Distaff Preview (9/18): Ruffian Produces Two Contenders

The Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) put two horses on the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) trail. One enters the hunt for the first time, while the other is returning to the chase.

Mandy's Gold is the newcomer. Co-owner and trainer Mike Gorham said his filly's 2 1/4-length romp over a short but high-class field in the 1 1/16-mile Ruffian earned her a trip to the big dance. Gorham owns the filly with his brother, John, who races as Steeplechase Farm.

"That's why we decided to stretch her out," Gorham said after the race. "Now that it looks like she can definitely get the distance, that might be the route to go."

The 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time, out of Manduria (by Aloma's Ruler), had not run over eight furlongs since April 2001. Most of her races this year have been at six or 6 1/2 furlongs where she has been at or near the front end. For the Ruffian, Gorham changed strategies and had jockey Jose Santos take her back. She responded beautifully and dusted a field that included grade I winners You, Raging Fever, and Shine Again. The fifth horse entered in the Ruffian was Minister's Baby who was coming off a win in the Gardenia Handicap (gr. III).

Mandy's Gold's victory moved her into the top 10 of the World Thoroughbred Rankings for the first time as of Sept. 17. The rankings are set weekly for each Breeders' Cup division by an international panel of racing secretaries and handicappers. Mandy's Gold is tied at 10th with Allamerican Bertie and Miss Linda.

You and Raging Fever are tied for fifth place in the rankings with Dancethruthedawn, who moved up from seventh last week.

Returning is to the Distaff trail is You. Trainer Bobby Frankel had said earlier the multiple grade I winning daughter of You and I would get the rest of the year off after she finished a heart-breaking third in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) against Farda Amiga and Allamerican Bertie. New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow immediately got on the phone and reportedly told Frankel the Ruffian might come up soft and he should consider it. Well, the race didn't come up soft but You still turned in a sterling performance. She grabbed the lead early and was chased by Raging Fever through fractions of :22.64 and :45.25. You began pulling away from Raging Fever in the stretch, but Mandy's Gold came flying. Shine Again finished third.

Frankel now says the Distaff is a possibility, but depends on the how the field shapes up. You is owned by Edmund Gann.

Raging Fever, who finished last as the favorite in the Ruffian, came out of the race in good shape and will mostly likely make her next start in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park on Oct. 5, according to the Daily Racing Form. Raging Fever is trained by Mark Hennig and is a homebred for owner Edward Evans.

Azeri continues to lead the World Thoroughbred Rankings. Trainer Laura de Seroux has not said definitely whether she will train the chestnut filly by Jade Hunter up to the Distaff or find a race. She said during a recent visit to Lexington that it depended on how the racing secretaries treated her filly on weight. Azeri last picked up an easy victory in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar. The filly last worked five furlongs handily in 1:01 over a fast San Luis Rey Downs training center track on Sept. 15. Azeri was bred by the late Allen Paulson and is owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust.

Farda Amiga remained planted in second place in the rankings. The daughter of Broad Brush may also train up to the Distaff following a big win Aug. 17 in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Farda Amiga, owned by Brazilian partners Jose Laudo DeCamargo, Julio Camargo, and Marcos Simon, is now at Hollywood Park. She worked three furlongs in :35.2 over a fast track on Sept. 14.

Tied for second in the rankings is Summer Colony, winner of the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) on Aug. 23. Trainer Mark Hennig said Summer Colony will likely run next in either the Beldame or the Spinster. The filly breezed five furlongs at Belmont Park on Sept. 14 in 1:00.42 on a fast track.

Take Charge Lady is ranked fourth. The daughter of Dehere last raced in the Gazelle Handicap on Sept. 7 where she finished second to Imperial Gesture. Take Charge Lady is expected to start next in the Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on Oct. 6.

Top Five Contenders At A Glance

1) Azeri/Laura De Seroux/Allen Paulson Living Trust
Next start: Unknown.

2) Farda Amiga/Paulo Lobo/Jose Laudo DeCamargo, Julio Camargo, and Marcos Simon
Next start: Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).

3) Summer Colony/Mark Hennig/Edward Evans
Next start: Beldame Stakes (gr. I) or Overbrook Spinster Stakes (gr. I).

4) Take Charge Lady/Kenneth McPeek/Select Stable
Next start: Overbrook Spinster Stakes.

5) You/Robert Frankel/Edmund Gann
Next start: Breeders' Cup Distaff