In spite of her relative inactivity this season for her new connections, Stellar Jayne looked right on target for the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) next month with her front-running score in Sunday's $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
In her first start in more than two months and just her second since finishing third in last year's Distaff at Lone Star Park, the 4-year-old Stellar Jayne picked up the third grade I victory of her career. All three have come at Belmont, which hosts this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
Godolphin Racing bought Stellar Jayne from Spendthrift Farm for $3.6 million at the Keeneland sale a few weeks after last year's Breeders' Cup and transferred her to Dubai, where she has been under the tutelage of new trainer Saeed bin Suroor after leaving the barn of D. Wayne Lukas. She returned to America to win the restricted Misty Galore Stakes July 2 at Belmont, where she has won four of her five career starts.
Suroor said he would consider running Stellar Jayne in the $750,000 Beldame (gr. I) at nine furlongs on Oct. 1 at Belmont, but his main objective is the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"She had a good winter in Dubai," Suroor said. "We really thought she would be a star. We were very patient with her all the time.
"She was impressive," Suroor said of Stellar Jayne's performance. "We'll see how she comes out of this race. If she is happy and sound, maybe we would run her here in the Beldame, but we could take her straight to the Breeders' Cup."
Heavily-favored at 6-5 odds, Stellar Jayne broke alertly to lead Capeside Lady through the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile Ruffian, contested around one turn by six fillies and mares. Challenged on the turn on her outside by Capeside Lady after moderate early fractions of :23 4/5 and :47, Stellar Jayne spurted away in the stretch when asked by Jerry Bailey and finished well to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:41 4/5.
Bailey, who won his fourth Ruffian, also collected his fourth victory on the day, one race after capturing the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) aboard Shakespeare.
"I thought I would be tracking (Capeside Lady)," said Bailey, who also won Saturday's Woodward (gr. I) with Saint Liam to highlight an exceptional weekend. "She broke sharp and went into a nice, relaxed mode. (Capeside Lady) never showed up, so I just took what came easy. She had plenty left in the tank."
Society Selection, ridden by Javier Castellano, lacked racing room while trailing the field into the stretch but squeezed through along the inside to gain second with a belated rally. She was gaining steadily on the winner while never seriously challenging.
Society Selection also figures to be a Beldame candidate.
"There was no pace in the race," said Castellano. "Jerry Bailey stole the race. (Capeside Lady) was supposed to go to the lead, but she ducked in the gap. There wasn't enough pace, and I didn't want to change my style because it was the first time I rode the filly. Everyone went outside, I came inside and she ran through. She was second best today."
Halory Leigh closed mildly for Craig Perret to finish third, a neck in front of Bending Strings. Taygete and Capeside Lady trailed.
Stellar Jayne, a daughter of Wild Rush-To the Hunt (Relaunch), earned her eighth win in 20 lifetime starts while increasing her overall earnings to $1,330,964. Stellar Jayne won both the Mother Goose and Gazelle (both gr. I) in 2004 before her third-place finish in the Distaff, which she lost by 1 1/2 lengths to Ashado after making a wide rally. She came from well back in the field that day, not her preferred running style, on an off-track.
She paid $4.50, $2.90, and $2.20 for Sunday's win.
Society Selection, who won Belmont's Shuveee (gr. II) in May, returned $4 and $2.70. Following her fourth-place finish behind Ashado in the Go for Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga July 31, Society Selection underwent throat surgery.
Halory Leigh, who captured the Churchill Downs Distaff and the Fall City Handicap (gr. II) late last year, was $2.80 to show. Halory Leigh ran second in her 2005 seasonal debut, Ellis Park's Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) on Aug. 20.