Rags to Riches on course to be horse of year, if…

Jul 17, 2007 2:49 AM

Lady’s Secret in 1986 is the only filly to be named Horse of the Year. If the cards fall right for Rags to Riches this year, she could follow in Lady’s Secret’s foot steps.

Defending Horse of the Year Invasor has been retired due to injury. Thus, Rags to Riches has a relatively unfettered path to make history, as she did in the Belmont Stakes when she vanquished colts and became the first filly in 102 years to win the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Whether she races exclusively against her own sex the rest of this campaign, or veers off course to tackle males again prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27 remains to be seen. Rags to Riches was set for Saturday’s Coaching Club American Oaks, but will miss that race due to a fever. Her next scheduled start is the Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 18, but Pletcher left the door open for another race against colts.

"Everything’s a possibility," he said.

Either way, it won’t inhibit speculation.

"It’s far too early to say if she’ll win it, but at this point, she’s definitely a contender for Horse of the Year," said John Sadler, who knows a good filly when he sees one, having trained stakes winners such as Melair, Track Gal, Victory Encounter and Healthy Addiction. "It’s hard to say right now, because if a horse wins the big races at the end of the year, that could alter the whole picture. If (Kentucky Derby winner) Street Sense were to win the Travers and an important race like the Classic, that would influence a lot of voters. But if Pletcher has a really ambitious schedule for Rags to Riches and she beats the boys again, that would help. But right now, she’s definitely got a shot, there’s no doubt about it."

Sadler witnessed Rags to Riches from a front-row seat last winter. The native of
Long Beach, who turns 51 on July 30, is headquartered at Hollywood Park where the 3-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy trained, and saw her win the Las Virgenes Stakes and the Santa Anita Oaks at Santa Anita.

"I thought she had a pretty good chance to win the Belmont, based on what I’d seen," Sadler said. "The irony was, if Street Sense or one of the other big colts had run, Pletcher might not have run her. But everything came together, and she’s certainly bred to run that far, so I thought she had a real good chance."

Two schools of thought prevail on racing fillies against colts. Most students say nay, but Sadler feels if the talent is there, go for it.

"Fillies don’t have to have a certain physical outline," he said. "They just have to be really good, and Rags to Riches fits that category. Plus, she’s a smaller-type filly. Some of the great mares in the past were considered Amazons, but she’s definitely not. She’s small, but a beautifully filly. As far as being Horse of the Year, it could happen."

Gary Stevens rode the last filly to win the Kentucky Derby, the imposing Winning Colors, in 1988. The retired Hall of Fame jockey, now providing insightful comments to viewers of TVG and NBC, sees a Horse of the Year title for Rags to Riches, under an ideal scenario.

"I don’t think she necessarily has to beat the colts again," Stevens said. "It wouldn’t hurt the cause, but one of the two colts—(Preakness winner) Curlin and Street Sense—each would have to go drastically off form. If either wins the Travers or the Haskell, or both, and goes on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Rags to Riches would have no chance.

"But saying that, if she continued to beat all the girls and was entered in the Classic and ran great, she would definitely have a shot. If she goes the rest of the year undefeated and Curlin and Street Sense tail off, she has a serious chance to be Horse of the Year."

The homestretch

”¡ Pletcher said he had "no idea yet" what’s next for American Oaks winner Panty Raid, who was returned to New York after her Hollywood Park victory. In other news from the Pletcher barn, 2006 Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Harlington has "a slight fracture in his left foot" and has been sent to Ocala for 60 days before he resumes training; Dwyer winner Any Given Saturday goes next in either the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the Haskell at Monmouth on Aug. 5. Wood Memorial winner Circular Quay is ticketed for the $1 million Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on Saturday.

”¡ Joe Talamo loses his five-pound apprentice allowance on Saturday.

”¡ Agent Brandon O’Bryan, currently representing apprentice Alonso Quinonez, says veteran Danny Sorenson, who suffered a broken hip in a Hollywood training mishap last March, hopes to resume riding midway through the Del Mar meet.

”¡ Congratulations to trainer Summer Mayberry and her husband, horse feed provider Rick Rudman, on the birth of a six-pound, four ounce son, Brian Mayberry Rudman, on July 12 in Ocala, FL. Summer named the boy after her late father, longtime trainer Brian Mayberry.

”¡ I’d rather see Posh Spice play soccer than her husband, David Beckham.