Black Ruby Does It Again
Date Posted: 9/14/02 9:16:21 PM
Last Updated: 9/14/02 9:16:21 PM

In the Mule Heavyweight Championship, Black Ruby again proved she's queen of her breed.

Taz was on even terms with his rival Black Ruby for much of their 350-yard match race Saturday at Fairplex Park, but Black Ruby rallied in the final 50 yards to post a 1/2-length victory in the $10,000 winner-take-all match race, their second such contest in six days.

Black Ruby, the world's most famous racing mule, was timed in 20.42 seconds in winning for the ninth time this year. Her earnings are now $180,850 for owners Sonny and Mary McPherson. According to the mule racing association, Black Ruby's record now stands at 61 wins, nine seconds and three thirds from 73 starts.

Carrying 129 pounds and spotting Taz a five-pound break, Black Ruby broke outward while racing without blinkers for the first time in more than a year. The 10-year-old mare gradually straightened out, then bore down on Taz relentlessly.

Black Ruby paid $2.60.

Ridden by Jim Burns and trained by Ron White, Black Ruby swept the Southern California match race series over Taz, who she beat by two lengths Sept. 8 at Del Mar. Her only loss this year was to Taz on Aug. 24 at the State Fair's Open Mule Challenge at Cal Expo while carrying 136 pounds.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Del Mar Catches Black Ruby Fever
Date Posted: 9/8/02 9:55:20 PM
Last Updated: 9/8/02 10:10:28 PM

Southern California caught a little Black Ruby Fever Sunday at Del Mar.

The five-time Racing Mule of the Year beat rival Taz by about two lengths in a special $10,000 400-yard match race that followed the day's regular racing card. Both mules carried 129 pounds.

It was the first match race at Del Mar since 1994.

The final time for the 400 yards was 23.35 seconds.

Owned by Sonny and Mary McPherson and trained by Ron White, the 10-year-old Black Ruby, by Two Bals, registered her 60th career victory in 72 races and defeated Taz, who is 8, for the 39th time in her career. The rivalry has been a staple on the Northern California fair circuit for several years.

The $6,000 winning purse increased Black Ruby's earnings to $170,850.

Taz, trained by Ed Burdick, defeated Black Ruby in their last clash at Sacramento's Cal Expo meeting, although Black Ruby spotted her male rival eight pounds (136-128) in that one. It was the only loss for Black Ruby in two years, and the fourth win for Taz over her the champion.

Sunday, Black Ruby, usually a poor starter, broke alertly to a one-length lead and held it, veering out as they neared the wire under jockey Jim Burns.

"She was on it today," said Burns. "She was good at the gate and she came right out of there. We brought our own gate man (assistant starter) down. He knows her well and he knows how to handle her. The first 50 yards I knew I was a winner. She was doing it. She saw Taz next to her and she was gone. She likes to be eyeballed; it gets her juices flowing. When we got beat up in Sacramento, she never saw him (Taz). They were too far apart. But today it was just like it was supposed to be. This was the real Black Ruby."

Taz was ridden by "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel, who road 1982 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Aloma's Ruler.

"Ruby had her good day," said Kaenel, who beat her in Sacramento. "She's a terrific runner and when she has her day she's just too tough. My guy ran good. He just got outrun."

Officials estimated that more than 8,000 of the original crowd of 19,342 stuck around for the "Mule Duel."

The riders and mules go at again in a second match race at Fairplex Park Saturday.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Del Mar Race Report: Rolling Along
by Lenny Shulman
Date Posted: 9/7/02 9:00:26 PM
Last Updated: 9/11/02 9:34:06 AM

Published in the Sept. 14 issue of The Blood-Horse
When you're the New York Yankees, even your second string is considered good enough to start and excel for lesser teams around the league. Being a Dodgers fan he might not like the analogy, but trainer Bobby Frankel's barn is so deep (think Beat Hollow, Chiselling, Lido Palace, You), his second- and third-stringers are plenty good enough to win graded stakes at major venues coast-to-coast.

Inesperado, a French-bred son of the Irish stallion Zayyani, was unheard of in this country while competing in listed stakes on smaller circuits in France. Frankel, though, heard of him through his European contacts, and plucked him off the French sandlots for Charles Kenis' 3 Plus U Stable, same as he had another French minor-leaguer, Super Quercus, whom he turned into a major player in North America.

Every time Frankel has called on Inesperado to come off the bench and grab a bat, the 3-year-old colt has responded with a home run, first in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park in June, then in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Del Mar three weeks ago. After a third smasher, this time in the Sept. 7 $300,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), it is evident no one has yet figured out how to pitch to him.

