2023 Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park
Kathleen O. Will Try To Return To Form In Grade 2 Ruffian
Multiple graded stakes-winner Kathleen O. (Winngate Stables) will cut back to a one-turn mile in pursuit of her third graded score in the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian Stakes, a main track test for older fillies and mares, at Belmont Park on Saturday, May 6.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Kathleen O. enters from a rallying runner-up effort in the nine-furlong Top Flight Invitational on April 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Ruffian is slated as Race 10 on Saturday's 11-race card, which also features the $150,000 Elusive Quality in Race 8 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Marcy in Race 9. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern. Gates for the Kentucky Derby Day card will open at 10 a.m.
2023 Ruffian Stakes Field & Odds
Race 10 at Belmont Park on Saturday, May 6 - Post 5:37 PM
|Pass the Champagne
|Jorge Vargas, Jr.
|Claude McGaughey III
Ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who piloted the filly in each of her eight lifetime outings, Kathleen O. closed from six lengths off the pace after a slow start and was swung five-wide in the final turn to make her bid for the lead. The 4-year-old daughter of Upstart responded well down the lane, but could not reel in the runaway Falconet and was defeated 2 1/4 lengths.
Kathleen O. began her season with a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park, closing in similar fashion under Castellano to be bested 1 3/4 lengths after chasing slow fractions.
She has run her best races over the Hallandale Beach oval, including two Grade 2 victories early last year in the Davona Dale and Gulfstream Park Oaks. Her wins in those events earned her a place in the starting gate for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks last May where she finished fifth after a wide rally from 12th-of-14. She was then given a five-month layoff before closing out her sophomore campaign with a game second-place finish to Sixtythreecaliber in the Grade 3 Comely in November at the Big A.
"We were really disappointed in the Top Flight," McGaughey said. "Under the circumstances at Gulfstream, she finished good that day but the other filly had an easy lead and we couldn't catch her. Hopefully, we'll break better and be able to lay a little closer than we have been where she can finish and have a chance."
Kathleen O. has worked three times since her Top Flight effort, most recently covering three furlongs in 36.78 seconds Tuesday over the Belmont main track.
McGaughey said had had planned to breeze the filly over the weekend, but pushed the work back to Tuesday due to weather.
"We gave her three-eighths to sharpen her up a little bit," McGaughey said. "She's been sort of dragging behind more than I'd like to see her do in her races lately. I thought she breezed excellent. She's been training well, as she has before her previous races, but I think she has appreciated being back in New York and training at Belmont. I'm looking forward to Saturday."
Out of the stakes-placed Blame mare Quaver, Kathleen O. was a $275,000 purchase at the 2021 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. Her second dam, Skipper Tale, is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire and sire Cupid.
Kendrick Carmouche [post 5] picks up the mount from Castellano, who is named to ride Mage in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Saturday.
"I like the draw," said McGaughey. "I think some pace and one-turn will help her. Her mother was a sprinter, even though she's by Blame. So, backing her up and one turn might be the trick to getting her back in a forward position."
Robert P. Stewart's Mommasgottarun scored the biggest win of her career last out on April 7 when taking the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct off just five day's rest.
Trained by Linda Rice, the daughter of Maclean's Music tracked in fifth-of-7 through the first quarter-mile under Eric Cancel and improved her position down the backstretch before coming away with the lead at the stretch call. She drove home strongly under steady urging and successfully fended off graded stakes-placed Funny How to complete the course in a final time of 1:25.29.
"She's doing very well," said Rice. "She's been training well and I'm happy with her progress. She's playful, she feels good and she's easy to train. She's a little sassy coming [back to the barn] and she's a real pleasure."
The Distaff victory came on the heels of a pacesetting fifth-place finish in the nine-furlong Top Flight just five days earlier where she led until the stretch call but faded in the stretch and was defeated 5 1/2 lengths by the victorious Falconet. The bay mare has proven well worth her purchase price, posting a 5-3-1-0 record for her connections since being haltered for $50,000 out of a seven-furlong claiming tilt in December at the Big A.
