Ce Ce Upsets Heavily Favored Gamine In Breeders’ Cup Filly And Mare Sprint

With just four rivals facing her in the gates and a five-race winning streak where she took no prisoners, there was perhaps no surer thing on the Breeders’ Cup menu than Gamine defending her title in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Saturday at Del Mar.

In horse racing, though, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

After relentless pressure throughout the race, Gamine ultimately relented to finish third, while Ce Ce drove past the 2-to-5 favorite to earn the biggest win of her career.

Ce Ce, a 5-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality kept about three lengths back from the pace out of the gate, as Gamine took the early command in her usual fashion, pressed hard to the outside by Bella Sofia. Gamine clocked the opening quarter-mile in :22.31 seconds, a half-length ahead of Bella Sofia, with Edgeway looming closely behind on the rail.

Ce Ce crept up closer to the lead pack under jockey Victor Espinoza as the field approached the turn. As Gamine clicked a half-mile in :44.92 seconds, Bella Sofia drew up closer to the leader on the outside, and jockey Joel Rosario brought Edgeway up an open spot on the rail to pose a threat.

Those three set themselves up on even terms through the turn, as Espinoza took Ce Ce four-wide and entered the conversation at the top of the stretch. With the inside path, Edgeway took control of the lead from Gamine as they entered the straightaway, and Ce Ce accelerated from the outside at the six-furlong mark, run in 1:08.66.

With all the momentum on the outside trip, Ce Ce carried on past Edgeway, and kicked clear under a hand ride to win the Filly and Mare Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths. Edgeway continued on for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Gamine.

“I had a lot of horse,” Espinoza said. “She bounced out of the gate, but I decided to sit back and she was nice and relaxed. When I shook the reins at her at the five-eighths pole, I got a little excited. I wanted to go inside, but that spot was taken. But it worked out pretty fine.”

Ce Ce stopped the clock in 1:21 flat in the seven-furlong race over a fast main track. She paid $14.40 to win as the field’s third betting choice.

“Around the turn she put in her run and she was very good,” said trainer Michael McCarthy. “It’s a proud moment for (Bo Hirsch and I). I wish I would have shaved a little more this morning. Such a fantastic day and fantastic event. Just happy for everybody.  She’s been very consistent. I think last year I decided that this year we would go one turn with her. She’s been touting herself this week that she was going to run a big one. I’m just glad she did on a stage like today.”

Saturday’s Filly and Mare Sprint was Ce Ce’s fifth win in her last six starts, and her eighth total career victory, compiling lifetime earnings of $1,753,100. McCarthy trains the homebred mare for Bo Hirsch.

Ce Ce’s 2021 campaign has been a dramatic reversal from her 2020 season, when she notched a Grade 1 victory in the Beholder Mile, then stretched out to 1 1/16 miles to take the G1 Apple Blossom Handicap, before eventually finishing fifth in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She was moved back to one-turn races in 2021 to astounding success, coming into this year’s Breeders’ Cup with wins in the G2 Princess Rooney Stakes and a five-length dismantling of the G3 Chillingworth Stakes.

The only time Ce Ce faced defeat in a sprint race this season was the G1 Ballerina Handicap, where she finished third to Gamine.

Quotes from other connections:

Jockey Joel Rosario (second with Edgeway) – “I was on the inside and I had the room to run, but I was probably just second best today.”

Trainer Bob Baffert (third with 2-5 favorite Gamine) – “She was out there and she just got tired at the end. The winner ran a great race. I really can’t make a lot of excuses. She just got tired. I blame myself with the preparation. She had some time off and I think a race in between probably would have helped her. I think I made a mistake there. Now, she’ll be ready. Going in, I was hoping I was okay here. The winner is a good filly. She looked great in the paddock. I knew she was the one to beat.”

Jockey John Velazquez (third with 2-5 favorite Gamine) – “When you go that fast early, it’s hard to keep up the whole way around when you are pressed all the time. At the quarter pole, I thought she was going to have it, but as soon as I moved my hands and she didn’t respond the way I thought, I knew I was in trouble.”

Trainer Rudy Rodriquez (fourth with Bella Sofia) – “We tried to go with Gamine and we set up the race for the third-best horse. I thought we were running good. We got bumped a little bit in the stretch, but I think we were done already at the time. This is what you expect in these big races. They went pretty fast and came home fast and that’s what it is.”

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