Rutherienne has had some tough beats during a 10-race stretch in which she won just once but finished on the board in every one of those starts. Her improbable victory in the $107,000 Noble Damsel Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Sept. 19 at Belmont Park will help make up for some of that disappointment.
The 2-5 favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares, Rutherienne battled with Quiet Meadow through a stirring stretch duel, but could never seem to get by her stubborn foe. That is, until the final jump when she dropped her nose at the wire to win by the narrowest of margins, even when it appeared that Quiet Meadow had held on from the naked eye.
A 5-year-old homebred mare of Virginia Kraft Payson, Rutherienne notched the eighth graded stakes victory of her career in the one-mile Noble Damsel, stopping the clock in 1:34.34 under Alan Garcia. She entered the race off a head defeat in the Aug. 29 Ballston Spa Handicap (gr. IIT) when getting caught at the wire. Prior to that, she was beaten less than a length when finishing third in the Aug. 1 Diana (gr. IT), also at Saratoga. This was the third win in four starts at Belmont for the daughter of Pulpit.
Rutherienne was in no hurry in the early stages of the Noble Damsel, racing in sixth through the backstretch as Meadow Saffron and Stealin' Kisses slugged it out during a :22.75 opening quarter, then slowed it down a bit in getting a half-mile in :47.17.
American Border and Quiet Meadow stalked the pacesetters, but it was Quiet Meadow who came up to challenge three-wide as they made their way into the turn. Under Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old daughter of El Prado took over from the tiring leaders approaching the eighth-pole and was immediately challenged by Rutherienne, who had split horses in upper stretch for her bid.
Quiet Meadow was game through in the final stages even as Rutherienne dug in along the hedge and appeared to hold on, but a final lunge by Rutherienne was good enough to win the photo. The official margin of victory was a nose, but it was closer than that. Social Queen was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.
“Right past the finish line, I said, ‘Javier, congratulations.’ It was so tight, I thought he had won,” Garcia admitted. “It was a good race. She got a little timid between horses, but then she really dug in. She’s a very nice horse.”
Rutherienne, who won the grade I Del Mar Oaks in 2007 during a stretch in which she won five consecutive stakes, earned her second win in five starts this season. She also scored the Nassau (Can-II) back in May at Woodbine. Bred in Kentucky and out of the Rahy mare Ruthian, she has now earned $1,280,671 from 22 starts.
“The bottom line, it was a very tight race, a very good race,” winning trainer Christophe Clement said. “They both opened up on the rest of the field, but I’m delighted with my filly. It’s been a long time since she’s won a race and, as I said, she ran a very good race. They were flying that last quarter.
“She’s been so consistent. Look at her career; she’s never run a bad race. I know she only won by a nose today, but she’s a very good filly. The second filly ran a very good race too. We’ll enjoy this, I’ll call my owner, and go from there.”
The winner paid $2.80, $2.30, and $2.10. The exacta (7-5) returned $12.60 and the trifecta (7-5-6) was $39.80.
Meadow Saffron was fourth, followed by Grand Annee, American Border, and Stealin’ Kisses.