Rutherienne, now on a five-race victory streak, had won three consecutive grade III races in New York and New Jersey heading into the Del Mar Oaks. She followed in the footsteps of the Clement-trained In Summation, who nosed Greg's Gold in the Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) July 29 at the seaside track.
Like In Summation, Rutherienne was ridden to victory by Corey Nakatani, who bounced back from an injured shoulder sustained earlier this week.
Rutherienne tracked a quick pace from near the rear of the pack in the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, angling five wide on the final turn to collar the leaders in upper stretch. Nakatani took a quick look over his right shoulder to see Valbenny and Alex Solis closing in on their outside. He roused Rutherienne for more and the 3-year-old daughter of Pulpitresponded impressively to win going away under urging in a solid time of 1:46 3/5.
"She has a terrific turn of foot, and you saw that today," Nakatani said. "I had to time her run just right, not too late, not too soon. That's my job. What a special feeling to win a race like this, a grade I. She's a special filly."
"I was a little worried when she had to go wide, but she's a little bitty thing with a big heart," said Jane Turner, assistant to Clement who also brought In Summation west for the Crosby. "You don't necessarily want to be that far back, but they were going fast and with that kind of pace it sets up for her.
"She'll do what you want her to do. She's a filly with an attitude. She's a little package of dynamite, and she lets you know she's boss."
The Paddy Gallagher trainee Valbenny, acknowledged as the West Coast's leading 3-year-old turf filly, had to settle for second behind an Eastern invader in a grade I race again. In her last start, she was a troubled runner-up to Panty Raid in the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park July 7.
"The other filly was just better today," Solis said, referring to Rutherienne. "I had to come wide with her, but I was right alongside the winner. I was back there with her for most of the trip and I moved right behind her. The other filly was just faster in the end."
Super Freaky, who led briefly in the stretch for Victor Espinoza, came home a distant third, 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner, edging the Juddmonte runner Supposition, conditioned by Bobby Frankel, who finished fourth.
Forest Melody, a 70-1 shot, set a determined pace of :22 4/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 2/5, with Fleet Caroline pressing the leader. Fleet Caroline took over briefly leaving the final turn before Super Freaky, Rutherienne and Valbenny surged past.
After winning an overnight stakes at Belmont Park in May, Rutherienne rattled off wins in Belmont's Sands Point (gr. IIIT) in a dead-heat finish June 2, Monmouth's Boiling Springs (gr. IIIT) via disqualification June 30, and Saratoga's Lake George (gr. IIIT) by a neck July 27. The Del Mar Oaks proved to be the easiest of them all.
Rutherienne's seventh win in eight starts was worth $240,000, pushing her earnings to $561,695. The dark bay filly is out of the Rahy mare Ruthian.
Sent off as the third choice in the field of 10, Rutherienne paid $9.20, $4.20 and $4.20. Valbenny returned $3.40 and $2.60, completing a $24.20 exacta. Super Freaky was $4.80 to show.
Supposition was followed by Gotta Have Her, Passified, Spenditallbaby, Forest Melody, Fleet Caroline and Tremendous One. All carried 122 pounds.