Perfect Sting, turf female Eclipse Award winner.

Perfect Sting, turf female Eclipse Award winner.

Barbara D. Livingston

Eclipse Awards: Turf Female: Perfect Sting

Perfect Sting's pedigree

Trainer Joe Orseno had every reason to feel that Perfect Sting would return with a vengeance as a 4-year-old in 2000. The daughter of Red Ransom had closed out 1999 with wins against other 3-year-old fillies in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT), and a sixth-place effort, beaten only 2 1/2 lengths, in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in November. Earlier in the year she had won the Sands Point (gr. IIIT) and Captive Miss Stakes on grass. If there were a championship for 3-year-old turf fillies, she would have been the heavy favorite.

Orseno didn't have to wait long to see that Perfect Sting had lost none of her sharpness. She started her 2000 campaign by winning the May 7 Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 miles by a half-length at Aqueduct under her new rider, Jerry Bailey. Perfect Sting carried high weight, but it was only 119 pounds. "We got a break in the weights considering what she had done as a 3-year-old," Orseno said.

After that came a top-weighted triumph in the mile Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) on June 10 at Belmont Park. The nose victory sent Orseno planning months in advance. "We're looking to train a champion and a Breeders' Cup winner," he said.

Orseno bumped Perfect Sting up to 1 1/4 miles for the July 15 New York Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont. Joining the action was one of the West Coast's top fillies, 5-year-old Spanish Fern, who had captured a grade I turf race at that distance in 1999. "We knew Spanish Fern would be tough, but we always focus more on the entire field, not just one horse," Orseno said.

Perfect Sting, the 122-pound topweight, stayed close to the pace and got up to win by a head over Snow Polina. Spanish Fern never threatened and finish unplaced.

Sent to Saratoga, Perfect Sting next won the Sept. 4 Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles under top weight by three-quarters of a length, then faced another top West Coast filly, Tout Charmant, in the Oct. 13 WinStar Galaxy Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in her first race outside New York since November. The co-highweight, Perfect Sting couldn't catch Tout Charmant while giving her four pounds in the 13Z16-mile race and lost by 1 1/4 lengths.

The Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 4 followed, and it wasn't the 13Z8-mile distance that worried Orseno, but the three turns over the Churchill Downs turf course. Unlike Perfect Sting's first five races in which she was the favorite, Perfect Sting went off at a generous 5-1. Her closing kick in the stretch was too much for her 13 rivals, and she scored by three-quarters of a length over Tout Charmant in course-record-equaling time of 2:13.07.

Perfect Sting, who was bred in Kentucky by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs and races for Stronach Stables, is resting at Adena Springs South near Ocala, Fla. Orseno said Perfect Sting will make her 2001 debut in April or May, with the Breeders' Cup her main goal.