Faced with eight opponents, including the winners of both divisions of the Oceanside Stakes and eastern invader and graded winner Mr. Mellon, Inesperado was sent off a lukewarm 9-5 favorite in the nine-furlong derby. Rain, as unheard of at Del Mar as a significant race not featuring a Frankel runner, had fallen the previous day, leaving the turf "firm," but with some give in it. Rock Opera, winner of the faster division of the split Oceanside, sped to the lead under Laffit Pincay Jr., chased by the ambitiously placed Golden Arrow and multiple stakes victor Mountain Rage.

Corey Nakatani, pinch-hitting on Inesperado while previous pilots Eddie Delahoussaye (injury) and Kent Desormeaux (in New York) were away, conserved energy in mid-pack for the initial five furlongs. The lineup remained unchanged until the half-mile pole, when Nakatani put the winner into motion on the outside. Johar, who had missed in his last three stakes tries by less than a length, drafted right behind.

Rock Opera held gamely until they straightened off the turn and Inesperado, changing leads, exploded past, chased by Johar. But Nakatani had a handful of horse, and was a length clear of Johar on the wire, with Rock Opera third. The clock stopped in 1:47.49, making it the second-fastest Del Mar Derby in history, just behind Walklikeaduck's 1:46.66 two years ago.

"I was just sitting there thinking about how much I was going to win by," said Nakatani. "Bobby has the right horses and puts them in the right places. This was a very impressive performance."

Inesperado paid $5.60. His $180,000 payday pushed his lifetime earnings to better than $420,000, the lion's share coming in his three stateside efforts for 3 Plus U. Although Kenis lost his wife, Audrey, in June, he continues to win races with Frankel. Besides Super Quercus, the team has raced such standouts as Mazel Trick, The Seven Seas, Northern Quest, Uncharted Haven, and Sixieme Sens.

Frankel, who summered at Saratoga, has nevertheless captured four stakes at Del Mar this season, and chalked up his second victory in the Del Mar Derby, 11 years after Eternity Star made the winner's circle. Speaking from Los Angeles the next day, he was understated in assessing the victory. "He seems like a nice horse; he keeps winning. I've gotten a lot of good horses off those small tracks in Europe." Frankel added the Hollywood Derby (gr. I) in December is the ultimate target for Inesperado this year, with a possible stop at Oak Tree along the way. Bred by Barbara Moser and Rachele Lamy, Inesperado has won seven of 12 starts. The role player is on a roll.

Voodoo Can Do

The geographic ghetto that is California racing today has had trouble attracting eastern stars to even its premier races. Conditioner Christophe Clement, however, sent Voodoo Dancer west last summer, where she ran a courageous fourth behind Golden Apples and Affluent in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT). The daughter of Kingmambo has subsequently visited Belmont, Keeneland, Aqueduct, Hollywood Park, Churchill Downs, and Saratoga before finding her way back to Del Mar as a 4-year-old to compete in the Sept. 8, $150,000 Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT). The trip was worthwhile.

The winner of this year's Locust Grove Handicap and Beaugay Handicap (both gr. IIIT) settled comfortably near the back of the pack under Desormeaux in the seven-horse field while Skywriting and Old Money carved out modest fractions of :24.66, :48.89, and 1:12.56. Janet, the second choice in the wagering behind Voodoo Dancer, was along the rail in third for much of the going, but failed to punch in at crunch time. Desormeaux started Voodoo Dancer going on the last turn, and she quickly stuck pins into the rest of the field, going between two horses, then outside another pair to cruise to the lead. She was much too good, drawing off by two lengths in 1:41.56 for the 1 1/16 miles. I'm the Business ran on impressively from behind to snatch second by a nose from Skywriting.

Green Hills Farm's Voodoo Dancer paid $4.40, and is now five-for-five at the Palomar distance and three-for-five this year. She has bankrolled $855,588, winning nine times in 15 starts. Bred in Kentucky by Lazy E Ranch, Voodoo Dancer will no doubt be taking her show on the road again, and seems destined to step her way into millionaire status presently.

The Stubborn Mule

Del Mar found a unique way to keep its clientele on track for the entirety of its Sept. 8 program, as the seaside oval hosted The Mule Duel following its Thoroughbred card. This was the much-anticipated match race between the queen of the mules, Black Ruby, and her male counterpart, Taz, who had defeated the queen in their last encounter in Northern California two weeks prior. The non-betting exhibition was witnessed by an estimated 8,000 patrons, adorned with giveaway buttons touting their favorite ass.

Del Mar put up a $10,000 purse, to be split 60-40. Under regular rider Jim Burns and at equal weights (Black Ruby gave Taz eight pounds in the recent loss), Black Ruby broke slightly quicker from the inside gate and opened a half-length lead 50 yards into the 400-yard contest. From there the 10-year-old widened her lead, drawing off by two lengths at the end to the delight of most in the crowd. "She's just a beautiful little girl and a great athlete," said co-owner Mary McPherson.

"She loves to be hooked and she doesn't want to let anyone by her," Burns added. "She has so much heart."

