The Ruffian Handicap (Grade 2)- $250.000 Purse
BEL- For Fillies and Mares Four Years Old and Upward
One Mile on the Dirt
May 3, 2020
There has been a common theme recently in the Ruffian Handicap, and that is the winning trainer. Since 2016, Mb Stables has won the race every time. This means that should he win again, his stake winning streak will reach five, and I cannot recall ever covering a stake on here where one stable has won it for five years in a row. This is a wide open race, and I am not sure that he has the favorite here among his two horses, but they are both capable of getting the win. Looking back, this race has had an interesting history, being a Grade 1 at BEL from 2003 to 2009, and them moving to SAR for 2010 and 2011, distance increasing from 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles. For the next two years, the race was off the schedule completely before reappearing as a Grade 2 back at BEL, and with its distance cut to a mile. At that time, it also became restricted to four year olds and up, whereas before three year olds were eligible. D J C Racing Stables took the first two races with these new conditions, leading to the four race winning streak that Mb Stables is presently on. Another good thing to have going into the race is J R Velazquez in the saddle. The jockey has won the race four times in the last six years. Those two join forces on one entry in what is a small, but skilled field. Let’s have at a look at it!
#1- Steel Calling (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- This filly will be looking for her tenth career win, and she has the right combination of trainer and jockey to do it in this race. She had a particularly strong stretch of races in the early portion of 2019, but remained consistent throughout last season. This year, she was dropped twice after running fifth in the Grade 3 Bayakoa, first to an open allowance at GG, then to one at TUP. She comes here after the TUP win, and meets some tough opposition.
#2- On The Flop (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J Lezcano)- In her last race three weeks ago, On The Flop took on some very tough competition in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at OP. In the race, she made up ground to get a fourth place check for the trainer. Prior to that, she ran fifth in the Grade 1 Beholder. This race is not the Apple Blossom or the Beholder, and she didn’t run badly in either of those races. Her running style should have her like the smaller field as well, and with all of this, she does look good to break the Mb Stables streak here. J Lezcano has been a frequent rider, doing so in eight of her last nine starts.
#3- Dragon Wagon (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by A Cedillo)- The Mazula Ruler filly has not won a race since capturing an optional claimer in September of last year for prior trainer LionKing Stables. Maxmillion picked her up for $55.000 in private sales after she was third in the Grade 2 River Run, but Dragon Wagon has not delivered as of yet. With a little more luck, she could have won all four of those starts, too, so you can see why the trainer still has confidence in her to jump her up in class. She is also adding distance for the first time in a while. Worth consideration, but not my preference.
#4- Bay Area (Our Athletes, ridden by T Gaffalione)- During her career, she has made many bettors happy, hitting the board in 16 of her 17 career starts. No matter where you are racing, that is an impressive mark of consistency. The one she didn’t hit the board in was her debut. Though she has been in the money, she hasn’t always won, needing six starts to break her maiden and six more to win her second start. Lately, she’s been better, and has advanced through the ungraded ranks to make her well deserved graded debut here. Her last two starts at a mile have resulted in wins.
#5- Orange Beach (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- The second chance for Mb Stables to extend his winning streak is with this filly looking to win her third in a row. In Mid-February, she won an optional claimer at GG, and followed that up with a win in the $100.000 Latonia Stakes at TP. Note that there were just three and four horses in those races, respectively. She has attempted the graded ranks twice, but they are the worst lines in her past performances. Orange Beach is going to have to be at her best here.