Race of the Week 2017

Payton d'Oro in Ruffian Spotlight

Payton d'Oro wins the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
Seven evenly-matched fillies and mares will go postward in Sunday’s $250,000 Ruffian Invitational at Saratoga Race Course, and one will emerge not only with her first Grade 1 victory but an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic as well.


The 1 1/8-mile Ruffian is the second “Win and You’re In” race this year in the division, with Blind Luck becoming the first to qualify following her dramatic victory over Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap on July 16.


Heading the field for the Ruffian, which will be run for the 36th time, are Payton d’Oro and Super Espresso, a pair of graded stakes winners who finished second and third behind the now-sidelined Awesome Maria in their most recent start, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 18.


Payton d’Oro, winner of the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in 2009, has two seconds in as many stakes starts this year, including the three-length defeat by Awesome Maria and a loss to Super Espresso in the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico on May 21. The 5-year-old mare finished third in her 2011 debut, an optional claimer at Oaklawn Park, having run just twice last year while her ownership was being restructured.


“She’s doing well, she’s sure training well, and to tell you the truth, the race is kind of wide open,” said Larry Jones, who trains the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro for Mike Pressley. “I’m looking forward to running her.”


Gabriel Saez comes in to ride Payton d’Oro, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, from post position 5.


Super Espresso, a $1.1 million auction purchase by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, scored her first graded stakes win in the DuPont, rallying from fifth for a three-quarter length victory. The 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly is 3-0-2 from six starts this year, with her only off-the-board performance a failed try on the turf in the Grade 3 Bewitched at Keeneland on April 28.


“Her last couple of races were good,” said trainer Todd Pletcher of Super Espresso, who drew post position 2. “I think it’s a matter of finally figuring out how to run. The distance has helped, but I think she’s kind of a late-developing filly. She’s just getting a little better with age.”


The 3-1 morning-line second choice will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.


The remainder of the field will be seeking their first graded stakes win in the Ruffian, including 8-1 morning-line choice Distorted Legacy, who put together back-to-back wins at Belmont Park in her first two starts on the dirt, a one-mile allowance on June 2 and the Sky Beauty overnight stakes on July 1.


Having begun her career over the artificial surface at Woodbine, the Distorted Humor filly ran fifth in a turf race at Aqueduct Racetrack in her first start for Angel Penna, Jr., then headed to Florida, where she fashioned a pair of seconds in four starts on the turf.


“She could not handle the dirt at all at Palm Meadows,” said Penna. “I kept her on turf down there because of her record on turf and synthetic. But when we came back to New York, she started gliding on the dirt. She changed completely. She loved it. We tried her once, and it worked out good, and then we went to the listed stakes, and she won again.


“Basically, the filly is doing very good,” added Penna, who trains Distorted Legacy for Bruce Lunsford. “It’s a big jump, but she loves the distance and has taken to this track very well. The allowance races will always be there. The Grade 1’s come and go. So why not take a shot?”


Rajiv Maragh rides from post position 4.


Tiz Miz Sue made her graded stakes debut in a tough spot, facing Havre de Grace in the Grade 3 Obeah at Delaware Park on June 11, but finished a credible second, beaten 2 ½ lengths. The 4-year-old Tiznow filly, trained by Steve Hobby, has been a consistent performer this year, with a record of 1-2-1 from four starts including her triumph in the Winter Melody overnight stakes at Delaware on May 14.


Tiz Miz Sue, 6-1 on the morning line, drew the outside under Joe Rocco, Jr.


Dynazaper, who has spent much of her career on turf and artificial surfaces, will be making her second start on conventional dirt this year for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who saddled the Ghostzapper filly to a 9 ¼-length victory in an optional claimer at Belmont on June 8. The one-mile race marked her first start on dirt since 2009, when she was fourth and fifth in a pair of maiden races at Saratoga before scoring her first win at Keeneland in October of that year.


John Velazquez will ride Dynazaper, 6-1 on the morning line, from post 6.


Completing the field are the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Absinthe Minded, 2-1-2 from seven starts this year including a second to Blind Luck in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs on May 6, and Ask the Moon, who will be making her first graded stakes start for trainer Marty Wolfson.


The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Ruffian Invitational:








Ask the Moon (MD)

L Saez


M D Wolfson



Super Espresso (KY)

R A Dominguez


T A Pletcher



Absinthe Minded (KY)

R Albarado


D W Lukas



Distorted Legacy (KY)

R Maragh


A J Penna, Jr.



Payton d'Oro (KY)

G Saez


J L Jones



Dynazaper (KY)

J R Velazquez


W I Mott



Tiz Miz Sue (KY)

J Rocco, Jr.


S Hobby





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