By Sarah Mace
Highway Star and Bar of Gold, a pair of accomplished Chester and Mary Broman homebreds, finished a half-length apart in Saturday’s competitive and intriguing renewal of the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Stakes run at one mile in the slop at Belmont Park. The New York-bred, Broman-bred exacta paid $29.40.
Highway Star (Girolamo), who is trained by Rodrigo Ubillo, came into the Ruffian in sharp form, having rallied to a game half-length victory in the 7-furlong, Grade 3 Distaff Handicap on April 9. The 4-year-old had won four of her last five starts and was seeking her third graded victory in as many tries in the Ruffian.
Five-year-old Bar of Gold (Medaglia d’Oro), trained by John Kimmel, came into the sloppy contest for her second start after a winter break from early December to mid-April. She boasted a 5-for-5 record over off-going, not to mention a staggering career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in the slop when she won the Empire Distaff last October by 18 lengths.
Away well under regular rider Angel Arroyo at odds of 5-1, Highway Star settled in third just to the inside of High Ridge Road, 1 1/2 lengths off the pace set by Indulgent, who ran a quarter-mile in 23.84 and a half in 48.11. Saving ground and apparently unfazed by all the kick-back, Highway Star navigated the turn smoothly and, at the head of the stretch, set up for the drive in the two-path, just outside the puddling at the rail.
Meanwhile, Bar of Gold, the 6-5 favorite, took back from the fray in the early stages, running well off the rail and at one point even trailing the field. Advancing to fourth, she fanned out six wide for the charge home.
Pacesetter Indulgent ran out of steam in the stretch, leaving High Ridge Road to fight it out with the Broman runners, Highway Star charging at the rail and Bar of Gold flying home in the middle of the track. It was no match.
The Broman pair converged in the final furlong, Highway Star coming off the rail under left-handed urging, and Bar of Gold coming in under a right-handed whip. Highway Star won the brief duel, scoring by a length and a half.
Bar of Gold finished 2 1/4 lengths clear of High Ridge Road in third. Verve’s Tale and Indulgent completed the order of finish. After six-furlongs in 1:12.49, the final time for the one-turn mile was 1:39.05. [VIDEO REPLAY]
“This filly ran really great,” said jockey Arroyo. “I was concerned a little because the other filly [Bar of Gold], has ran five times on a sloppy track and won five times, so she loves the slop. I wasn’t as sure about my filly, but she took to it today. She’s a real racehorse.”
Ubillo added, “We got a very good trip, Angel did a great job. He saved ground and we talked about doing that before the race. The speed had been strong all day but the last two races it died out a little bit so we decided not to change our tactics and it worked out. She’s good enough she can do anything. We’re very happy.”
Ubillo said he would just relish this win for now, and will map out a next start for his talented charge down the line.
Highway Star, who has now won seven of ten lifetime starts and finished third once, began her career as a 3-year-old, with back-to-back victories at Belmont last May and July. Unplaced in her first stakes try, the Statue of Liberty division of the NYSS at Saratoga, she finished third in the Fleet Indian at the Spa before reeling off wins in a second-level state-bred allowance race, the Staten Island division of the New York Stallion Stakes and Go For Wand.
Unplaced in the Ladies Handicap in January, she has more than atoned with back-to-back victories in the Grade 3 Distaff and Grade 2 Ruffian. The Ruffian victory brings Highway Star’s earnings to $614,000.
Highway Star is one of three winners, and only stakes winner, out of Stolen Star, a multiple stakes-placed homebred for the Bromans, who is also a half sister to their multiple stakes winner and Friend or Foe, now a sire.
Highway Star’s sire Girolamo, a Grade 1-winning son of A.P. Indy owned by Darley, began his stud career in 2012 at Becky Thomas and Dennis Narlinger’s Sequel Stallions New York before relocating to Kentucky.
Bar of Gold is the first foal and only starter to date out of Khancord Kid, a Broman homebred by Lemon Drop Kid, also trained by Kimmel, who captured the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes on turf at Gulfstream Park turf in 2010. Chester Broman purchased Khancord Kid’s dam Confidently, an unraced daughter of Storm Cat, at Keeneland’s 2000 January sale of horses of all ages for $1 million.