Nassau: Can Rutherienne Return to the Top?
During an eleven-month period from May, 2007 to April, 2008, Rutherienne was nearly unbeatable. The daughter of Pulpit won seven of eight starts – all in stakes company – and many times did so in dramatic fashion, including winning by a neck on three occasions.
However, though the dark bay mare still remains in good form, she has not hit the winner’s circle since scoring the Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT) in April of 2008 at Keeneland. On May 30, Rutherienne will look to return to her winning ways when she takes on nine rivals in the $300,000 Nassau Stakes (Can-IIT) on the Woodbine turf. It will be the first start in Canada for the 5-year-old mare.
A Kentucky homebred of Virginia Kraft Payson, Rutherienne hasn’t exactly been off her game during her current seven-race losing streak. She has hit the board in all of those starts, including finishing runner-up by only a length to champion Forever Together in the 2009 Jenny Wiley, her seasonal debut.
Trainer Christophe Clement says Rutherienne’s inability to hit the winner’s circle has nothing to do with her form and everything to do with the company she has faced.
“I don’t like to use the term ‘losing streak,’ it sounds too negative,” Clement said. “If you look at her speed numbers and ratings, she is running better now than when she was a 3-year-old. It’s just that when you are facing some of the best older fillies on turf, the competition is far better.
“She is in great form now, even better than she was before. Her race in the Jenny Wiley was terrific. She lost by only a length to maybe the best filly in the country. She’s really coming into this race great and as long as the ground isn’t too soft, she will be tough.”
With a consistent 9-1-6 record from 18 starts, Rutherienne has earned more than $960,000 and can go over the $1 million mark with a win or a second in the 1 1/16-mile Nassau. To date, her biggest victory came in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) in August 2007.
Clement has assigned Alan Garcia to ride Rutherienne, who will break from post 5. She is out of the Rahy mare Ruthian.
On paper, Rutherienne’s toughest opponent is Three Chimneys Racing and Harlequin Ranches’ Callwood Dancer. The 5-year old Danehill Dancer mare not only won the Nassau last year, but defeated Rutherienne by a neck when finishing runner-up in the My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) last December at Calder Race Course. Wild Promises won that race, while Callwood Dancer and Rutherienne nearly hit the wire together, a length further back.
Trained by Roger Attfield, Callwood Dancer has the big advantage of having 11 starts over the Woodbine grass, including six wins. She won the 2008 Nassau by a nose in wire-to-wire fashion. The chestnut was also runner-up over the course in the grade I E.P. Taylor last October.
Breaking from post 9, regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva will have the mount on Callwood Dancer.
There are no other graded stakes winners in the field, but a couple of other horses to watch for are Live Oak Plantation’s Points of Grace and Richard Lister’s Tell It as It Is.
A lightly-raced 4-year-old daughter of Point Given , Points of Grace has been on the board in all six lifetime starts, including four wins. She has scored two in a row–both in optional claiming company–and will make her stakes debut.
Locally-based Tell It as It Is won the Maple Leaf Stakes on the Woodbine Polytrack last October and concluded her 2008 season with a third-place finish in the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) on the Churchill Downs dirt. The Chester House mare was fifth, but only 1 1/2 lengths back, in an allowance race on Keeneland’s turf last month.
$300,000 Nassau Stakes (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:24 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
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