09/06/2001 11:00PM

Add Beautiful Pleasure to star-studded Ruffian


ELMONT, N.Y. - In a move that deviates from past years, Beautiful Pleasure will run in next Saturday's $300,000 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont rather than wait for next month's richer Beldame.

In the last two years, after running in both Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga, Beautiful Pleasure skipped the Grade 1 Ruffian to run in the Beldame. This year, she may take the reverse approach en route to a third straight appearance in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, part of the World Thoroughbred Championships, to be run here on Oct. 27.

Trainer John Ward said he and owner John Oxley were enthused with Beautiful Pleasure's second-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign last month at Saratoga. It was her best race since finishing second to Riboletta in last October's Beldame.

"I think she's on top of her game. She really looks like she's running well right now. She's got down to fighting weight," Ward said Friday from Keeneland. "As good as she is right now, she might be hard to hold down for another five weeks."

Before leaving Saratoga, Beautiful Pleasure worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 over the Oklahoma training track. She was then shipped to Keeneland along with the rest of Ward's string. Beautiful Pleasure, along with Jerome Handicap candidate Hero's Tribute, will ship to Belmont on Thursday.

"I think dropping back to a mile and a sixteenth, as solid as she is, they're going to have her to beat," Ward said. "She's always run very well coming off this racetrack going to Belmont."

The Ruffian is coming up a monster race with Country Hideaway, Critical Eye, Gourmet Girl, Jostle, March Magic, Printemps, Secret Status, Shine Again, and Spain expected to start.

Lukas runners prep for next weekend

Scorpion, the Jim Dandy winner, and Spain, last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, prepped for graded stakes engagements next weekend with solid workouts on Friday at Belmont.

Scorpion, who will run in Saturday's Grade 2 Jerome Handicap, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.45 over the main track while Spain, prepping for the Grade 1 Ruffian, covered six furlongs in 1:13.21.

After finishing a dull sixth under Mark Guidry in the Travers, Scorpion will be reunited with Jerry Bailey in the Jerome. Bailey is 4 for 5 aboard Scorpion while other jockeys are 0 for 10 on him.

"[Bailey] seems to be the only one to get run out of him," said Mike Maker, assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

In the Travers, Scorpion appeared to be closer to the pace than he prefers under jockey Mark Guidry. Maker said Scorpion has a history of throat troubles and he may have displaced his palate when Guidry took a hold of him entering the first turn.

"He has a little throat [problem] and when you take a hold of those kind of horses those things can happen," Maker said. "We'll just throw that one out and move on. I think he should like the one-turn mile here. It should suit him well."

Others pointing to the Jerome are Bay Head King, Burning Roma, Express Tour, Fleet Foot, Hero's Tribute, I Love Silver, Illusioned, and Iron Mask. Bowmna's Band is possible.

Spain is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Ballerina, her first start after a four-month layoff.

"She's doing well," Maker said. "She should put in a pretty solid race. She probably needed the out. We should be in the driver's seat this race."

Ruff retired

Ruff, winner of the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes as a 2-year-old, has been retired, her trainer, David Donk, said Friday.

According to Donk, Ruff is 60 percent paralyzed on one side of her throat. "Surgery is always a possibility but she was already a graded-stakes winner so we don't see the need to experiment," said Donk, who scoped Ruff following her 11th place finish in the Lake Placid on Aug. 20.

Ruff, a daughter of Clever Trick owned and bred by Robert Spiegel, had a career record of 4-2-2 from 12 starts for earnings of $199,270. She won three stakes including the Jr. Champion Stakes at Monmouth and the Via Borghese earlier this year at Gulfstream.

Sharp Performance headed to Jamaica

While Donk retires one stakes winner, he is mapping out the next start for another. Sharp Performance, winner of the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes in July and the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Secretariat, will run next in the Grade 2, $200,000 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 23.

Donk had also been considering the Canadian International, but opted to keep Sharp Performance with 3-year-olds for now.

"My better judgment tells me to run against 3-year-olds," Donk said. "He's still pretty green, still got a lot to learn. He's doing very well and he'll run there with Johnny [Velazquez] back up. It was a really good race for him in Chicago. He's a horse for the future."

On Friday, Sharp Performance breezed four furlongs in 49.28 seconds over the Belmont training track.