Ce Ce, Actuator Put In Final Touches Ahead of Weekend Stakes

August 26, 2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Following a cross-country trip from California, Bo Hirsch’s champion mare Ce Ce got reacquainted with Saratoga Race Course Friday morning ahead of her return start in Sunday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina Handicap.

Along with her Michael McCarthy-trained stablemate Actuator, who is set to run in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial for 3-year-old sprinters, Ce Ce galloped 1 1/4 miles over the main track and then schooled in the paddock.

“We just wanted to come over and give them something to do,” McCarthy said. “Both seemed like they handled the trip well. Actuator seemed like he got over the racetrack nicely this morning. The filly takes her game on the road. Nothing really fazes her.”

Ce Ce ran third in last year’s Ballerina behind Gamine, then defeated that rival in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint to clinch the Eclipse Award as North America’s top female sprinter. The Ballerina is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for this year’s $1 million Filly & Mare Turf November 5 at Keeneland.

The 6-year-old Ce Ce already clinched a Breeders’ Cup berth for her dominant last out triumph in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney July 2 at Gulfstream Park.

“We’ll do the same thing tomorrow, gallop a mile and a quarter,” McCarthy said. “We just want to keep her in her routine. She’s very easy.”

Ce Ce drew the rail in a field of seven for the seven-furlong Ballerina, where she will carry topweight of 125 pounds including her regular rider, Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza.

“You don’t come 3,000 miles, obviously, to draw the one hole, but in these big races anything can happen. That’s part of the game. I’ll let Victor work out a trip from there. I’m not too worried about it,” McCarthy said.

“He has a lot of faith in her and we all have a lot of faith in each other, so it works out great that way,” he added. “These big kinds of days like that, Victor is cool as a cucumber. They’ll pop on out of there and let him kind of feel his way around there.”

Ce Ce owns 10 wins and nearly $2.3 million in purse earnings from 20 lifetime starts traveling coast to coast, with prior Grade 1 wins in the 2020 Beholder Mile and Apple Blossom. She also won the Princess Rooney and Grade 3 Chillingworth in 2021 and Grade 2 Azeri this year.

She has already given McCarthy, a former assistant to Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, his first Eclipse Award as a trainer, but he hoped a victory Sunday would help make a case for Ce Ce to join his mentor in the hall, located across the street from the racetrack.

“Strong mare, always has been. Shows up and lays it down every time, and I would expect more or less the same thing here on Sunday,” McCarthy said. “I would have to think if things were to work out properly tomorrow that she’s done a lot and it would be nice, maybe, for her to have a plaque over on Union Avenue.”

Actuator on his way to the track prior to his Grade 3 Indiana Derby score (Coady Photography)

Black Type Thoroughbreds’ Actuator will break from post position 4 in a field of nine for the Jerkens led by multiple Grade 1 winner Jack Christopher and Gunite, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful in 2020 and Grade 2 Amsterdam July 31 at Saratoga.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who earned his record-extending 1,000th career Saratoga victory Thursday, has the call on the Grade 3 Indiana Derby winner. Actuator is 2-for-2 this year, breaking his maiden at the Jerkens distance June 8 at Churchill Downs before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in Indiana.

“Actuator is doing well. [It’s a] big ask, obviously. With Jack Christopher and some other horses in there it’s salty competition but I like where we drew,” McCarthy said. “I thought his race was very gritty in the Indiana Derby. I loved the way he broke his maiden going seven-eighths so I was anxious to go ahead and try him one turn again and see what happens.”

NYRA Press Office

Main photo: Ce Ce wins the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Benoit Photo)

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