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Come Dancing Romps In Belmont's Ruffian Stakes!


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(Article Courtesy of By Bob Ehalt - BloodHorse Magazine)

"The 5-year-old Malibu Moon mare much the best in grade 2 stakes at a mile"

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Blue Devil Racing Stable's Come Dancing didn't just win a grade 2 stakes May 5 at Belmont Park. She won the Ruffian Stakes (G2), owner Marc Holliday pointed out.

There is a difference. "When I was a kid, Ruffian was a legend in her day," he said. "Winning a race named after one of the greatest fillies that ever lived makes it that much more special. It's not just a stakes. It's the Ruffian Stakes, and that's something we're going to celebrate and cherish."

While comparisons with Ruffian are unfair, Come Dancing certainly looked the part of a superb distaff miler as she pulled away with gusto in the stretch and posted a 6 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 race for fillies and mares over a sloppy (sealed) racetrack.

"It was a terrific performance," Holliday said. "She pulled away like a real professional. She has that powerful gear where she can do that. The mile is made for her, and she's never been better. She proved herself today, and I'm looking forward to going on to bigger and better things."

While future plans are still uncertain, trainer Carlos Martin said the $700,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) at a one-turn 1/16 miles June 8 at Belmont Park could be next for the homebred daughter of Malibu Moon who showed no signs of regressing after winning the April 5 Distaff Handicap (G3) by 7 3/4 lengths in 1:22.31 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"My dad, Jose, God rest his soul, trained (1987 sprint champion) Groovy," said Martin, the son of Jose Martin and grandson of Hall of Fame trainer Frank "Pancho" Martin. "He told me when you have great horses and you manage them right, they'll bounce, but they'll bounce into the winner's circle."

Though Martin considered sending Come Dancing to Churchill Downs for a Kentucky Derby weekend stakes, he made a wise decision staying in New York.

Come Dancing, the 3-10 favorite, broke slowly in the Ruffian but then prompted the pace of Frostie Anne in second through fractions of :23.76 and :46.97. Midway on the turn, jockey Manny Franco guided her to the front as Frostie Anne retreated to last in the field of five.

Pacific Wind, winner of the 2018 Ruffian, took a run at Come Dancing at the top of the stretch, but the 5-year-old mare responded with a decisive burst of speed.

"When she felt (Pacific Wind) coming, she just exploded," Franco said. "I had a lot of horse under me."

Come Dancing covered the mile in 1:36.54.

"I couldn't be more thrilled with her. She put on a pretty good performance. Not to brag, but it looked like a public workout the way she did it," Martin said. "It's a very good filly we beat. We're running in New York against very good horses, and for her to keep doing what she's been doing gives you optimism that if we can manage her right, we can have a great year with her."

Pacific Wind—owned by Peter Brant, Dominic Savides, Sharon Alesia, and Ciaglia Racing—finished second in her 2019 debut, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen's Pink Sands.

The victory was the sixth in 10 starts for the filly who, ironically enough, was treated for a fractured pastern at the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists hospital near Belmont Park after her 2-year-old season. An earner of $476,700, Come Dancing is the first stakes winner from four foals to race out of the Tiznow mare Tizahit.

"Any homebred win is special because of all the time and effort and care that goes into raising a homebred," Holliday said. "So when you can win with a homebred on one of the biggest stages, it's almost indescribable."

For Martin, there was the added pleasure of finally acquiring the perfect complement to a painting of Ruffian in his office. "This winner's circle shot is going to look great in my office," he said. "I've wanted something like this for a long time."