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Carolyn's Cat in fine form for First Flight

ELMONT, N.Y. -- With a wire-to-wire victory in last month's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap, Carolyn's Cat found her winning touch again and is coming into Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 First Flight Handicap at Belmont Park in top form.

“She ran great her last time out and she's in great shape coming in,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains the filly for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren, Jr.

Her 3¼-length victory over Porte Bonheur in the May 24 Vagrancy ended a three-race losing streak for Carolyn’s Cat, and McLaughlin is hopeful she will carry her winning ways into the First Flight, a seven-furlong event for fillies and mares that is being run for the 31st time.

The summer goal for Carolyn's Cat is the Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina, also at seven furlongs, on Aug. 29 at Saratoga Race Course, and the First Flight is another step on the road to the Spa.

While the 4-year-old chestnut daughter of Forestry took the lead from the start the last time out, the same scenario isn't necessary.

“It helped being on the lead, but we don't have to be there,”' said McLaughlin, who won back-to-back editions of the First Flight in 2003 and 2004 with Randaroo and Bending Strings. “If she jumps out there and makes the lead, great. We'll see how it goes.”

Alan Garcia, who was aboard for the Vagrancy, gets the call again with top impost of 117 pounds.

Winner of the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct in 2008, Carolyn's Cat was a distant second to Zaftig in the Grade 3 Nassau County at Belmont last May and was sent to the farm for a freshening. She returned in March and finished fourth in a stakes at Aqueduct and ran second in the off-the-turf Elizabeth Bay at Belmont on May 6 before her victory in the Vagrancy, which boosted her record to 4-3-0 in 10 careers starts for earnings of $304,415.

Porte Bonheur, who had to wait for running room before moving up to gain second in the Vagrancy, returns for a rematch with Carolyn’s Cat. The winner of last year’s Grade 3 Victory Ride at Saratoga Race Course, Porte Bonheur has a record of 5-1-2 from 10 starts and will be ridden Sunday by Ramon Dominguez under 116 pounds.

Spritely, trained by Todd Pletcher for Edward P. Evans, is coming off a brief freshening and is looking for her third straight win in the First Flight. The 4-year-old daughter of Touch Gold took the April 18 Sugar Maple at Charles Town, which came on the heels of a 6¾-length win in an optional claimer at Aqueduct a month earlier.

Juddmonte Farms’ Turn Away also brings back-to-back victories into the First Flight. Trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, the daughter of Empire Maker won an optional claimer on May 29 in her 4-year-old debut, having closed out her 2008 campaign with a win in a similar event at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.

Sunday Geisha makes her Belmont Park debut in the First Flight for trainer Bruce Levine, as does Iron Butterfly, who is coming off a trio of victories at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park.

 

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