06/02/2012 6:01PM

Belmont: C C's Pal outgames Nicole H to win Vagrancy

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Barbara D. Livingston
C C's Pal and Junior Alvarado defeat Nicole H in the Vagrancy at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Rick Dutrow originally entered Smart Stride as a rabbit for her entrymate C C’s Pal in Saturday’s $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park. As things turned out, it was C C’s Pal’s five rivals who needed the rabbit.

With Smart Stride scratched, C C's Pal surprisingly set the pace then reasserted herself in deep stretch to outgame old friend Nicole H and register a well-deserved neck victory in the Grade 2 Vagrancy.

C C’s Pal went right to the lead under Junior Alvarado in the 6 1/2-furlong Vagrancy. C C's Pal set reasonable fractions of 23.55 seconds and 47.07 for the opening quarter- and half-mile while well in hand. She remained clear through early stretch but appeared destined to finish second after being overtaken by Nicole H inside the sixteenth pole. But C C's Pal had enough in reserve to withstand the challenge and prove narrowly best.

Nicole H, reserved under Ramon Dominquez while saving ground just behind the leader, eased out to split rivals nearing the eighth pole. She gained a brief advantage between calls in deep stretch before being outgamed by C C’s Pal.

She’s Cheeky gradually weakened after prompting the pace and finished third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Nicole H.

C C’s Pal, a 5-year-old daughter of Alex’s Pal owned by Eric Fein, covered the distance in 1:16.10 over a track upgraded from good to fast late in the day, and paid $5.70.

“I told the jock if she breaks good and nobody else does, what’s wrong with that,” said Dutrow of taking C C's Pal to the front. “We were hoping Nicole H would come out and take the lead and we could sit off her, but if you notice, every time Ramon rides that filly he never goes to the lead. That’s why I scratched our other filly, because if we had run her, Ramon would have set up camp right outside her. It would have made it tough for our other filly to come catch them.”

Dutrow said C C’s Pal has been "like a different horse" since she drifted out and finished third, beaten a neck, in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel in February.

“We’re very happy with this filly,” said Dutrow. “In the Barbara Fritchie she was getting out so bad we didn’t know what it was and it wound up being her foot. We got that straightened out and she’s been doing so good lately. She’s been very happy.”

C C's Pal came into the Vagrancy off a second-place finish in the My Juliet at Parx on May 26. Dutrow said he plans to give C C’s Pal some time off and freshen her up a little bit after having started her twice in just one week’s time.