(Photo: Chris Landeros guided Gentle Ruler to a victory over Gaining in Churchill Downs' $100,000 Keertana Stakes. They meet again in Thursday's $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes on closing day at Kentucky Downs. Coady Photography)
Chris Landeros hopes to make the most of his belated appearance at Kentucky Downs this meet, riding Morsches Stable's favored Gentle Ruler for father-in-law Ian Wilkes in Thursday’s $500,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes.
Since Landeros became the 4-year-old filly’s regular rider this past winter at Gulfstream Park, Gentle Ruler reeled off four straight victories — including Churchill Downs’ 1 1/2-mile Keertana and Delaware’s 1 3/8-mile, Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial — before finishing a close fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Waya Stakes in her last start. Gentle Ruler’s surge after starting off her career 0 for 11 is testament to Wilkes’ patience, as well as finding her niche racing really long on grass.
“She’s been doing well, really has blossomed going that route distance,” Landeros said. “She just really seems to like it. I think she’ll run well over the course. She’s an athletic filly, so I’m looking forward to it.
“She really ran well in her last start. She was stepping up against some tougher company. I didn’t have the kind of trip I really wanted. I got farther back than I wanted to be, but she still put in a good kick. It was just a little too slow up front, where I couldn’t catch them. For those Grade 2 kind of horses, they can’t go 50 or 51 (seconds for the first half-mile) and you expect to close on them. They’re just too good. All and all, she ran a huge race. I think we got beat a length and a quarter for it all.”
Gentle Ruler defeated Ramsey Farm second-choice Gaining in their last two starts.
Landeros missed the beginning of Kentucky Downs meet after making the decision to be based at Saratoga for the summer. (He did finish as Ellis Park’s meet-leading percentage rider, going 3 for 3 before heading to New York). Now he’s back in his adopted home state, planning to ride the Churchill Downs and Keeneland meets before going back to Gulfstream Park, where he had a breakout meet last winter.
The jockey’s only full day riding at Kentucky Downs was Sunday, when he was second in the $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby with Ry’s the Guy. He had another second, two thirds and a fourth that day.
Landeros had been torn between staying home and riding mainly at Ellis Park or trying to further advance his career by going to Saratoga for the summer, much as going to Gulfstream Park in the winter definitely gave him a boost.
The jockey wound up winning four races at Saratoga, with six seconds and 11 thirds, in a summer where some notable Kentucky outfits opted to stay in the commonwealth. He says only time will tell if it was a benefit or a step back to go to New York, where among his motivations was to develop relationships with another population of horsemen.
Now Landeros is working with new agent Kevin Meyocks to regain momentum.
“It was a pretty successful summer overall,” Landeros said. “I enjoyed it. But I don’t know how much it’s going to help my Kentucky business, just being honest. That’s something that Kevin and I will go through this fall and weigh out our options, and next year we’ll have a game plan to wherever best suits our business.
“I think this is going to be a process, something that I’m pretty mentally tough for…. Was it worth going to Saratoga or not? I can’t answer that. A lot of people have asked me that: ‘Oh, you had a great summer. What do you think about it?’ Well, I can’t answer that until November. Either it knocked me back or it’s going to help me for the future in Florida.
“Hopefully I can get lucky at Kentucky Downs and build up on it day by day.”