Nearly two years to the day and site of her last victory, Cat Feathers struck again.
Owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Cat Feathers, always well placed under jockey Bernie Dalton, took command on Saratoga Race Course’s final turn, flew over the final fence, and drew away to a 3 3/4-length victory in Thursday’s $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes.
Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run, the reigning Life’s Illusion filly and mare champion, followed Cat Feathers into the stretch and leveled off through the drive. The 1.75-to-1 favorite, Kisser N Run finished second in a field of seven fillies and mares.
Owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Brilliant Match set the pace for most of the Mrs. Phipps and finished 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third under Darren Nagle, who recently returned from a broken leg sustained in a March training accident. Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine finished fourth.
A New York-bred by Catienus, Cat Feathers ran the Mrs. Phipps’ 2 1/16 miles in 3:49.74 on a firm inner turf course.
The victory was Cat Feathers’ second in the Mrs. Phipps and her first win since that 2012 race. The diminutive six-year-old mare parlayed her Mrs. Phipps win into that year’s Life’s Illusion trophy as the National Steeplechase Association’s champion female performer.
“Any win in Saratoga is what you strive for, but to win something several times is just wonderful,” Kate Dalton said. “It just sets a horse up to have a little more of a following. Any following we get for steeplechasing is just great.”
Indeed, a crowd of Saratoga fans packed the trackside rail and cheered Cat Feathers into the winner’s circle. “She’s a really, really great mare. I’m glad she has some fans,” the trainer said.
Still, she had some concern when her husband placed Cat Feathers in an inside position. “She normally doesn’t like to be on the inside,” she said, but “Bernie gave her a great ride, saved ground.”
Because of a broken collarbone, Bernie Dalton missed Cat Feathers’ most recent start, a fourth-place finish in an open conditioned allowance hurdle at Parx Racing on July 1, but he said she came out of the race in top shape and trained forwardly to the Mrs. Phipps.
Cat Feathers showed no displeasure with being on the inside as Brilliant Match set a respectable pace and moved into second position on the second run down Saratoga’s backstretch. “I kicked on from the second last from home,” the jockey said.
Cat Feathers rolled to the lead as she cut the corner into the final turn, and Robbie Walsh kicked on Kisser N Run. Under pressure, Kisser N Run drew within two lengths at the last fence, but Cat Feathers soared over the obstacle and widened her advantage. Dalton glanced back to be sure no one was closing on Cat Feathers and hand-rode her to the finish line. “She won very easily, and we couldn’t be happier,” he said. “Kate did a great job with her.”
Cat Feathers’ last win was in the same stakes race at the Spa on Aug. 9, 2012. That was a dozen starts ago. Since then, she had a second in the $75,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Stakes in Saratoga last August before closing out her 2013 campaign with a second in a $20,000 allowance hurdle at last November’s Colonial Cup.
Cat Feathers kicked off this year with a third in the $50,000 Carolina Cup in March. She was fifth in her second start, an allowance chase in Atlanta in April before a fourth in an allowance chase at Parx Racing in her most recent start on July 1.
The win was the third in 20 starts for Cat Feathers which padded her bankroll to $150,576 with the $45,000 payday at Saratoga.
For Bernie Dalton, Thursday’s score was his fifth in 24 starts over fences in 2014.
Manacor wires it in at the Spa: Owner-trainer Jimmy Day’s Manacor set an uncontested pace under Paddy Young in Saratoga Race Course’s $65,000 allowance hurdle last Wednesday and turned back a late thrust from All the Way Jose to win by a neck.
Albany Road finished third, and Balance the Budget took fourth in a field of six.
The second betting choice at 3.35-to-1, Manacor went to the lead immediately, with Rodman W. Moorhead III’s All the Way Jose, the 1.05-to-1 favorite, closest to an honest pace. They retained that position for most of the race, and Young left out a notch on the final turn.
Manacor landed the last fence with a 1 1/2-length advantage, and Stonelea Farm’s Balance the Budget jumped strongly to pull into contention. Willie McCarthy hustled All the Way Jose away from the last and cut into Manacor’s advantage in the final yards.
The Elkstone Group’s Albany Road finished well under Robbie Walsh to grab third, three-quarters of a length farther back and three-quarters of a length ahead of Balance the Budget --- with Xavier Aizpuru up --- in a field of six.
Saratoga’s stewards scratched the Jack Fisher-trained Mr. Starr’s Report when he refused to start after being unruly both in the paddock and on the race course. Lillehammer, trained in Camden by Kate Dalton, was a race day scratch as Dalton opted to run the 6-year-old mare in Thursday’s $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes.
A 6-year-old Irish-bred, Manacor ran the allowance hurdle’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:55.27 on firm turf.
He entered the Saratoga race from a solid victory on the flat in a $50,000 claimer at Belmont Park on July 11. In his only previous start over fences this year, the Refuse To Bend gelding finished second in the Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance hurdle at the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Va., on April 26.