RUFFIAN HANDICAP | PURSE: $250,000 | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | 1 1/8
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- When trainer Marty Wolfson looked at the complexion of the two races he had entered Ask the Moon in on Sunday, he thought the mare fit better in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ruffian Invitational at Saratoga than the listed $100,000 Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Not only did Wolfson feel his chances were better in the Ruffian, but he also felt he knew exactly how the 6-year-old mare could win the race.
Everything worked out exactly like Wolfson had hoped as Javier Castellano sent Ask the Moon to the lead out of the starting gate and, despite setting a rapid early pace, Ask the Moon galloped to a 5 3/4-length victory in the Ruffian. Super Espresso rallied to get second by a neck over Tiz Miz Sue, who finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Payton d'Oro.
However, the stewards disqualified Tiz Miz Sue from third and placed her fourth behind Payton d'Oro for interfering with that rival in upper stretch. Distorted Legacy, Absinthe Minded, and Dynazaper completed the order of finish.
Not only did Ask the Moon end a 12-race losing streak dating back to the fall of 2009 - her last win came at the Meadowlands, which no longer conducts Thoroughbred racing - she earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Churchill Downs in November.
The Breeders' Cup was not what was on Wolfson's mind when he and owners Robert and Myron Miller of Farnsworth Farm claimed Ask the Moon for $75,000 on June 15 at Belmont Park. Wolfson said that he and the Millers were fans of progeny of Malibu Moon and had been following Ask the Moon for a long time.
Ask the Moon stayed in New York for her first start off the claim, running third in the Sky Beauty, an overnight stakes at Belmont, when in the barn of Gary Contessa. The plan was always for Ask the Moon to go to Wolfson, who has a string at Monmouth this summer.
Wolfson entered Ask the Moon in both the Ruffian and the Lady's Secret, but felt there was more speed in the race at Monmouth than there was at Saratoga. Moreover, he instructed jockey Javier Castellano to send his filly to the front in hopes of getting the other speed horses in this field – Absinthe Minded and Dynazaper - to back off.
Ask the Moon won a four-way scramble for the lead, and secured the front while running a quarter in 23.61 seconds and a half-mile in 46.84. She maintained a clear advantage through six furlongs in 1:10.82 and was never seriously threatened down the lane.
Ask the Moon covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.46 and returned $38 as the longest shot on the board.
"I thought it could work out like it did," Wolfson said by phone from Monmouth Park. "I told Castellano sometimes you get in races like this and even though it looks like there's three or four speed horses, if they see your intentions to go they'll back off, and they did back off. I knew she would be tough if that happened."
Castellano felt he'd be able to go slower than he did to get the lead, but said his filly was always in hand.
"[It] was a very decent pace, but she did it so easy and relaxed and I think that was the key to the race," Castellano said.
The win capped a sensational weekend for Castellano, who on Saturday won the Grade 1 Diana on Zagora and Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Stay Thirsty.
"Excellent, couldn't be better," Castellano said. "I'm very blessed and thankful and I appreciate all the owners and trainers who give me great support."
Castellano has 16 wins at the meet, two behind John Velazquez.