Ce Ce returned triumphantly to Oaklawn Park in Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri (G3), gamely fending off Pauline’s Pearl to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Last year’s champion female sprinter recorded her first win at a two-turn distance since capturing the 2020 Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Trained by Michael McCarthy and ridden by Victor Espinoza, the Bo Hirsch homebred daughter of Elusive Quality could target another running of the Apple Blossom on April 23.
Shedaresthedevil, the even-money favorite, showed the way on a short lead through opening splits in :23.44, :47.53, and 1:12.20. Ce Ce stalked in third until the far turn, advancing three wide into contention, and the 17-10 second choice overhauled the pacesetter shortly after straightening for home, leading by about a length with a sixteenth of a mile remaining.
Pauline’s Pearl came charging into the frame on the far outside in deep stretch, but Ce Ce kept finding more to the wire.
She completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.55.
Pauline’s Pearly held second by a length, and Shedaresthedevil, She’s All Wolfe, Ava’s Grace, Golden Curl, and Lady Mystify followed.
A convincing winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) two back, Ce Ce was exiting a runner-up finish in the Feb. 5 Santa Monica (G2) at seven furlongs. She raced primarily in routes in 2020, completing the season with a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), and proved very successful when cutting back last year, winning 4-of-5 attempts at sprint distances, including three graded stakes.
The Kentucky-bred chestnut mare has now earned $2,003,100 from an 18-9-2-3 career line. A half-sister to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Papa’s Clem, Ce Ce hails from the Grade 1-winning Belong to Me mare Miss Houdini, who is out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Magical Maiden.