ELMONT, N.Y. -- At the eighth pole of Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Stakes, it was apparent owners Chester and Mary Broman were going to win. It was just a question of whether it would be with the constantly overlooked Highway Star or the somewhat underachieving Bar of Gold.
With Angel Arroyo getting through on the inside and Joel Rosario having to rally four wide, it was Highway Star who prevailed by a half-length over Bar of Gold in the last of four stakes run on an absolutely miserable day weather-wise at Belmont Park.
For Highway Star, sent off at 5-1, it was her seventh win from 10 starts and third in a graded stakes. For Bar of Gold, hammered to 6-5 due to her affinity for a wet track, it was her 12th loss in as many tries in a graded stakes, her fourth runner-up finish in such a race.
Ironically, Rodrigo Ubillo, the trainer of Highway Star, was considering scratching his filly in part because he knew the off-track prowess of Bar of Gold, who had previously been 5 for 5 over wet tracks. Day-long rains left the Belmont main track a sea of slop. Just last fall, Bar of Gold won the Empire Distaff by 18 lengths in the Belmont slop, a race from which Highway Star scratched.
Ubillo said he told Chester Broman that Bar of Gold "should win the race the way she excelled in the mud like by 10, 20 lengths. I was thinking to be second."
Highway Star was stuck inside of High Ridge Road with both pursuing Indulgent through a quarter-mile in 23.84 seconds, a half-mile in 48.11, and six furlongs in 1:12.49.
Turning for home, Indulgent came off the inside, leaving an opening for Arroyo to guide Highway Star on through. Meanwhile, Rosario had to go four to five wide on Bar of Gold, who was fourth of five early on.
At the eighth pole, Highway Star was in front and Bar of Gold was surging down the center of the track, but Highway Star kept Bar of Gold at bay to the wire.
Highway Star, a New York-bred daughter of Girolamo, covered the mile in 1:39.05 over the sealed, sloppy track and returned $12.
"When Bar of Gold came to her outside I thought she was going to blow right on by," Broman said. "I bet you thought the same thing."
Ubillo was naturally happy he didn't scratch.
"I look like a genius," he said. "If she'd have run bad, I would have kicked myself."
John Kimmel, the trainer of Bar of Gold, said he thought his filly had dead aim on Highway Star in the stretch.
"It looked like she just got a little tired the last sixteenth of a mile," he said. "The other horse carried its momentum."
Broman said Highway Star, who added the Ruffian to a resume that includes the Grade 3 Go for Wand and Grade 3 Distaff Handicap, would likely point to the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 10.