Cum Laude Laurie moved toward the head of her class here today by defeating a gateful of the nation's best fillies and mares in the $110,800 Ruffian Handicap.
The 3-year-old's margin of victory, at the end of a sloppy mile and an eighth ran in stakes-record time of 1:52 1/5, was a half-length over Mississippi Mud, a 10-to 1 shot. Cascapedia, California's finest race mare, took third place, a half-length behind the runner-up as My Juliet, the favorite of the 20,732 rainy-day fans, faded to fifth.
Cum Laude Laurie returned $12 straight in the field of 12. Our Mims, What a Summer and Small Raja were scratched because of track conditions.
Angel Cordero had an eventful ride on the winner, as he graphically described in the jockeys' room.
"She stumbled coming out of th gate and nearly went to her knees," the Puerto Rican rider said. "We were way back. Then she began to pick up horses, only to have someone on the horses, only to have someone on the outside who was in front of us (Crab Grass) start coming in, and we lost position again.
"So we stayed inside, where it was a little deep, "Cordero continued. "We were able to save ground, and then she came on fine through the stretch."
Corderos's most important observation was that he "saved ground" at a critical point of the race.
My Juliet, Mississippi Mud and Cascapedia swung into the stretch heads apart, carrying highweight of 127, 128 and 128 pounds, respectively. Cum Laude Laurie, carrying 114, was able to cut the corner, hugging the rail, while My Juliet carried Mississippi Mud out to the middle of the track and Mississippi Mud carried Cascapedia out even farther.
My Juliet began to tire from her pace-setting efforts, nearing the eighth pole. Cascapedia's head was in front briefly at that point, but Mississippi Mud fought back and had her two main rivals beaten - only to lose ground steadily to her younger foe rallying down on the inside.
Cum Laude Laurie was scoring the second major victory of her burgeoning career. In her previous start, the dark bay daughter of Hail of Reason and Primonetta had captured the Delaware Oaks. That was a month ago, at Delaware park.
Our Mims, scratched today, continues as the leading candidate for the 3-year-old filly division's Eclipse Award. Cum Laude Laurie has a chance to overtake the Calumet Farm filly, however, if she can defeat our Mims in the wight-for-age Beldame Stakes here Oct. 10 or in the SPinster Stakes at Keeneland, Ky., later next month.
"We're leaning toward the Spinster as he next starts," owner Dan Galbreath said. "They're both excellent races, but Cum Laude Laurie's mommy won the Spinster could do the same thing."
Cum Laude Laurie's "mommy" was Primonetta, a champion in her own right.
Cascapedia, My Julie and Mississippi Mud probably will renew acquaintances in the Beldame, decided over a mile and a quarter.