Bob Baffert scratched morning-line favorite Indian Blessing in the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO), but still left himself a chance with his other lesser-known entry, Tough Tiz's Sis. The veteran trainer must have known exactly what he was doing, as the daughter of Tiznow enjoyed the sloppy conditions at Belmont Park en route to a dominating 12 1/4-length victory Sept. 6.
Tough Tiz’s Sis entered the Rufffian having made three career starts in wet conditions – and ran poorly in all of them. Her most recent start on an off-track was last October in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), where she finished more than 16 lengths back in seventh in the slop. But it was a different story at Belmont, as the 4-year-old stalked pacesetter Rite Moment, took over rounding the turn and hit another gear when entering the stretch. She went unchallenged in the final furlong under Edgar Prado.
The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:40.16. Copper State finished second with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Stage Luck. Miraculous Miss was fourth in a field of eight fillies and mares.
Earlier in the day Baffert said there was nothing physically wrong with Indian Blessing when he decided to scratch last year’s 2-year-old champion filly. Baffert said he and owner Hal Earnhardt had decided to concentrate on running the daughter of Indian Charlie in sprint events. Perhaps he knew Tough Tiz’s Sis was sitting on a huge race.
"I scratched Indian Blessing because she doesn’t need to run that long,” Baffert said by phone from California. “We talked it over and we decided to keep her in the short game. That’s what she does best. Of course, I would have felt bad if this one didn’t win because I scratched Indian Blessing.
“(Tough Tiz's Sis) has been training very well, and all I told Edgar was to be sure to keep this filly’s face clean. She doesn’t like dirt in her face. Last year at the Breeders’ Cup she got caught in behind horses and had dirt in her face and it was a complete disaster.”
Owned by Karl Watson and Weitman Performances, Tough Tiz’s Sis entered the Ruffian off a third-place finish in the Clement Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) on the Del Mar Polytrack. Prior to that, she missed by a half-length to undefeated Zenyatta in the grade I Vanity Handicap July 5 at Hollywood Park. She has hit the board in all seven starts this season, her wins coming in the Harry Henson Stakes at Sunland Park and Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III) at Hollywood.
Bred in Kentucky by Gary Tussey and out of the Taylor’s Falls mare Leaseholder, Tough Tiz’s Sis is now 8-5-3 from 20 starts and has earned $903,792.
Guided by Eibar Coa, Rite Moment took the early lead in the Ruffian, taking the field through a :22.69 quarter and :45.05 half-mile. Tough Tiz’s Sis was two lengths behind her, followed by Stage Luck and Copper State. Tough Tiz’s Sis took over nearing the far turn and opened up a six-length lead by the time she reached the top of the lane. She extended her advantage in upper stretch and coasted to the wire without a challenger in sight.
"Dancing in the rain, right?,” Prado said. "Coming out of the gate, I put her in a good spot. She was handling it very well. No problem. I was very impressed.”
Going off as the third betting choice, the winner paid $10.60, $6.20 and $4. The exacta (6-3) with 13-1 Copper State returned $117.50. The trifecta (6-3-1) was worth $299.50.
Rite Moment finished fifth, followed by Spring Waltz, Little Belle and Boca Grande.