emerged victorious from a three-horse scramble to the wire to take the
Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian in thrilling fashion on Sunday at Belmont
Photo: adam mooshian, NYRA
by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and ridden by another Hall of Famer in
John Velazquez, Fiftyshadesofhay lagged behind the early leaders through
an opening quarter-mile in a blistering 22.33 seconds and a half in
45.30. As the field rounded the far turn, the daughter of Pulpit still
appeared to be spinning her wheels, and was guided to the inside by
Velazquez to save ground.
they turned for home, the 4-year-old filly kicked in gear, but still
had a lot of work to do and by the eighth pole it looked as if she was
destined to finish third. Inside the sixteenth pole the determined filly
conjured up one last run and surged past Grace Hall and My Wandy's Girl
to win by three-quarters of a length.
was on the outside the whole backstretch and she didn't seem like she
was going anywhere," said Velazquez. "They were going fast enough, so I
thought I'd try to save some ground and put her behind horses and
hopefully I'd get somewhere. By the three-eighths pole she started
moving. I finally got out about the three-sixteenths pole and she
responded. As soon as I got to the clear, she was running so good, I
thought 'She's going to get there.' Not only did she get there, when she
put a head in front she wanted to pull up. I said, 'Don't do that now,
Ruffian marked Fiftyshadesofhay's first win since June 29 of last year
in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks. She had raced predominantly in California for
Baffert, who made the decision to ship her east for this year's Grade 2
La Troienne at Churchill Downs but then decided to skip the race after
the filly did not train to his expectations.
had me a little worried there the way [Tom] Durkin was calling her,"
said Baffert. "I saw her way behind and I saw the hot pace, so I thought
we had a chance. I told John [Velazquez] to ride her however he wanted
and I guess he knew what he was doing. It worked out that way at Pimlico
last year [in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan], and she won. She likes to
run from off the pace, but you can't really do that in California."
win raised Fiftyshadesofhay's bankroll to $946,547 for owners Karl
Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman. She returned $5.40 on a $2 win
bet as the narrow 8-5 favorite and covered the one-mile distance in
Hall and My Wandy's Girl both ran valiantly in defeat, finishing second
and third, respectively. The former was making her first start in the
barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, and had not raced in over a
year. The latter, trained by Mike Hushion, disputed the pace much of the
way with the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Six Queens and dug in down the
lane, finishing only a nose behind Grace Hall.
It was another 3 ½ lengths back to Six Queens in fourth, and Toasting and Parc Monceau completed the order of finish.