Black Ruby and Taz, who was ridden by "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel, will face each other again Sept. 14 at Fairplex in a showdown open to wagering. b

Surf and Turf
With two days left on the Del Mar slate, Pat Valenzuela is home and dry in the jockey standings, winning his second straight Southern California title. Valenzuela returned from suspension last winter, and has been on fire, first at Hollywood Park, then Del Mar...Bob Baffert will double his nearest competitor, Bill Spawr, in the trainers' race. Baffert now has a six-year streak going as Del Mar's leading conditioner. By Lenny Shulman

(Chart, Equibase)

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Black Ruby, Taz Set for Two-Mule Del Mar Battle
Date Posted: 9/6/02 5:22:05 PM
Last Updated: 9/9/02 7:47:41 AM

Mule racing moves to the big stage Sept. 8 when Del Mar hosts a match race between Black Ruby, a winner of 47 races, and Taz, who upset her last time out at the California State Fair in Sacramento.

The match race is scheduled as a non-wagering event following the regular Del Mar program.

The TV Games Network will cover the race live from 6-6:30 p.m. (PDT). There will be an expanded edition of the TVG-produced racing show on FOX Sports Net 2, which runs from 4-6 p.m. Pacific time.

Black Ruby will be ridden by her regular jockey, Jim Burns. "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel has the call aboard Taz. The race is at 400 yards.

"Black Ruby has become somewhat of a national celebrity both in and out of racing circles," TVG vice president/executive producer Tony Allevato said. "Because of the amount of attention this race has received, we felt compelled to devote a special telecast to it. TVG and FOX Sports Net 2 has followed this close rivalry, and we're delighted to bring our viewers the match race that will determine who has the best ass in the country."

Mule racing has become quite popular at the Northern California fairs. Mules are among the "emerging breeds" that compete at the tracks in the summer and fall.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

California Joins Growing List of States to Ban EPO
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 8/22/02 8:15:20 AM
Last Updated: 8/23/02 3:59:31 PM

Erythropoietin, a human medication designed to increase the concentration of red blood cells that is rumored to be in use on racehorses, has been added to the list of prohibited veterinary substances on racing premises by the California Horse Racing Board.

The board voted unanimously at its Wednesday meeting to take the action, adding California to a growing list of states taking similar action including Kentucky, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

Dr. Ronald Jensen, CHRB equine medical director, recommended the addition of Erythropoietin, known as EPO, and its closely related medication, Darbepoietin, to the list of banned substances although a test has not been developed yet for accurate detection of the drugs.

"There are substances that may be in use at racetracks that are difficult to detect under current laboratory testing methods," he said. Jensen said that officials continued to work on finding a successful method for testing with current technology.

While EPO has proven effective at producing red blood cells on humans who have the physiology to keep the concentration under control, Jensen said horses can not.

"In theory, the use of the drug would improve the stamina of the horse, therefore improve performance," Jensen reported. "There is evidence that serious adverse effects could result to the horse under the administration of these drugs. Adverse effects would include severe hemoconcentration, and an immune response leading to a severe anemia that may be unresponsive to treatment."

Under questioning from commissioner Roger Licht, Jensen said that he believed EPO and Darbepoietin are in use on backstretches in the state. He said the rule change would give investigators another method of discouragement.

On other matters, CHRB staff analyst John Reagan reported that account deposit wagering continues to grow in the state, and now accounts for 6.25 percent of the state's overall handle. The most recent statewide total is $86.2 million, wagered since ADW took effect in January.

Del Mar executive vice president Craig Fravel defended the track's decision to not accept betting on an Aug. 18 mule race featuring the popular Black Ruby at Ferndale, saying that Del Mar and the state's horsemen were hurt by minus pools in so-called minor breed races last summer. He said the track lost $250,000 on various minus pools involving mule, Arabian and Appaloosa races simulcast by Del Mar.

Responding to criticism from commissioner John Harris that the track was being "arrogant," Fravel said Del Mar would offer a special non-wagering match race between Black Ruby, the champion of the mule circuit, and her major rival, Taz.

Taz will be ridden in the race by Cowboy Jack Kaenel, the rider of 1982 Preakness winner Aloma's Ruler, Kaenel confirmed.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Del Mar Schedules Match Race For Mules Black Ruby, Taz
Date Posted: 8/18/02 9:58:14 PM
Last Updated: 8/22/02 1:13:34 PM

From track reports
Black Ruby, muledom's star of stars, will make her first appearance ever at Del Mar for a match race Sunday, Sept. 8, with arch-rival Taz for a purse of $10,000.

Black Ruby, who has become a cult heroine as she stacks up win after win at various California fair meets, has a record of 46 victories in 52 races. Her fame has expanded beyond the boundaries of California through being featured in Sports Illustrated.

The race will be at 400 yards and will be the final event on that Sunday card. It will be a non-betting exhibition, and the purse distribution has not been established yet.

Copyright © 2002 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.