03/07/2012 4:51PM

Aqueduct: Ruffino finds lucrative spot in Friday feature


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Why be 8-5 for $34,000 when you can be 3-5 for $57,000?

The no-brainer answer to that question is why Ruffino will be the shortest price on Friday’s card at Aqueduct.

Ruffino, an erstwhile stakes winner who was beaten less than a length by Haynesfield in the 2009 Empire Classic, was entered with stablemate Bernie the Maestro in a $15,000 “beaten” claimer for open company on Thursday, but the 9-year-old gelding will be held out in favor of a more lucrative spot in Friday’s fifth race, an optional-claiming race for statebreds.

Five of the seven entered, including Ruffino, are in for the optional claim price, so in effect this route at a mile and 70 yards is a $14,000 restricted claimer worth $57,000. Ruffino would move close to the $500,000 earnings plateau if he can win for the 11th time and take down a $34,200 payday under David Cohen.

“Ruffino is going to run Friday,” confirmed David Jacobson, who entered the last four weeks of the meet trailing Rick Dutrow by one win for the inner-track training title. “He’s doing good . . . good enough to beat these. It’s been a long time since he won, but this is the right spot for him.”

Among Ruffino’s rivals is Diamond District, a multiple winner at the 2009-10 winter meet who was freshened up after racing at Finger Lakes through the second half of last year. He won back-to-back starts against low-level open claimers in February after returning to Gary Contessa’s barn, and is the most conceivable threat to Ruffino as he breaks from the rail with apprentice Samuel Camacho Jr.

Awesome Merger, Dakota Roadhouse, Loyal Leader, Quietism and With a Cape also entered.