Grade I winner Rutherienne returned to her winning ways with a three-length triumph in the $276,326 Nassau Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) on the Woodbine turf May 30, going over the $1 million mark in career earnings in the process.
Ridden by Alan Garcia, the Virginia Kraft Payson Kentucky homebred was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. The 5-year-old Pulpit mare escaped a tight spot on the inside to get the lead mid-stretch and drew off under urging. Callwood Dancer, the defending champion in the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares, finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Meadow Saffron. The winning time was 1:41.89 over good going.
Rutherienne has been in fine form for trainer Christophe Clement, but she hadn't found the winner's circle in more than 13 months. In seven starts since capturing the Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs in April 2008, she recorded one second -- that coming in her most recent start in the April 11 Jenny Wiley -- and six thirds, all in graded stakes.
In the Nassau, which was her first start at the Canadian track, Rutherienne settled into a stalking position along the inside as Meadow Saffron and Remarkable Remy contested the pace through fractions of :24.75, :48.59 and 1:12.21. Rutherienne was hemmed in from late on the final turn until the three-sixteenths pole, when Garcia found a seam and drove her through to seize the lead from Meadow Saffron, who had gained a narrow advantage for jockey Robert Landry.
Rutherienne burst away from there to win with plenty to spare. Callwood Dancer, also boxed in for much of the stretch run, rallied under Eurico Da Silva after finding room at the sixteenth pole, sweeping past Meadow Saffron for the runner-up spot.
"On paper, there wasn't too much speed in the race," said Garcia. "My filly was comfortable where she was. I wanted to be patient until the top of the stretch. It's a long stretch and the last quarter, I was looking for room. Then it opened up a little bit and I had a small opening. I wanted to take advantage. She went in there and she kept on going."
Points of Grace, Favorite Fantasy, Tell It as It Is, Remarkable Remy, Roses 'n' Wine and Scenery Change completed the order.
The remarkably consistent Rutherienne, out of the money just twice in her career, won for the 10th time in 19 starts. The winning purse of $164,916 pushed her career total to $1,126,471. In her first start of the year, she ran second by one length to Forever Together, the 2008 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top turf female.
The dark bay Rutherienne, who is out of Ruthian, by Rahy, became a grade I winner when she captured the Del Mar Oaks in the summer of 2007. She is a seven-time graded stakes winner.
It was the third Nassau win for Clement, who also conditioned 2002 victress Siringas and the 2006 winner Naissance Royale.
Christophe Lorieul, an assistant to Clement, noted, "She was, not to say, unlucky, but she ran against some very tough competition last year. She proved that she was the best today.
"We were not sure (of the condition of the turf). We were watching the Weather Channel very closely. She ran well the other time at Keeneland and the turf was listed as 'good'. I was a bit concerned today because I think she's a better filly on good to firm turf. I was just hoping it was not too soft."
"We'll try (to come back to Woodbine this year). She proved that she liked the turf here. Maybe California or Saratoga next."
The winner carried 119 pounds and paid $3.60, $2.50 and $2.10. The Irish-bred Callwood Dancer, who won last year's Nassau by a nose, returned $3.40 and $2.60. Meadow Saffron was $6.20 to show in her stakes debut.