 6 1/2-length win on Feb. 17 by her half-sister, the 4-year-old Moon Queen, was, if anything, more effortless. Bailey took the gray daughter of Sadler's Wells directly to the front from her inside post, and with the anticipated pace challenge from Sweetest Thing never materializing--her rider Richard Migliore speculated she had trouble with the yielding turf--they loafed along to a clear lead through a half in :50.31 and a mile in 1:41.34. Once Bailey urged her at the quarter-pole she drew away with such command that she even had time for a little trick. "She was just cruising along and she got to looking around the grandstand for something to keep her attention," Bailey said of a significant hop that Moon Queen took two strides from the wire. "She wasn't paying attention and she almost drifted into the inner rail. She kind of surprised herself at how close she was and she had to jump away."
The move brought an audible gasp from the crowd, including Clement, who initially thought Moon Queen had broken down. Once his mind was set at ease, he was able to discuss how Leigh sold Moon Queen in utero to Michael Tabor, who resold her last summer to Joseph Allen. She won a group II at Longchamp in October for her new owner before fading to finish fifth as the favorite in her first U.S. start in the Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT). The Very One was her first race under the care of Clement and her first start with Salix (lasix). "It was a fun race," smiled her new trainer. "Until the very end." (Chart, Equibase)