HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Michael McCarthy has celebrated a couple of career highlights at Gulfstream Park in recent years, having saddled City of Light for a victory in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in 2019 and Ce Ce for a triumph in last year’s $250,000 Princess Rooney Invitational (G2).
The Santa Anita-based trainer hopes that his great run of good fortune at Gulfstream will continue Saturday when Ce Ce defends her title in the $300,000 Princess Rooney Invitational (G2), a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares that will headline Saturday’s Summit of Speed card.
While serving as assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher before going out on his own, McCarthy was involved in several other big-race successes at Gulfstream, none more memorable than English Channel’s victory in the 2006 Canadian Turf Handicap.
“He had spent the winter at Payson Park. It was the one year that Todd had horses in training at Payson Park. He was one of a handful of Breeders’ Cup runners from the year before that had spent time up there at Payson. It was a real privilege to be around a horse that was as good as he was,” McCarthy said.
English Channel, who had won the Virginia Derby (G3) before placing second in the Secretariat (G1) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and finishing fifth in the Breeders Cup Turf (G1), made his 2006 debut in the Canadian Turf off a four-month layoff.
“He obviously went on to do some great things later on that year. To have him come off the layoff and win the Canadian Handicap – they called it the Canadian Handicap back then – was special,” McCarthy said. “He equalled the stakes record and stakes record that day.”
English Channel ran 1 1/16 miles on a firm turf in 1:39.13 to score by three-quarters of a length over Miesque’s Approval, who went to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and be named Eclipse Award turf champion.
English Channel went on to win Churchill Downs Turf Classic (G1), the United Nations (G1) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) in 2006. After capturing a Gulfstream allowance to kick off his 2007 campaign, the son of Smart Strike won the United Nations and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) to earn the Eclipse Award as champion turf horse.
Bo Hirsch LLC’s Ce Ce is rated as the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the Princess Rooney.
Glass Ceiling Seeks to Improve Worth in Princess Rooney
Charlton Baker will saddle Glass Ceiling for a start in Saturday’s $300,000 Princess Rooney Invitational (G2) at Gulfstream Park knowing that his multiple graded-stakes winner will face a most imposing rival in defending champion Ce Ce.
The Princess Rooney, a seven-furlong “Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ sprint for fillies and mares, certainly offers owners and trainers a lot of incentives for challenging the reigning female sprint champion, who is rated as the 4-5 favorite in Saturday’s Summit of Speed headliner.
“Ce Ce doesn’t need any introduction. She is who she is. If you run your race and you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough. That’s it,” Baker said. “But it’s a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ and it’s a Grade 2. With her pedigree we’re thinking about her future.”
Glass Ceiling, who was claimed by Baker and Michael Foster for $40,000 at Belmont in May 2021, has already greatly enhanced her value as a future broodmare by capturing this year’s Barbara Fritchie (G3) at Laurel and the Distaff (G3) at Aqueduct. The 5-year-old daughter of Constitution has won five races, three stakes, for her new connections.
“She was a 4-year-old at the time [of the claim], and some horses don’t get going until they’re 4 or 5. I think she’s found a comfort level – she’s kind of a nervous filly – and has improved from there,” Baker said. “As she got older, she got better.”
Glass Ceiling, who is rated second in the morning-line at 7-2, is expected to be forwardly placed under Edgard Zayas during the early running of the Princess Rooney.
“She can be closer [to the pace] now. She used to come from behind. Her speed has gotten better, as far as putting her into contention,” Baker said.
Spirit Wind Light on Experience, Heavy on Talent
Jacks or Better Farm Inc.’s Spirit Wind will concede experience to her five rivals in Saturday’s $300,000 Princess Rooney Invitational (G2) at Gulfstream Park, but the 3-year-old homebred filly has earned her way into the Summit of Speed headliner with three dazzling victories this year.
The Ralph Nicks-trained daughter of Bahamian Squall has won her three races by a combined 23 lengths. After graduating by 15 ½ lengths Feb. 18, the Florida-bred filly captured the March 19 Any Limit Stakes by 2 ½ lengths and the Musical Romance against older state-breds by five lengths.
“She’s had a good year. She’s put three pretty good races back-to-back-to-back,’ Nicks said. “Her first race was beautiful to watch. The second one, she might have bounced a bit off the first one. She came back and reproduced her first race the third time.”
Spirit Wind is a half-sister to Sing Praises, who captured two legs of the 2014 Florida Sire Stakes series – the $350,000 In Reality and the $100,000 Dr. Fager. She ran once as a 2-year-old, finishing second at 4 ½ furlongs, before going to the sidelines for more than nine months.
“We had hopes for her. She ran well in her first race last year. She came back and was working well,” Nicks said. “I don’t know if she gave me the ‘wow’ stuff in the mornings as she has in the afternoons, but that’s the difference between the ones that aren’t morning glories,”
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Glass Ceiling (Gulfstream Park Photo)