The $112,300, Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park today shapes up as one of the two or three best races of the year.
Fifteen fillies and mares are entered in the 1 1/8 event named in memory of beautiful black filly which died shortly after she shattered both proximal sesamoids during her match race against Foolish Pleasure on June 6, 1975. There may not be a Ruffian in this second running of the Ruffian, but there is exceptionally quality throughout the large lineup and, at the weights, these blue-blooded damsels are enough to drive a handicapper dizzy.
Cascapedia, the best distaff performer in the West this season, heads the field under 128 pounds, from the No. 14 position. My Juliet, second in the weights at 127, drew post 15.
Inside them are Our Mims, 118, the nations finest 3-year-old filly; What A Summer, 127, the outstanding sprinter which recently carried her speed to victory in the Maskette Mile; Mississippi Mud, 123, the Matchmaker heroine beaten by a nose by Our Mims in the Delaware Handicap and 10 ladies-in-waiting dying to crash high society under the special invitation extended by racing secretary Tommy Trotter.
Trotter's weights descend to 108 pounds on Charming Story, which drew the disadvantage rail position. In between are such dangerous lightweights and Dottie's Dol1, 116; Crab Grass, 114; Cum Laude Laurie, 114; Sensational, 115, and Small Raja, 114.
Given this cast, the Ruffian is hardly the race to risk a fortune on a leady lady.
The competition is too tough. I do plan, however, to stop at the bank on the way to the airport and make a tidy withdrawal.
Mississippi Mud turned in a powerful effort of Delaware three weeks ago. She was relayed on the lead by Lucie Manet, Dottie's Doll and Our Mims but she was still battling back at the end of that 1 1/4 miles, only to lose by half a nose to Our Mims.
The distance is a furlong shorter today, the weight on Mississippi Mud is fair, and although, there is more early speed in the race than I would ideally like to see, I still think it is going to be a treat to beat my feet you-know-what.
Cascapedia maybe the most fabulous female to come off the West Coast since Typecast or Cheryl Tiegs. But I have to see her do it here before becoming overwhelmed. My Juliet is running longer than her best distance. What A Summer will be faltering by midstretch. It is the lightweight that scare me most.
Daily Racing Form lists Mississippi Mud at 20 to 1 in its graded handicap with the comments, "Can stop on a dime." Nonsense! A better price would be 6 to 1. I will be downright disappointed and, more important, a little less solvent, if Mississippi Mud doesn't give me one heck of a run for my money.