In the Thoroughbred racing game, every trip to the starting gates is a test. When it’s a Grade 1 worth $1 million it is definitely more than a pop quiz. For one fabulously fast California-bred filly the Cotillion at PARX on September 23 equates to her ACT. A real measuring stick that is.
Ceiling Crusher has certainly lived up to her namesake while lighting up the West Coast dirt. In six career starts, this three-year-old daughter of Mr. Big has recorded five wins with the margin of victory averaging 8.8 lengths. Back-to-back scores in a pair of California-bred Stakes races (Evening Jewel and Melair ) produced jaw-dropping romps by a combined 32 ½ lengths.
“We thought early on she had some real talent”, says trainer Doug O’Neill. “She may have not faced the strongest group in the Cal-bred Stakes races, but she hinted in those races that she had another gear we hadn’t seen yet.”
On September 2, O’Neill put his fleet-footed filly into an open company race at Del Mar in the grade 3 Torrey Pines. Breaking alertly under jockey Edwin Maldonado against seven rivals, Crusher immediately assumed command in this one-mile route while throwing down more than solid early fractions (22.14 opening quarter mile, 46.29 half mile). Rolling along up top, the Ceiling was a good 2 ¼ lengths ahead as the runners turned for home. This is where that other gear came into play. Painting a pretty picture down the stretch, Ceiling Crusher was the Mona Lisa. Rolling down the Del Mar lane in full flight, Ceiling Crusher won by a widening 6 lengths.
“The Torrey Pines absolutely validated our thoughts on this filly”, says O’Neill, who has saddled two Kentucky Derby winners during a decorated career. “Edwin did a great job of getting her out and into a nice rhythm. It was a fantastic display of her speed and stamina.”
The win at Del Mar was very nice, but the challenge of the Cotillion is more than a few rungs up the ladder. Shipping out of California for the first time to Pennsylvania is just one of the concerns. A star-studded field that features perhaps the top three-year-old in Pretty Mischievous along with accomplished runners Hoosier Philly, Defining Purpose, and Occult presents more than a measuring stick. Pencils will need to be sharpened as Ceiling Crusher will be breaking from post two in a field of nine during this mile and a sixteenth test.
“These are some exciting times for our entire team”, says O’Neill. “You almost want to pinch yourself to make sure you are awake. These are the moments we all dream about. Just having this opportunity with a really talented filly makes us feel like winners. We understand this water is a lot deeper, but we think she is ready.”
The Cotillion is race 12 on a 14-race card that features a total of 10 Stakes races. The expected post time is 4:20 pm central time on September 23.