Sweet Cat, a juvenile filly purchased from Runnymede last year by five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher for his own account, scored a handy maiden special weight win at Saratoga on September 1, drawing away from 11 rivals to prevail by two lengths.
In the process, Sweet Cat recorded the 650th win at the historic track for Pletcher’s primary jockey, John Velazquez. The victory boosted Velazquez to second among Saratoga’s all-time winningest riders behind only Jerry Bailey, who retired with 693 wins.
“This means a lot,” said Velazquez, who was congratulated in the winner’s circle by Pletcher and Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. Both agent and mentor to Velazquez, Cordero had amassed 649 Saratoga wins and he now ranks third on the all-time list.
“To be right next to Angel Cordero and follow in Jerry Bailey’s footsteps is a great accomplishment. There are no other words to describe it,” Velazquez added.
The jockey steered Sweet Cat, dispatched as the 2-1 favorite, out of the gate fastest of all and then rated her just off the pace in third as second choice Inny Minnie and Rock On Home dueled through rapid early fractions of :22.01 and :45.22.
Racing three-wide around the turn, Sweet Cat spurted to the lead in the stretch and cruised under the wire in 1:03.01 for the 5 ½ furlongs on a turf course rated firm.
Pletcher plucked Sweet Cat out of the 2010 Runnymede consignment at the Keeneland September yearling sale, paying $95,000 for the elegant dark bay daughter of champion Kitten’s Joy out of the Carson City mare Claire’s Smile. Raised at Runnymede, Sweet Cat was bred by the farm in partnership with Chairman Catesby W. Clay.
After finishing second over a sloppy Saratoga main track in her career debut on July 25, Sweet Cat earned $30,000 for her victory, increasing her bankroll to $40,000 in two starts. She is a half sister to Runnymede-bred stakes winner Loose Leaf, an earner of $231,770.
Claire’s Smile produced a strapping colt by top freshman sire Hard Spun earlier this year and she was bred back to Corinthian. The mare is from the immediate female family of champion Flanders, dam of champion Surfside and Grade 2 winner Battle Plan.