HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– Bo Hirsch LLC’s 2021 Champion Female Sprinter Ce Ce returned to Oaklawn for the first time since her 2020 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) victory and got the same result – an impressive win against top tier older fillies and mares in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2).
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Ce Ce was fourth early as defending Azeri winner and even-money favorite Shedaresthedevil took command at the break and proceed to set fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 2/5 for the first half mile, while being tracked closely by longshot Golden Curl.
Ce Ce began to creep closer leaving the backstretch, was three wide entering the stretch and shook clear late for a three-quarters of a length victory over the fast-closing Pauline’s Pearl, who had a troubled trip. Shedaresthedevil held on for third. Ce Ce completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:43.55 over a fast track, the fastest time at the distance this race meet.
“I had a good trip actually,” Espinoza said. “I was able to get clear at the break so I could sit behind the frontrunners. I wanted to wait a little longer, but she was doing it so easy, I just moved on with her. She could hear all the noise from the crowd and kind of put the brakes on me, but luckily the other two horses (Pauline’s Pearl and Shedaresthedevil) were on either side of me and when she saw them, she moved forward. It’s like she runs so easy, she gets a little bit bored and does some silly things, but it all worked out.”
Ce Ce, who ended her championship season with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) last November, improved her overall record to 9-2-3 from 18 starts and has now earned $2,003,100. She returned $5.40, $3 and $2.20 as the 8-5 second choice in the field of eight.
She’s All Wolfe, Ava’s Grace, Golden Curl and Lady Mystify completed the order of finish. Lavender (IRE) was scratched.
Live racing returns Sunday with a 1 p.m. first post. Oaklawn returns to a Thursday – Sunday schedule beginning March 17.
Winning trainer Michael McCarthy (via phone; D. Wayne Lukas assistant Sebastian “Bas” Nicholl saddled Ce Ce): “I thought Victor (Espinoza) did a great job, kind of being able to tuck in, sit right outside of the speed, keep her face clear. Up the backside, it was a little bit tactical there. He was able to go ahead and hold his position. Looked like Lady Mystify was in kind of a spot there and able to go ahead and just hold his own and around the turn it looked like Victor and her were full of run. Obviously, coming to the top of the stretch, it looked like she was going to go ahead and put a little daylight between herself and everybody else. Coming to the sixteenth pole, I saw her ears go up and wasn’t sure if she was getting tired or what. When those two other fillies came to her, she dug back in and showed what a champion she is today.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, second on Pauline’s Pearl: “I didn’t have a good break, but she did well. I thought for a second, she would get her (Ce Ce), but she got the jump again on me. But she ran hard. She looked like she was ready to go. Little unlucky with the trip coming out of the gate, but like I said, she ran well.”
Jockey Florent Geroux, third on Shedaresthedevil: “She tried. We just made the pace. I thought they were pretty realistic fractions for the Azeri, for these kind of fillies and mares. The filly who beat me is a very nice filly, too. Ce Ce won the Apple Blossom two years ago, so we know she likes the track. Tough customer. Hopefully, got the rust out of her (Shedaresthedevil) and she’ll be tougher next time.”
Oaklawn Park Press Release
Photo of Ce Ce by Coady Photography