01/05/2017 5:20PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Cavorting

Barbara D. Livingston

Cavorting set the bar high her entire career – from a runaway maiden victory in her debut as a 2-year-old in 2014 through a highly rated Grade 1 in 2016 that was her final start.

In between her 11-length debut romp and the Personal Ensign over an outstanding field in summer of her 4-year-old season, Cavorting repeatedly established herself as one of the top fillies in New York. Though Cavorting started just four times in 2016, her three wins – including two Grade 1s – make her a worthy Eclipse Award finalist as outstanding dirt female.

Kiaran McLaughlin trained Cavorting for the Stonestreet Farm of Barbara Banke. The filly’s retirement in fall 2016 was emotional for McLaughlin. He said Cavorting “might be the best filly I ever trained, so it’s hard to make this announcement.”

Cavorting left the racetrack on a high note, with three straight wins. She improved as the season unfolded and delivered the right answers to lingering questions from her previous campaign.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Although Cavorting won the 2015 Test Stakes at Saratoga, she lost her next three as the favorite – fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland, third in the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita, and runner-up in her first start of 2016 in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct.

McLaughlin did not lose faith, and his patience was rewarded in May at Belmont Park. Making the second start of her 2016 campaign in the Grade 2 Ruffian, and ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano, Cavorting delivered the most lopsided stakes win of her career.

Cavorting was rated off the pace, full of run, loomed three wide into the lane, and exploded late to win by five lengths. Her fourth graded stakes win, it pushed her earnings over the million-dollar mark and set her up for a return to Grade 1 competition.

One month later in June, in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, bettors were unsure if Cavorting would deliver again. She was fourth choice in the seven-runner field, starting at 4-1 under Florent Geroux because Castellano was committed to another mount.

With a different rider, Cavorting delivered the same result. She raced wide near the back of the field, rallied five wide into the lane, and drew off by 2 1/2 lengths. Cavorting was back, and better than ever. The 102 Beyer Speed Figure she earned was a new top.

In summer, Cavorting returned to Saratoga, where she already was 3 for 3. The Grade 1 Personal Ensign at 1 1/8 miles in August presented a challenge, because it was the first time Cavorting had raced two turns. Her rivals were established Grade 1 route winners Curalina, Forever Unbridled, and I’m a Chatterbox.

Cavorting, reunited with Castellano, met the challenge. She raced at the back, uncorked her patented wide rally into the lane, hit the front late, and won going away. The win gave Cavorting a graded stakes victory for three consecutive seasons at Saratoga. She emerged as an early contender for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.

But in early October, McLaughlin suspected something was not quite right. An examination revealed bruised cannon bones, and Cavorting was retired.

Sired by Bernardini and produced by the Carson City mare Promenade Girl, Cavorting was bred by Swettenham Stud and originally was purchased as a weanling for $360,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale.

During her final campaign, she won 3 of 4 starts, made $1.1 million, and earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in the final three starts of her career. Overall, she won eight races from 13 starts and earned $2,063,000.

Cavorting retires to the Stonestreet broodmare band. Plans call for her to be bred to Curlin in spring 2017.