Undefeated Ceiling Crusher a Rising Star for O’Neill

May 27, 2023

Ceiling Crusher simply dominant in the Evening Jewel (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Santa Anita Stable Notes by Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, Calif.— Trainer Doug O’Neill looks to have a “special” California-bred on his hands with the unbeaten 3-year-old filly Ceiling Crusher.

By California-based stallion Mr. Big, Ceiling Crusher is the prohibitive 3-5 morning-line favorite in Sunday’s $150,000 Melair Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. The odds-on support appears more than merited.

Ceiling Crusher has won her three starts, all against statebreds, by a combined 20 ¼ lengths. Most recently, she romped by 15 ¼-length when making her stakes debut in the 6 ½-furlong Evening Jewel here April 8. The scintillating effort returned a lofty 94 Beyer Speed Figure, which towers over the Melair field.

“She’s shown she has some special qualities,” O’Neill said Saturday morning.

A mere $22,000 auction purchase as a yearling, Ceiling Crusher debuted here last June and rolled to a 4 ¾-length victory when sprinting five furlongs for trainer Luis Mendez and owner Dan Northrup. Following her winning unveiling, Ceiling Crusher was entered in the 2022 Fasig-Tipton California Fall Yearlings and Horses of All Ages Sale. She failed to meet her reserve with a final bid of $115,000.

O’Neill said Ceiling Crusher was purchased privately this winter for an undisclosed sum. Her new owners are Wonderland Racing Stables, Todd Cady, Tim Kasparoff and Ty Leatherman.

“We bought her only a couple months ago. Luis Mendez and Dan Northrup are great horsemen and they had her doing well,” O’Neill said.

Ceiling Crusher after her dazzling effort in the Evening Jewel (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

In her first start for O’Neill, Ceiling Crusher won a first-level allowance for statebreds going six furlongs. Then came the Evening Jewel.

Sent off at 1-5 under Juan Hernandez, Ceiling Crusher dueled through a sharp opening half mile in 43.98 seconds. She was just getting started. As her rivals started to falter, Ceiling Crusher continued to motor six furlongs in a swift 1:08.57 before blitzing across the wire in 1:15.18.

O’Neill said the performance exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

“It did. We were expecting big things. But that was beyond,” he noted.

Now Ceiling Crusher gets her first test around two turns in the Melair. She appears to have not missed a beat since the Evening Jewel. She has worked five times since her breakout performance, which includes a stiff six-furlong move in 1:13.60 this past Sunday.

Ceiling Crusher now has to prove herself around two turns. O’Neill does not see the added distance as being an issue. Ceiling Crusher’s pedigree would indicate likewise. Besides being by a Dynaformer stallion, her dam Palisadesprincess is a daughter of Indian Charlie.

“I think two turns will be fine. She’s just a natural,” O’Neill said. “She loves to train and that makes it super easy. We wanted to put a good six-furlong work into her last week and she didn’t disappoint. She worked great.”

In the Melair, Ceiling Crusher will break from the outside stall in a five-horse field. Hernandez, the leading rider at Santa Anita, will again be in the irons.

“It looks like there is some speed in there if somebody wants to go, but J.J. is such a good rider and has so much confidence in her. I think she can come off the bridle and relax, then when he asks, to finish up strong.”

The Melair goes as the fifth race on Sunday’s 10-race “Gold Rush” program that features four other statebred stakes. Post time is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. The field in post position order: Tom’s Regret, Kyle Frey (4-1); Carole Lombard, Ramon Vazquez (4-1); Danzing Cat, Antonio Fresu (10-1); Chismosa, Tiago Pereira (6-1); Ceiling Crusher, Juan Hernandez (3-5).

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