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Ceiling Crusher won the 2023 Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx in front-running fashion, defeating Pretty Mischievous & ending that rival’s 3-race win streak.
Is the Doug O’Neill-trained Ceiling Crusher the new top 3-year-old filly in America? Watch the replay & get the Racing Dudes’ expert analysis, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
A strong, front-running pace was all Ceiling Crusher needed to capture Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing. The California-bred daughter of Mr. Big employed that strategy to lead eight others from start to finish to win the 1 1/16-mile contest by a half-length on the sloppy, sealed main track in 1:45.69 under jockey Edwin Maldonado.
Under the lime green and white colors that represent Wonderland Racing Stables, Todd Cady, Tim Kasparoff and Ty Leatherman, Ceiling Crusher earned her first Grade 1 victory in her seventh lifetime start for trainer Doug O’Neill. The win was her second straight after winning the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar. That was her first start in open company after running vs. California breds in her first five starts.
Ceiling Crusher, no stranger to covering a lot of ground after shipping to Parx Tuesday from her home track at Santa Anita, an estimated trip of 2,709 miles, pleased her trainer.
“She brought everything that she was showing us back home on the road,” O’Neill said. “You never know. You never know until you pack your bags, and they have to stay in a hotel room and be away from home. She handled everything perfectly.”
Ceiling Crusher was urged to the front after the break under Maldonado, and was pressed through an opening quarter mile in :23.31. Pretty Mischievous and jockey Tyler Gafflione, in search of their fourth consecutive Grade 1 victory as the 2-1 favorite, gave chase in sixth in the early stages. They continued through the slop behind a cluster of soggy horseflesh belonging to Majestic Creed, Hoosier Philly, Defining Purpose, Foggy Night and Imonra while Ceiling Crusher led through the half-mile in :47.64 and 6 furlongs in 1:12.98.
Occult, launching her bid from last under Irad Ortiz Jr., swung wide and rallied into third behind the Brendan Walsh-trained Pretty Mischievous who, with her streak in jeopardy, made an impact through the turn to the stretch and was now desperate to catch the front-runner. Ceiling Crusher, still there after the mile in 1:39.16, held strong and held off her main foe. Pretty Mischievous settled for second while Occult finished third and Hoosier Philly checked in fourth.
She was followed by Defining Purpose, Foggy Night, Just Katherine, Majestic Creed and Imonra.
“Edwin has gotten to know her. She has no accelerator stuck to her at all.” said O’Neill. “She is not a run-off. Being in the two-hole, he did not want to get caught up in a lot of traffic. He rode her away from there and I just thank God no one else went on a suicide mission to stop her. She has that high-cruising speed, and she carried it all the way to the wire. She does not have a huge turn of foot. She has a high-cruising speed, a grinder, a lot of heart. He used all that to a T.”
Pretty Mischievous, the leading candidate to win this year’s Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old filly, left her connections with disappointment following her performance.
“Maybe she didn’t handle the track great, initially,” Walsh said. “Tyler said as soon as she switched her leads down the back, he kind of felt her way back into the race. But you know, Doug’s filly got the jump on us, and she was gone. That’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. Listen, she always gives it 110 percent. Anytime she has been beaten she hasn’t been beaten far. You can’t be disappointed in her, we’re just a little disappointed in the circumstances. Hats off to Doug’s filly, too. She took her opportunity, and she won the race. I’m not taking anything away from her.”
Ceiling Crusher, who now boasts six wins from seven starts and earnings of $938,400, will return home before her next start is considered. O’Neill will leave the decision to the owners.
“She is not nominated (to the Breeders’ Cup),” O’Neill said. “It will be up to the guys and gals, if they want to write a big check. This was our Breeders’ Cup. We looked at this on the calendar months ago and the fact that is coming true … this was our Breeders’ Cup.”
Winning trainer Doug O’Neill: “She brought everything that she was showing us back home on the road. You never know. We had the great Lava Man, who did so many wonderful things in the state of California but could never take it outside of California. You never know until you pack your bags and they have to stay in a hotel room and be away from home. She handled everything perfectly. Edwin has gotten to know her. She has no accelerator stuck to her at all. She is not a run-off. Being in the two-hole, he did not want to get caught up in a lot of traffic. He rode her away from there and I just thank God no one else went on a suicide mission to stop her. She has that high-cruising speed and she carried it all the way to the wire. She does not have a huge turn of foot. She has a high cruising speed, a grinder, a lot of heart. He used all that to a T.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff next? “She is not nominated. It will be up to the guys and gals, if they want to write a big check. This was our Breeders’ Cup. We looked at this on the calendar months ago and the fact that is coming true … this was our Breeders’ Cup today.
Not getting to the bottom of her: “I wonder. We’ll have to talk to Edwin about that. It looked like it was pretty close to the bottom to me late there. She is a wonderful filly and she has so much determination and so much of a will to win. I don’t know how far she’ll go but we know she will go a mile and a sixteenth on a sloppy track at Parx. That is all that matters. And it’s a Grade 1!”
Case for top 3-year-old filly? “If I am voting, yeah. The filly that she beat (Pretty Mischievous) …. these kind of fillies make you want to jump out of bed and get to the barn. It’s so hard to find horses like her.”
Concern leaving California for the first time: “It’s always a concern and the weather was a big concern. Credit to Parx management. I even thought early this morning, ‘are we still going to run?’ They put on a wonderful card and were able to handle all that Mother Nature threw at them. A great day. I don’t know when she is going home, but we are heading to the bar. We are going to celebrate her victory and celebrate life and cherish this moment.”
Compare it to winning the 2021 Pennsylvania Derby with Hot Rod Charlie: “They are all individual, right? Any horse you work alongside, when they throw a big effort in, you are so grateful.”
Winning jockey Edwin Maldonado: “The question was if she could handle (the 1 1/16 miles). We just let her kick on and do her thing. She’s been running short and taking the lead sprinting, so I just needed a good break and we got a good break. The rest was her. I don’t like any horses getting close to her. By the time they came at her at the three-eighths pole, I just went.”
When did you know you had it won? “When I turned for home. When I hit the eighth pole, I’m thinking, ‘OK, she’s got a good chance.’ I’m very happy. These are good owners and I’m very thankful I got the opportunity to win for these guys.”
On a potential start in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park: “That would feel great. It’s our hometown.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh (Pretty Mischievous, second): “A little disappointed in that she maybe didn’t handle the track great initially. Tyler said as soon as she switched her leads down the back he kind of felt her way back into the race. But you know, Doug’s filly got the jump on us and she was gone. That’s the way it goes I’m afraid. Listen, if she can at all make her run she always makes her run. She always gives it 110 percent. Anytime she has been beaten she hasn’t been beaten far. You can’t be disappointed in her, we’re just a little disappointed in the circumstances. Hats off to Doug’s filly, too. She took her opportunity and she won the race. I’m not taking anything away from her.”
What could be next for Pretty Mischievous? “We’ll see how she comes out of this and we’ll chat and come up with a plan. We weren’t really looking beyond today to be honest. We’ll see what happens. As always, we’re very proud of her. She’ll be back.”
Jockey Tyler Gafflione (Pretty Mischievous, second): “She was kind of resenting the track for the first quarter of a mile, but once she switched leads down the backside she was in a little better position. The winner just had the jump on us today.”
On positioning down on inside: “There was plenty of room there, that wasn’t an issue. More than anything, I just think she didn’t like the track. Breaking on the inside it took us awhile to get better speed and force our way out and make some room to make the run. The weather though, man, of all the days.”
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