Caramel Swirl goes from last to first in G3 Vagrancy. (Susie Raisher)
By Mary Eddy
ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado continued their exceptional run of form together in graded stakes when Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Caramel Swirl rallied to score an easy victory in Sunday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Vagrancy, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares, at Belmont Park.
“She ran really well fresh today,” said Mott. “He [Alvarado] let her settle and get her feet under her and she came with a nice run. I was really pleased.”
The Vagrancy was the second graded score this weekend for Mott and Alvarado, who teamed up yesterday to win the Grade 3 Runhappy with Candy Man Rocket over Big Sandy. The two have also earned Grade 1 wins in tandem this year with Cody’s Wish in the Churchill Downs and Art Collector in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, along with two other graded victories.
Caramel Swirl enjoyed the second graded coup of her career, adding to a triumph in the 2021 Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland. She made her second start of the year after a six-month respite that ended with a fourth-place finish in the Minaret in February at Tampa Bay Downs. She completed her 4-year-old campaign last year with a game runner-up effort to Goodnight Olive in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking alertly from post 3, Caramel Swirl was unhurried by Alvarado as Rossa Veloce quickly established command to her inside and led the field of seven through an opening quarter-mile in 23.30 seconds over the fast main track. Longshot Easy to Bless was asked to improve position midway down the backstretch and loomed on the outside in second as Dr B battled for third position between Funny How and Mosienko.
Approaching the turn, Caramel Swirl drifted back to last as Rossa Veloce clung to her lead in the turn after a half-mile in 46.60, keeping to task as Mosienko ranged into contention down the center of the track and appeared poised for a serious challenge. But Alvarado shook his reins exiting the turn while guiding Caramel Swirl five-wide to take dead aim at a stubborn Rossa Veloce.
Mosienko gave way and Alvarado needed only to give slight encouragement to Caramel Swirl for her to sweep past her pacesetting rival in the stretch and take charge just past the sixteenth pole, drawing away easily to post the 2 1/2-length victory over the oncoming Dr B, who found her best stride late after going widest of all in the turn.
Rossa Veloce finished three-quarters of a length behind Rossa Veloce for show honors with Mosienko, Midnight Stroll, Funny How and Easy to Bless completing the order of finish. Beguine was scratched.
Alvarado said he opted for a more patient trip after racing closer to the pace last time out when fourth in Tampa Bay Downs’ Minaret.
“At Tampa, the track was extremely fast. She’s a filly that likes to break, but she likes to get comfortable,” Alvarado said. “You have to let her find her rhythm and I was just playing the track that day, so I think I rushed her too much off her feet and she didn’t like that. Today, she broke well again. I took a hold and let her get into her rhythm. When she hit the three-eighths pole, I knew she was already full of run. I had a lot of horse underneath me, so I just let her cruise along, tipped out and she did the rest.”
Alvarado has now ridden the daughter of Union Rags in 10-of-13 career starts, and said the mare continues to improve with every race.
“She’s been developing great,” Alvarado said. “She’s been a little unlucky with hiccups along the way, but she always comes back and tries her best. I think we’re going to have an even better horse this year.”
Mott added that he would like to give Caramel Swirl another try at a top-level victory this summer at Saratoga Race Course in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Handicap on August 26, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park.
“Hopefully, we can run back in the Ballerina,” Mott said.
Caramel Swirl banked $96,250 in victory and improved her record to 13-5-4-2 with total purse earnings of $588,450. She returned $6.40 for a $2 win wager.
The Butch Reid, Jr.-trained Dr B made her first start after a five-month layoff that came on the heels of an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Go for Wand in December at Aqueduct Racetrack. Irad Ortiz, Jr., who earned a record 77th stakes victory in a single North American season when piloting Dr B to her Go for Wand victory, was aboard again in the Vagrancy and said he had to change his plans when Dr B did not make the lead.
“I had to wait a little longer than I wanted to,” said Ortiz, Jr. “I broke running but I couldn’t make the lead and I couldn’t hold my position in second, so I had to go to Plan B. There weren’t too many options. I had to sit behind the speed and wait longer than I wanted to, but that’s racing.
“She was running,” Ortiz, Jr. added. “The winner is a nice filly, too. I think we’re in good shape. It was a nice race for her coming back. She can improve off that for sure.”
Live racing resumes Thursday at Belmont with a nine-race card. First post is 3:05 p.m. Eastern.