COWGIRL CALLIE fights to victory in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante

Cowgirl Callie (outside, blinkers) noses out Royal's Position (inside) to win the 2017 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

Cowgirl Callie (outside, blinkers) noses out Royal's Position (inside) to win the 2017 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

Those who think of Hawthorne in the late fall as a dreary place would have had a hard time recognising it during today's Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.  The mercury rose into the mid-fifties, light bathed the fast dirt course, and the enthusiasm of Bob and Lynda Esposito beamed more brightly than the sun as their filly Cowgirl Callie held off a dogged inside challenge from Royal's Position to take the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

The field of six came out five in a line, with Isabellacannetella out awkwardly behind the rest.  Cowgirl Callie settled in along the rail, inside Romantic Attack and a three-wide Royal's Position, as 4/5 favourite Richieslilwildcat sprinted ahead of her and to the rail.  Hide the Honey, the longest shot in the field of six, sped just to her outside to contest the issue.

Into the far turn, Richie'slilwildcat had pushed clear of Hide the Honey -- she had an uncontested lead, but the 23.12 opening quarter made clear it was not soft or easy.  Hide the Honey retreated down the backstretch, as Cowgirl Callie advanced along the rail.  Richie'slilwildcat still led by a slice of daylight as she hit the half mile in 46.89, but she would have to work to keep it.  Cowgirl Callie bore down to the Showtime Deb winner's outside.  Behind them, Royal's Position had dropped to the rail and begun swallowing up ground to the inside.

Approaching the quarter pole, they were three in a line: Royal's Position on the inside, Richie'slilwildcat between, Cowgirl Callie outside.  Anyone who blinked missed the favourite giving way, and her two challengers launching away to a race of their own.  For two furlongs, they battled.  Approaching the furlong pole, Cowgirl Callie extended her lead to almost a length, but Royal's Position battled back along the rail.  At the sixteenth, it looked like Royal's Position would edge to the advantage.  Cowgirl Callie battled back.  At the wire their heads bobbed side by side, their order a question for the judges.

Cowgirl Callie got there by a nose.

It was another ten and a quarter lengths from Royal's Position to her stablemate Isabellacannetella, who skimmed the rail for third.  She, in turn, came home four lengths clear of Romantic Attack.  Richie'slilwildcat and Hide the Honey, both burnt out in the early stages, completed the order of finish.

Cowgirl Callie hit the wire in 1:47.33 for a mile and a sixteenth on fast dirt, and paid $8.40 to win.  The dollar exacta with Royal's Position second (2-6) returned $24.80.  A trifecta with Isabellacannetella third (2-6-1) came back with $12.28 for each $0.20 base water.  The $0.20 superfecta with Romantic Attack fourth (2-6-1-5) paid $62.44.

Co-owner Bob Esposito debriefs with jockey Diego Sanchez after Cowgirl Callie's victory in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

Co-owner/breeder Bob Esposito debriefs with jockey Diego Sanchez after Cowgirl Callie's victory in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

Cowgirl Callie is a two-year-old bay daughter of Cowboy Cal out of the Madraar mare Fuzzy Kim.  A homebred bearing the silks of Bob and Lynda Esposito, she is trained by Eddie M. Essenpreis, and was ridden to victory by Diego Sanchez.  The victory is Cowgirl Callie's second in seven career starts, and her first in stakes company.  The $34,995 winner's share of the purse brought her career earnings to $79,183.

Diego Sanchez rode Cowgirl Callie for the second time in her now seven career starts, and has experienced her getting better as her juvenile season has progressed.  "When I started riding [Cowgirl Callie] at Arlington, she was a little green.  She learned.  And, today, she's more mature.  She was a little green the first turn, the first time.  After the first turn, she was comfortable and relaxed.  She tried all the way."

Co-owner/breeder Bob Esposito, ebullient in the winners' circle, was thankful for his filly.  He figured he had a good runner after her strong second-place debut at Arlington in June, and acknowledged everyone who had a part with her each step of the way. "The only reason that she won?  First off, we were blessed.  Second off, Anne and Barney Gallagher, Gallagher Farms raised her, did everything with her.  Leroy Hellman, [Eddie] Essenpreis, and Diego [Sanchez], and my wife Lynda.  We're extremely happy!"

All photographs courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.

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