Having come west for a grade I victory at Del Mar three weeks ago, the New York-based Christophe Clement outfit is poised to try it again. The Clement-trained Rutherienne, winner of six of her seven career starts for owner-breeder Virginia Kraft-Payson, pursues victory in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) Aug. 18 on the seaside track's Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Rutherienne, a 3-year-old daughter of Pulpit , carries a four-race winning streak into the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, which drew a field of 10. She has won three successive grade III races, all in dramatic fashion.
She arrived Aug. 14 and is bedded down in the Ben Cecil barn with her traveling companion, Jane Turner, an assistant to Clement who was in charge when In Summation came to Del Mar to capture the Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) July 29.
Corey Nakatani is named to ride Clement's fearless filly, who is usually piloted by Garrett Gomez. Nakatani took the reins on In Summation as well when they defeated Greg's Gold by a nose in the Crosby.
Gomez was aboard in Rutherienne's last start when she exploited a narrow opening along the hedge to post a late-running neck victory over Lady Attack and Sharp Susan in Saratoga's Lake George (gr. IIIT) July 27. Before that, Rutherienne was awarded victory via the disqualification of Red Birkin in Monmouth Park's Boiling Springs (gr. IIIT) June 30. She won the Sands Point (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park four weeks earlier in a dead-heat finish.
She'll be taking on the two most successful turf-running 3-year-old fillies on the West Coast in Valbenny and Passified.
Valbenny is trained by Patrick Gallagher, who said Aug. 15 he was pleased with the way his filly has been training at Del Mar. She hasn’t run since finishing a closing second by three-quarters of a length to multiple stakes winner Panty Raid in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks (gr. IT) July 7 at Hollywood Park. Valbenny won the 1 1/8-mile Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) and the one-mile Senorita (gr. IIIT) in back-to-back efforts over the same Hollywood turf course before the American Oaks.
“The time away from racing has been good for her,” said Gallagher, who has retained regular rider Alex Solis. “She’s ready to go now.”
Trainer Jim Cassidy is just as upbeat about Passified, who won the one-mile San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) in good fashion by a half-length under Mike Smith on the Durante course July 28. She finished up the track to Valbenny in both the Honeymoon and the Senorita.
“It should be a good race,” Cassidy said. “It depends a lot on the pace.”
As to how Passified might be placed, Cassidy said, “We’ll ride her like we did last time. That would put her in mid-pack until she wants to make her big move.”
The distance is a concern. “She’s never been that far, and probably not bred to go that far. It depends on how the race shapes up. If there’s no pace, that’s going to hurt the opposition, especially the big closers. We hope she’ll stay a little closer to the pace.”
Passified worked three furlongs in :37 3/5 on the turf the morning of Aug. 15.
The Doug O'Neill-trained Super Freaky could atone for her fifth-place showing as the 13-10 choice in the San Clemente. She won Santa Anita's one-mile Providencia (gr. IIIT) in April and was second to Valbenny in the Honeymoon and Senorita.
In her first start in more than three months for trainer Vladimir Cerin, Fleet Caroline set the pace in the San Clemente but could not hold off Passified in the stretch while finishing a stubborn second. Joe Talamo retains the mount.