It took Gentle Ruler 12 starts and more than a year and a half of competition to win her first race, but relatively little time to rise to the level of becoming a stakes winner at the $500,000 purse level.
Thursday on closing day of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs, the filly did just that, winning the most lucrative race of her career, the $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes by a half-length over longshot Lantiz. The victory, her fifth of 2019, marked her third stakes triumph of the year, following earlier victories in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park and the Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Under a patient ride from Chris Landeros, her sole jockey in six races this year, Gentle Ruler rallied from a bit farther off the pace than usual, settling in seventh early before falling as far back as eighth. Then, upon hitting the long Kentucky Downs stretch, she kicked into gear, advancing to fourth with an eighth of a mile remaining and then taking charge thereafter. She surged past runner-up Lantiz in the final sixteenth, and third-place finisher Gaining could not close the gap on the final pair, finishing another half-length farther back.
“There’s a little dogleg right there,” Landeros said of the move he launched with her in midstretch. “I knew if I had horse, I could split right through and she gave me a good run. I really thought she’d like the course. She’s so athletic, and very game.”
Rounding out the field were Lemoona, Sea Dream, Coco Channel, Venina, Over Thinking, Maroubra and Coachwhip. Na Pali Spirit was scratched.
The winner, a 4-year-old daughter of Colonel John, was timed covering 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:12.73, about a half-second off the stakes record of 2:12.16 set by Al’s Gal in winning the 2016 Ramsey Farm.
“She is the type of filly who always is going to give you 100 percent,” Landeros said. “She’s always going to give me a good run.”
It was the fifth win in 17 starts for Gentle Ruler. Add in three second-place finishes and five thirds in her career, and she's been on the board 76 percent of her starts. She paid $6.20 to win in taking the Ramsey Farm.
The $500,000 Ramsey Stakes was worth $291,400 to the winner, running her total earnings to $643,453 for owner Morsches Stable, who trainer Ian Wilkes credited for their patience with the late-developing Gentle Ruler.
It was the fourth win of the meet for Wilkes, which tied him with Joe Sharp and Wesley Ward for leading trainer.
“I’m glad you didn’t tell me before, because then the pressure really would have been on," Landeros said. "I’m happy for him. He’s a great person, a great trainer. His team does a great job. He’s a hard worker. He deserves it.”
Wilkes attributed his filly’s rapid rise this year to maturity and added distance. Largely unsuccessful in shorter races, she blossomed once stretched out to race in races ranging from 1 5/16 to 1 ½ miles.
“When she runs a mile or mile and a sixteenth, not enough turn of foot,” he said by phone. “But she has enough turn of foot in these long races.”
Adam Beschizza, who rode 69-1 longshot Lantiz, was pleased with mount’s performance, the first stakes placing of her career. “She’s sort of tailor-made to run around here,” he said. “She switched off nicely and sort of has a grinding turn of foot.”
Gaining, beaten by Gentle Ruler in all three of their meetings this year, encountered traffic when in tight into the first turn, forcing jockey Florent Geroux to check her, then rallied late. “I don’t know if it cost her, but she ran well,” trainer Brad Cox said.