Roman Ruler, disappointing at best in his 3-year-old season so far, could be ready to salvage the year. Under slight urging from jockey Jerry Bailey, the talented son of Fusaichi Pegasus
won the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park Monday by a half-length over the hard-trying Flower Alley.
One of the leading candidates for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) this year, the Bob Baffert-trained Roman Ruler has battled quarter crack problems since late in 2004. In his only previous start this year, he was eased in the March 19 San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita.
Baffert, represented in New York by trainer Tonja Terranova, opted to scratch Roman Ruler from a high-priced optional allowance race earlier this week and instead worked six furlongs in 1:13, handily.
"He's definitely staying here for the summer," Terranova said of Roman Ruler. "Bob will make a decision on how he's training and how he came out of the race. (Wednesday), Bob was a little concerned. He decided to give him a work over the track. It was an awesome work, and he ran like he worked."
Starting for the second time in his career outside of Southern California, Roman Ruler, carrying 119 pounds, rolled up to the leaders four wide on the outside and battled with the favorite Flower Alley, who toted top weight of 123. After a couple of cracks of the whip, Roman Ruler appeared to have the challenger put away with a furlong to go, but Flower Alley kept coming on the inside. Bailey urged Roman Ruler on again in the late stages, and they managed to keep Flower Alley at bay. It was seven lengths back to third-place finisher Proud Accolade.
"I knew it was his first out in a while and it was a mile and a sixteenth," Bailey said. "I wasn't going to be in a big hurry down the backside. It was an honest enough pace, and being bottled up was fine. I got them quick, but I couldn't draw away. Maybe he idles a bit when he makes the lead. He probably got a little tired. It was probably a good thing that he was relaxed down the backside. I learned a bit; he acts like he'll go longer in distance."
Todd Pletcher trained both the second and third-place finishers.
Two turns will be the next order for Flower Alley, who is pointed for the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on July 30 at Saratoga Race Course.
"I thought he ran big," said Pletcher. "He hadn't run since the [Kentucky] Derby (ninth). We were giving four pounds to the winner. I'm hoping he moves forward off of this and be on target for the Jim Dandy."
The final time was a solid 1:40 4/5 for the 1 1/16-mile one-turn event.
Roman Ruler trailed in the tight pack of six horses as Middle Earth and Mr. Congeniality blazed through early fractions of :22 3/5, :45 2/5 and 1:09 2/5. Coming off the turn for home, Bailey let Roman Ruler roll on the outside.
He won for the first time since taking the Norfolk (gr. II) at Santa Anita in October by 4 1/2 lengths. That impressive effort propelled Roman Ruler into favoritism for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Lone Star Park, where the colt finished a well-beaten fifth behind Wilko.
Roman Ruler's fourth win – his third in a grade II race – pushed his career earnings to $420,800 for owner Fog City Stables, who paid $500,000 for the striking dark bay as a yearling at Keeneland in 2003.
Needham/Betz Liberation Farm and Ashford Stud bred Roman Ruler, who is from the Silver Deputy
mare Silvery Swan, in Kentucky.
The second choice behind the 8-5 favorite Flower Alley, Roman Ruler paid $6.40, $3.50, and $2.70. Flower Alley returned $3.10 and $2.30. Proud Accolade's show was $3.80.
Mr. Congentiality, Middle Earth, and Biloxi Place followed. Freedom Isn't Free scratched.