As the Breeders’ Cup Classic field roared down the Churchill Downs stretch, most eyes were cast upon either the stubborn frontrunner, Game On Dude, or the chestnut flash streaking down the middle of the track, Drosselmeyer. And if not either of them, fans may have found themselves searching to see how their favorite would finish. Meanwhile, there was little attention paid to the sophomore colt in the distinctive pink and orange silks who was rallying in between the large pack of horses to get up for third money. His name of course is Ruler On Ice.
At the wire, The 2011 Belmont Stakes winner was beaten only 2 ½ lengths, and closing fast on the runner-up, in America’s best race. Comparatively, the other three-year-olds in the field, To Honor And Serve, Rattlesnake Bridge, Uncle Mo, and Stay Thirsty, could finish no better than 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th respectively. Ruler On Ice had run another good race … something he has been quietly doing all year.
Including his first start of the year, a second place run at Aqueduct in February, Ruler On Ice has run nine times in 2011. He may have only made it to the winner’s circle twice, but unlike many of his peer group, he has not run one bad race, while running in many of the biggest races of the second half of the year. The win in the Belmont must be respected, and so should his consistency. The only time the Kelly Breen trainee has finished out of the money, since his career debut last year, was in the Travers, and on that day he finished fourth, beaten only four lengths while trapped down on the rail most of the trip.
Currently, the son of Roman Ruler likely ranks no better than 5th in the race for the three-year-old male Eclipse Award race behind Animal Kingdom, Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford, and Stay Thirsty. As contentious as this race for a championship is though, one race could go a long way in turning things upside down. Many observers feel that Caleb’s Posse may have done just that with an impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. An interesting theory, but not one to which I subscribe. I would be more impressed if say a consistent runner, who was able to win a leg of the Triple Crown, were to come back with a big win against older horses at two-turns, and at one of America’s most contested distances. Enter Ruler on Ice.
Next Friday, the George and Lori Hall star will once again be shooting high when he runs in probably the most important post-Breeders’ Cup race of this year. The Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs is a deserving grade one. Each year it seems to attract a deep and interesting mix of horses trying to finish off the calendar year with a bang. Only two years ago, it signaled the emergence of Blame as one of the best horses in the nation. A fact he would verify when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic ten plus months later. Led by BC Classic favorite, Flat Out, this year’s Clark promises another tough, top quality edition.
So tough in fact, that if a three-year-old were to win it - a horse with solid credentials going in, like Ruler On Ice – the winner’s share of the $500,000 purse may be small potatoes compared to what happens in January when racing’s champions are crowned.