The Ruffian Handicap (Grade 2)- $250.000 Purse
BEL- For Fillies and Mares Four Years Old and Upward
One Mile on the Dirt
May 13, 2017
While we soak in the KYD and prepare for the PRK, we get the weekend in the middle which still provides several good stakes across the country. For now, we are going to look at some racing that the track will host the third jewel a month from now. At BEL on Saturday, we will have the 13th running of the Ruffian Handicap, which runs as a Grade 2 for the fourth time. Initially, the race was a furlong longer and a Grade 1 event, and it stayed that way up until 2011. After a couple years of disappearing from the schedule, it re-emerged in 2014 at its current conditions. That could not have made J R Velazquez any more happy as the jockey has owned this race in its current format. He has won three in a row, riding Damselle and Danzig Ghost in 2014 and 2015 for D J C Racing Stables, and Charming Face last year for Mb Stables. In 2017, he will ride Frenched Rose for Maxmillion Farm. That one won’t likely be the favorite, but the trainer has to like having the hot jockey riding. There’s a field of six for the race, so let’s take a look!
#1- Drill (Mb Stables, ridden by R J Albarado)- This Commanding filly had a strong two year old campaign and won a Grade 1 early in her career, so it’s hard to believe that she has still not been able to win another graded race, since she still always runs well. Saturday could be a good opportunity for her to pick that next one if she build on the great race she had last week, which was the Apple Blossom at OP. She ran third in the race, though was able to benefit from being a much lower weight then the likes of Wicked Heat and Notarized Kate, and we all know six pounds is a big deal in our game. She’s essentially on even footing here, but still looks like the class of the field.
#2- Honest Chai (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- Not as much to write about with her as she has only made two career starts. It’s a potentially interesting story though as it was over a year ago when she made her debut at MNR, and was second. Most of us would not wait ten months to bring her out to the track again, but it does speak volumes for the patience of Mb Stables, and why he is such a top trainer if Honest Chai becomes something special. The jury’s still out on that, as her race in March was only a MSW win at HOU. The works are nice, though.
#3- El Gran Regret (Night Mare Racing, ridden by J Rosario)- The El Gran Broomstick filly has three of her last six, including a strong performance on this race last fall in the Grade 3 Turn Back The Alarm. Unfortunately, among the races that she did not win are some rather disappointing finishes. We’ll throw out the Santa Monica, since it was in the slop and Lea can make anyone look bad, but even the other non-wins just lead me to believe that she has become an inconsistent filly once she moved up into this level of competition. On her best day, she is as good as anyone, and this field may be too her liking. The only other time she was at BEL was with Rosario riding, and she won.
#4- Instinct Champion (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by F Pennington)- Nice to see my Champion Instincts filly running in this race, and she will be who I will be rooting for. That said, she is likely a longshot in the field. Talent is something that she has always shown, but while running for Mm Racing, she just never seemed to be able to take the next step from being good to being great, and would be picked up by TwinTowers as a $20.000 claiming bargain. He sees the talent as well, and Instinct Champion has been in the mix, and just not coming up with the big graded win. Not to rain on the parade, but that was the achilles heel of the sire.
#5- Aldonza (John Henry, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- This filly by Il Miglio Fabro has just over $600.000 in career earnings, which is still a little less then the combined private sales amounts that have followed her. She seems to have finally found her home though with John Henry, and is beginning to reward him with victories, having done so in two of her last three outings which were the Grade 2 Bessarabian at WO, and most recently the Distaff at AQU last month. Neither of those races had a particularly big name that she beat in the process, and I am actually more intrigued by a 7th place finish, believe it or not, in the BC Distaff Preview, otherwise known as the Grade 1 Cotillion at PRX, back in October where she ran very well against the best in the business. I like her speed figures coming into this race, and I think she is going to get the job done.
#6- Frenched Rose (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J R Velazquez)- There should be no bad rides for Frenched Rose in the Ruffian as Velazquez looks to win his fourth in a row. I won’t claim to be an expert in HRP jockey history, and I get that it’s not as exciting of a topic as it could be given their virtual nature, but I cannot recall seeing a stake where a single jockey won four in a row. If it’s not a first, it is a rare accomplishment. The filly has started the year well with two allowances wins, that earned her a start in the Apple Blossom last month, and she ran a decent fourth. It was her second graded stake, but the first one was early in her career. She seems to be on her best form now, and Velazquez will certainly be going all out.