Ask the Moon, claimed for $75,000 last month, took the lead and never looked back while widening her advantage through the Saratoga stretch to produce an 18-1 shocker in the $250,000 Ruffian Invitational (gr. I) July 31 (VIDEO).
Ridden for the first time in her 31-race career by Javier Castellano, Ask the Moon was weaving down the stretch but won by 5 3/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in a slow 1:50.46 over a fast track.
Transferred to trainer Marty Wolfson for Farnsworth Stable after she was claimed at Belmont by Gary Contessa, the 6-year-old Malibu Moon mare made her graded stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Ruffian. She ended a 12-race losing streak with the victory.
Ask the Moon, who paid $38 for the win, earns a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs as part of "Win and You're In" challenge series.
The Ruffian win culminated quite a weekend for Castellano, who swept Saratoga's stakes a day earlier with Stay Thirsty in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Zagora (gr. IT) in the Diana.
"I told Javier sometimes when you go to the lead, they’ll back off and leave you alone," Wolfson said by phone from Monmouth Park. "When they backed off on us, and left her alone, that was exactly what I wanted. She’s a beautiful mare, that’s why I claimed her. That, and the Malibu Moon. I came up there two years ago with Icon Project to win the Personal Ensign (gr. I). I’d like to do it again.”
Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGiness and Country Life Farm bred Ask the Moon in Maryland. The bay is out of the Valid Appeal mare Always Asking.
Ask the Moon clicked off solid splits of :23.61, :46.92, and 1:10.83 while maintaining a clear advantage over Absinthe Minded. She would take a comfortable lead into the stretch after opening up on the final turn. There was no immediate danger as Absinthe Minded and Payton d'Oro, who traveled a bit wide on both turns, lost ground.
Super Espresso attempted to mount a bid but Ask the Moon was 3 1/2 lengths clear at mid-stretch. The front-runner kept widening the margin in spite of traveling erratically late.
"It was a pretty decent pace, but the way she did it, on the lead, she was doing it so easily," Castellano said. "She relaxed, and that was the key to the race. She got a little tired at the end but she gave me a good race and was strong."
Super Espresso, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, held off Tiz Miz and Joe Rocco Jr. for second by a neck. Tiz Miz Sue was demoted to fourth for impeding 2-1 choice Payton d'Oro, with Gabriel Saez aboard, in the stretch.
Ask the Moon had raced once since being claimed, finishing third behind Ruffian rival Distorted Legacy in the Sky Beauty Stakes at Belmont July 1. This was her first stakes win since she captured the Lighthouse on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park in June 2009. Her ninth career victory was worth $150,000 and extended her career total to $533,640.
She carried 114 pounds as the longest shot on the board and paid $38, $13.20, and $6.70 across the board. Bobby Flay's grade III winner Super Espresso returned $4.90 and $3. The exacta was worth $173.50. Payton d'Oro paid $2.80 to show.
Distorted Legacy, Absinthe Minded, and Dynazaper followed.