By Gulfstream Press Staff – Trainer Michael McCarthy has sent Ce Ce on a cross-country journey to Gulfstream Park on a quest to snag the biggest prize of the Spring/Summer Meet in Saturday’s $350,000 Princess Rooney Invitational (G2).
The Southern California-based trainer has a history of big-race success at the Hallandale Beach track, having claimed the Championship Meet’s richest event with City of Light’s score in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in 2019.
“City of Light’s win in the Pegasus was a nice introduction to Gulfstream,” McCarthy said. “We came back to Gulfstream for the Pegasus this year with Independence Hall, who I thought ran a very good third. It’s a racetrack we’ve performed well at. We’re obviously expecting more of the same this weekend.”
The Princess Rooney, a seven-furlong ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race for fillies and mares, will headline Saturday’s Summit of Speed program that will also feature the $200,000 Smile Sprint Invitational (G3), a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.
Ce Ce, 3-1 in the morning-line in a field of eight fillies and mares in the Princess Rooney, is a two-time Grade 1 stakes winner. The 5-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality scored back-to-back victories in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita and the Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn last year. Although Bo Hirsch LLC’s home-bred mare’s greatest successes have achieved in two-turn races, McCarthy said he was confident that she was ready for Saturday’s one-turn challenge.
“I thought the seven-eighths would be a wonderful distance for her. It looks like there might be some rain down there this week, and I think she might like a wet-fast racetrack,” said McCarthy, who had considered the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps (G1) on the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard.
Ce Ce concluded her 2021 campaign with a fifth-place finish behind Monomoy Girl following an extremely wide trip in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland. The Kentucky-bred mare came back five-months later to capture a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance at Santa Anita by 3 ¼ lengths. She went back to two-turns in the Santa Maria, in which she bobbled at the start and faded to fourth.
“She had a nice little break after the Breeders’ Cup – I thought her race in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff was sneaky good,” said McCarthy, a former long-time assistant to Todd Pletcher before going on his own in 2014. “It was always our plan to give her some time off. She’s come back good. These racetracks in California have gotten deeper and gotten looser. They don’t seem to suit her.”
Ce Ce arrived at Gulfstream Tuesday evening. McCarthy has “deputized” Ralph Nicks to oversee her training and saddle her for the Princess Rooney in his absence.
Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah for a sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown, will venture from Southern California to ride.
Gulfstream Park has also been a friendly venue for Holly Hill Stables LLC’s Pacific Gale, who captured the Inside Information (G2) and Hurricane Bertie (G3) during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet. The John Kimmel-trained daughter of Flat Out is is scheduled to return to Gulfstream from New York to regain her winning form. The 6-year-old mare has finished third in the Vagrancy (G3) and fourth in the Bed o’ Roses (G3) at Belmont since leaving South Florida.
Romero Maragh has the call on Pacific Gale (4-1).
Medallion Racing and partners’ Estilo Talentoso, who captured the June 4 Bed o’ Roses last time out, also has a fondness for the Gulfstream Park track, over which she will seek her third victory and second stakes success. The Juan Arriagada-trained 4-year-old daughter of Maclean’s Music was Grade 1 stakes-placed twice this year prior to her first graded-stakes win at Belmont.
Javier Castellano will return to South Florida, where his Hall of Fame career in the U.S. began in 1997, for the riding assignment on Estilo Talentoso, the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Gary Barber’s Laura’s Light (7-2), a Grade 2 stakes winner on turf, will also represent Southern California in the Princess Rooney. The 4-year-old daughter of Constitution, who is trained by Peter Miller, is coming off a victory in the off-the-turf Ouija Board Stakes at Lone Star Park.
Florent Geroux, who guided Gun Runner to a victory in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in 2018, has the mount.
e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Sound Machine (12-1), who finished second behind Pacific Gale in the Hurricane Bertie and won the seven-furlong Musical Romance for Florida-bred fillies and mares last time out; and Windylea Farm LLC’s Thissmytime, who finished second behind Pacific Gale in the Inside Information, are among the most accomplished South Florida-based fillies and mares entered in the Princess Rooney.
My Purple Haze Stables Inc’s Heiressall (20-1) and Al Rashid Stables LLC’s Hallawallah (20-1) will be the other South Florida-based Princess Rooney entrants.
Sound Machine, Thissmytime and Heiressall are eligible for a $25,000 ‘Win Only’ bonus available to Florida-breds.