The Ontario-bred began her career in August 2021 sprinting for conditioner Tom Amoss, making her first 10 starts for that barn before being haltered for $25,000 by Brad Cox. She made one start for her new connections with a win in a $16,000 claimer in August at Saratoga Race Course where she was claimed by Robert Falcone, Jr, who had her up until Rice claimed her in December.
"Frankly, I liked her pedigree and her conformation - the way she arrived in the paddock," Rice said of the claim. "I had been out-shook on her previously at Saratoga twice and so I followed the filly for months and I thought she could be better off running off farther than she had been. I feel she relished two turns at first and since then we've shortened her up. She's been super, so I think she's better off at one-turn. The competition is going to be tough here, but we'll give it a shot."
A $110,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Mommasgottarun is out of the Tiznow mare Love in Tokyo. Her second dam, Lisa T., is a half-sister to Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, with her fourth dam being graded stakes-winner Get Lucky. Mommasgottarun is from a talented family that includes graded stakes-winners Girolamo, Accelerator, Daydreaming, Imagining, Got Lucky, Bluegrass Cat, Brethren, Cyrus Alexander, and Callback.
Cancel retains the mount from post 2.
Juddmonte's stakes-winning Kentucky homebred Idiomatic [post 4, Trevor McCarthy] has won 4-of-6 starts for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox.
The versatile bay has won at distances ranging from 8-to-10 furlongs, entering on a three-race win streak over the Turfway Park synthetic. She was a last-out winner of the March 25 Latonia traveling 1 1/16 miles at the Florence, K.Y. oval, earning her first stakes victory by two lengths with a prominent trip under Chris Landeros.
The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin is out of the multiple Grade 1-placed First Defence mare Lockdown, who is a full-sister to 2014 Champion Older Mare Close Hatches.
Grade 1-placed Pass the Champagne makes her Empire State debut for conditioner George Weaver off two solid efforts at Laurel Park. Owned by R.A. Hill Stable and Black Type Thoroughbreds, Pass the Champagne was last seen finishing a closing second in the one-mile Heavenly Cause on April 15, racing in sixth-of-8 through the first quarter mile and improving her position at each point of call to come up two lengths shy of winner Beth's Dream. She entered that effort on the heels of a close fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie sprinting seven furlongs over the same surface in February.
The 5-year-old Flatter mare's most memorable performance came in her second lifetime outing when she finished a dramatic second to subsequent two-time Champion Malathaat in the 2021 Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. There, she tracked in third down the backstretch and pounced to the lead at the top of the lane before running gamely down the stretch and losing the advantage just before the wire.
Pass the Champagne finished her sophomore season with an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks before returning last February to win an optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park ahead of another lengthy respite. Her best finish this year came in her seasonal debut when bested a head in the January 14 Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay Downs.
Feargal Lynch will look to engineer a winning ride from post 1.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown saddles graded stakes-winner Gerrymander [post 6, Dylan Davis] for her second start off a seven-month layoff. Owned by Klaravich Stables, Gerrymander finished a frontrunning fifth in the Distaff Handicap after setting honest fractions under Manny Franco.
The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief found her best stride last year around one turn at Belmont, posting a three-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Mother Goose for her second career stakes triumph. She has run a one-turn mile twice at Belmont, finishing second in the Grade 1 Frizette and winning the Tempted by a half-length, both as a juvenile.
Completing the field is Merrylegs Farm's New York homebred stakes-winner Timeless Journey, who makes her graded debut for conditioner Ray Handal off a third-place effort in the Top Flight on April 2. The dark bay Verrazano mare notched her first stakes score two starts back against fellow state-breds in the Biogio's Rose going the Ruffian distance at the Big A with an off-the-pace ride from Dylan Davis. She has been on-the-board in 5-of-6 starts since being transferred to Handal's care in October, including two additional allowance scores.
"She's a filly that's getting better each time she runs," Handal said. "If there's potential of her getting a graded stakes placing, that's huge. It'll be tough, but she's doing great and it's worth a shot."
Jorge Vargas, Jr., who is slated to ride Promiseher American for Handal in Friday's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, gets the call from post 3.
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