May 26, 2024

Ce Ce looks to stay hot in Santa Maria

Bo Hirsch's Ce Ce and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Beholder Mile © BENOIT PHOTO

Only four rivals are entered against Ce Ce in Sunday’s $200,000 Santa Maria (G2) at Santa Anita, and the streaking filly has already beaten three of them.

Long well regarded by trainer Michael McCarthy, Ce Ce is rewarding his faith this season. The Bo Hirsch homebred stretched out off a sprint allowance romp to topple 3-5 favorite Hard Not to Love in the March 14 Beholder Mile (G1). Then Ce Ce answered another question when shipping to Oaklawn Park, overcoming post 14 to prevail in the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom (G1).

Now back on her home court at 1 1/16 miles, Ce Ce will be the hot favorite as she bids to extend her winning streak to four. The Elusive Quality half-sister to Papa Clem keeps Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza aboard in post 2.

Hard Not to Love had her own streak snapped in the Beholder Mile. The John Shirreffs filly had won three straight, notably the La Brea (G1) and Santa Monica (G2), but she could not resist Ce Ce in their mutual two-turn debut. Hard Not to Love’s early pace battle was a factor in her vulnerable finish. A different trip could help, along with a four-pound weight concession from Ce Ce this time.

While Hard Not to Love is drawn on the rail again with Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the daughter of Hard Spun might decide to let Bob Baffert’s speedy Fighting Mad go ahead. The only one in the field yet to meet Ce Ce, Fighting Mad comes off an eventful trip in the May 17 Desert Stormer (G3), where she was disqualified from third to fourth. The Gary and Mary West homebred showed plenty of early zip off the bench in that sprint, and in her only prior two-turn attempt, she wired last summer’s Torrey Pines (G3) by eight lengths. Hot-riding Abel Cedillo picks up the mount.

Horologist, a troubled sixth in the Apple Blossom, could be poised for her best effort yet since joining Richard Baltas. The winner of the 2019 Monmouth Oaks (G3) and third in the Cotillion (G1) when trained by John Mazza, she might have turned the corner for her new barn when just missing in the Nellie Morse two back at Laurel. Now she gets leading pilot Flavien Prat.

Rounding out the small cast is Beholder Mile fourth Kaydetre, wheeling back six days after dominating an allowance on the Memorial Day card.

Ce Ce’s familiar foe Ollie’s Candy, the Apple Blossom near-misser and Beholder Mile third, was not entered. The Santa Maria was initially reported as her target once she scratched from Monday’s Gamely (G1), but trainer John Sadler told Daily Racing Form that Ollie’s Candy was bound for the June 13 Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont.