Grace Hall returns in Ruffian
By Sean Morris | 05/09/2014 02:18 PM ET
Grade 1 winner and millionaire Grace Hall will make her long-awaited return to the racetrack on Sunday at Belmont Park in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at one mile.
The Ruffian, along with the Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 3 Westchester, will be part of a trio of stakes on Sunday that will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. as part of the network’s Jockey Club Series.
Grace Hall, who will be making her first start for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, first rose to prominence as a juvenile at Saratoga Race Course, when she took the 2011 edition of the Spinaway, and cemented her status as a filly to watch later on that year, when she finished second to My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Her sophomore season got off to a solid start as she finished second in the Grade 2 Davona Dale and took the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks by 6 ½ lengths – an effort good enough to land her the role of favorite in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, in which she finished third. After a brief respite, the bay filly reemerged to capture the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks by 3 ½ lengths and the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks by 5 ¾ lengths, and closed out her year with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.
In 2013, Grace Hall made only two starts, and has not been seen since a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 12 at Oaklawn Park for former trainer Tony Dutrow.
“We’ve had her since last October,” said Mott, who trains Grace Hall for Alpha Delta Stables. “She’d been laid up for a long time and it just took us awhile to get her ready. With any horse that’s been off for over a year you’re not positive how they’re going to run, but I’m hoping to see a good, positive effort from her.”
Joel Rosario has the mount aboard Grace Hall, 5-2 on the morning line, and the pair will depart from post position 5.
Runner-up in last year’s Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct Racetrack, Toasting will stretch back out to a mile on Sunday after a pair of seven-furlong sprints at Gulfstream Park. The chestnut filly took the seven-furlong Dream Rush on October 20 at Belmont Park before running a career-high 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the Comely to close out her 2013 campaign. The daughter of Congrats resurfaced at Gulfstream Park this year, where she has run four times for trainer Tom Albertrani.
“We ran her [in the Sunshine Millions Distaff] and she was OK,” said Albertrani. “Then we wanted to try her on turf and she didn’t handle it at all. She ran very well in her next start, the allowance race, and we came back quick with her in the Inside Information and she just didn’t run her race that day. We’ve given her a little time so hopefully she [runs her best race in the Ruffian].”
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Toasting drew post position 4 and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. She sits at 8-1 on the morning line.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will send out Fiftyshadesofhay on Sunday. The 4-year-old daughter of Pulpit took three graded stakes in 2013, including a win in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course, but is winless through two starts in 2014. Her sophomore campaign also included a second-place finish to Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.
John Velazquez will get a leg up aboard Fiftyshadesofhay, who will be making her first start around one turn since a maiden race in September of 2012, and the pair will break from post position 6. She is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line.
Trainer Mike Hushion will saddle two runners, the more accomplished of which is My Wandy’s Girl, who took the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park last out. Hushion’s other entry – Parc Monceau – may not have the resume of her more heralded stablemate, but appears to be efflorescing at the right time, according to the trainer.
The field is completed by the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Six Queens, who has won three of four career starts, and each of her 2014 outings.
The field for the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian: