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Cat's Claw digs in for Fasig-Tipton Waya surprise

By Heather Pettinger | 08/03/2014 07:45 PM ET
Cat's Claw
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Cat's Claw made her Saratoga Race Course debut a winning one, nabbing her first career stakes win on Sunday in an upset of the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes.

Under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, Cat's Claw trailed the early pace and rallied late to overpower Viva Rafaela by 1 ¼ lengths at the wire. English Class and Gulsary, who were caught in a three-way duel with Viva Rafaela, held to finish third and fourth, respectively.

The winning time for 1 ½ miles was 2:27.08 over a firm turf course.

The 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer obviously found 12 furlongs to her liking, having already captured an allowance at the distance at Belmont on June 22.

"My filly, she'll run all day. She had one pace all the way but she's a nice filly," Velasquez said. "I think 1 ½ miles is her best distance. In the stretch, I had a lot of horse but I had no room. When I did [get room], she ran big."

Out of Chili Cat by Storm Cat, Cat's Claw was bred in Kentucky by her owners, Helen Alexander and Jon and Sarah Kelly's Double K, LLC. Conditioned by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, Cat's Claw, who drew in off the also-eligible list, improved her lifetime record to three wins, a second and a third from seven starts, with earnings of $175,640.

Sent off at odds of 13-1, the winner paid $28.40 for a $2 win wager.

"I think she is definitely a superior distance horse. She's acted that way," said Sheppard of Cat's Claw, who gave the trainer his fifth win in the Waya. "Since we've gotten to know her and learn a little bit about her, it just seems like she'll gallop all day."

"You kind of get a hunch or a gut feel about a horse and she ran in the long race [a 1 ½-mile turf allowance on June 22] at Belmont," he added. "She had broken her maiden and she came back and won nicely in the non-winners of two. But to be honest, those long marathon races down there don't have really strong competition. This is a huge step up, and none of us were really sure how she'd handle it.

"Obviously, she came through and Cornelio [Velasquez] gave her a great trip," he added. "It worked out perfect."

The wagering favorite, Inimitable Romanee, finished ninth in the field of 12. Concise and Tabreed were scratched as was the also-eligible Auld Alliance and main-track-only entrant Lady Cohiba.