September 26, 2023

Ce Ce upsets Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

Ce Ce, with Victor Espinoza riding, wins the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar Race Track (Photo by Horsephotos)

Ce Ce rallied boldly to upset Saturday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar, overhauling odds-on favorite Gamine in the stretch and drawing away to a 2 1/2-length decision.

Now a five-time stakes winner for owner/breeder Bo Hirsch, including graded triumphs in three of her last four starts, Ce Ce likely secured the Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter with the convincing victory.

Regular rider Victor Espinoza was up on the classy five-year-old Exclusive Quality mare for Michael McCarthy, and Ce Ce completed the seven-furlong distance in 1:21 as the 6-1 third choice.

Gamine, last year’s champion female sprinter and the defending champion in the Filly & Mare Sprint, sped forward to establish fractions in :22.31 and :44.92, and Bella Sofia hounded the 2-5 favorite from the start. Ce Ce stalked in fourth down the backstretch, launching her bid rounding the far turn.

“Yeah, it was almost too good to be true on paper,” McCarthy said of how the race set up. “You see the fillies (Gamine and Bella Sofia) drawing outside, obviously you prefer that these two fillies have been drawn inside, but I thought Victor did a wonderful job of bouncing away from there and not letting those two fillies kind of dictate and get over on us.”

After bumping Bella Sofia in upper stretch, Ce Ce accelerated clear in the final furlong. The Kentucky-bred chestnut has now earned $1,753,100 from a 16-8-1-3 record.

“When she got heads up for lead for coming through the quarter pole, I certainly got excited and I was kind of watching Bo, kind of watching her and inside the sixteenth pole I think I spent more time watching Bo. So very good day,” McCarthy said.

Hirsch got excited watching the race in the paddock with his trainer.

“Yeah, she’s been unbelievable,” Hirsch said. “You look back at her pedigree, it’s incredible. We have been very lucky.”

Edgeway narrowly outfinished Gamine for second. Bella Sofia and Proud Emma came next under the wire in the short field.

Out of the Grade 1-winning Miss Houdini, a daughter of Belong to Me, Ce Ce is a half-sister to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Papa Clem. She earned her third Grade 1 score in the Filly & Mare Sprint, taking the Apple Blossom H. at 1 1/16 miles and Beholder Mile S. last year.

“I think she can run in any distance…but now at seven-eighths she’s an awesome mare and Mike McCarthy has done an incredible job to train her for the race and this event, the Breeders’ Cup,” Espinoza said. “And I’ve been around with her because I always look for the future, and I look for the big race.”

Hirsch indicated Ce Ce will remain in training for a six-year-old campaign.

“Well, at my stage in life, I want more fun than money and as long as she wants to run, and as long as — we know she wants to run and we’re going to run for a while.”