Last spring, trainer Bobby Frankel was trying to coax Ruhlmann to run a mile and a quarter. Next month, Frankel will be satisfied if the 3-year-old colt can go about half that far.
Once a leading candidate to win this year’s Kentucky Derby, Ruhlmann is now belatedly headed for Churchill Downs, where on Nov. 5 he will run in the 6-furlong, $1-million Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He has earned passage with two crisp performances in a 7-day stretch at Belmont Park--first a 4-length victory in a 6-furlong allowance race and then a win last Sunday in the 1-mile Jamaica Handicap.
“He might be a better horse now than he was earlier in the year,” Frankel said.
Earlier in the year, Ruhlmann dripped with promise. He was so highly regarded that he went off the 9-5 favorite in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March. In his previous start, in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows, Ruhlmann won by 6 lengths and ran 1 1/16 miles in a fast 1:39 2/5.
How the fortunes have changed for three of the horses in the Florida Derby. If they ran against one another today, Forty Niner would be heavily favored, Brian’s Time would be a close second choice and Ruhlmann would be an outsider. But in March, Ruhlmann was 9-5, Forty Niner 3-1 and Brian’s Time 32-1.
Brian’s Time, who had never won a stake, took this one, beating Forty Niner by a neck. Ruhlmann, after showing some early speed, finished eighth.
Ruhlmann bled from the lungs during the race. A month later in the Santa Anita Derby, even though he was running with Lasix, a medication given to bleeders, Ruhlmann again was eighth. Two weeks after that, on April 23, after setting the pace in the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields, Ruhlmann and another horse clipped heels and he went down. Ruhlmann didn’t run again until last month at Belmont.
The injuries in the California Derby were minimal, but Ruhlmann went into the race with a bone chip in his knee, and a few days later the chip was removed through arthroscopic surgery.
Ruhlmann returned to Frankel’s barn in early August at Del Mar. He scored his two recent victories without Lasix, because the medication isn’t permitted in New York.
“Sometimes stress causes bleeding, and that’s probably what it was with this horse,” Frankel said.
Ruhlmann’s stressful days may over. If he can run roughly half as far in a month as Frankel wanted him to run in May, owner Jerry Moss will be $450,000 richer.
Frankel ran Fighting Fit twice in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, finishing third in 1984 and fourth in 1985. He has two other possibilities for the Breeders’ Cup this year--Pay the Butler and Roi Normand, who could both run in the $2-million Turf Stakes.
Pay the Butler, second to Sunshine Forever in the Man o’ War last month, runs Sunday in the Turf Classic at Belmont. Roi Normand, winner of the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park but next-to-last on dirt in the Woodward Handicap at Belmont, returns to grass in the Rothmans International at Woodbine near Toronto on Oct. 16.
Dick Lundy, who worked as an assistant to trainer Charlie Whittingham from 1976 to 1982, will be returning to California in a couple of weeks, taking the job as manager of Allen Paulson’s American racing operations.
Lundy, 40, will operate out of Paulson’s Brookside Farm in Bonsall and train most of the multimillionaire aerospace executive’s stock in California.
John Gosden, who replaced George Scott in the Paulson job earlier this year, is leaving the United States in December, returning to his native England and a training position with the Maktoum family at Newmarket.
Lundy, whose wife Sally will continue to train horses for him, has been in New York for 7 years, training mostly for Virginia Kraft Payson. He scored his biggest win when Carr de Naskra took the Travers in 1984.
Francois Boutin and Dermot Weld will continue to train Paulson’s horses in Europe.
Friends of Lou Rowan were shocked when he died last week, and also surprised to learn that he was 77. Rowan had always been so active physically--he was playing tennis when he suffered his fatal heart attack--and professionally that he showed the energies of a man much younger.
As a horse owner, Rowan’s favorite was probably Ruken, who won the Santa Anita Derby in 1967, then won two prep races in Kentucky before finishing eighth after a crowded trip in the Kentucky Derby.
Trouble seemed to follow Ruken around. When he won the Del Mar Futurity in 1966, the colt had to survive two foul claims by rival jockeys.
In 1970, Rowan’s Quicken Tree won the Santa Anita Handicap and finished in a dead heat with Fiddle Isle for first place in the San Juan Capistrano. In 1968, Quicken Tree won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park when the favorite, Damascus, was injured in the race.
“He was funny looking and had a bent neck,” Rowan would say when recalling Quicken Tree.
But the chestnut gelding, who was also bred by Rowan, earned $700,000 and was especially effective in New York, where he won three stakes besides the Jockey Club.
Quicken Tree won the Jockey Club Gold Cup when it was a 2-mile race, and he earned $71,370. On Saturday, for a mile and a half, the winner of the $1-million race will earn more than $600,000.
Only five horses--Alysheba, Waquoit, Personal Flag, Creme Fraiche and Easy n Dirty--may run. A win by Alysheba will boost him to the $5.5-million mark in purses, about $1 million short of the record held by John Henry.
Kelso’s record of five straight Jockey Club wins appears to be safe, since Creme Fraiche has little business in the race, even though he has won it the last 2 years. This year, Creme Fraiche has won 1 of 10 starts, scoring his lone victory 7 months ago.
“We weren’t expected to beat Turkoman (in 1986) and Java Gold (in 1987), either,” says Woody Stephens, Creme Fraiche’s trainer.
Horse Racing Notes
Owner-breeder Fred Hooper is celebrating his 91st birthday today. In 1945, Hooper’s Hoop Jr., the first horse he ever owned, won the Kentucky Derby. . . . Winning Colors’ final pre-Breeders’ Cup race will be the 1-mile Rare Perfume at Belmont on Saturday. . . . Trainer Charlie Whittingham, who was 0 for 14 in the Breeders’ Cup before Ferdinand and Judge Angelucci ran 1-3 in last year’s Classic, has four prospects this year--Ferdinand and Lively One in the Classic, Mill Native in the Turf and Goodbye Halo in the Distaff. . . . Waquoit’s owner has discounted the possibility of supplementing him, at a cost of $360,000, to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. . . . Sword Dance will miss Sunday’s Oak Tree Invitational at Santa Anita because of a bruised foot. . . . On Breeders’ Cup day, Nov. 5, Santa Anita will offer only four live races and take betting on seven televised races from Churchill Downs.