07/23/2006 11:00PM

Black Ruby on the scene


The queen is coming to Santa Rosa.

Fourteen-year-old Black Ruby, the legendary mule whose series of races with Taz once earned them the TVG Viewer's Choice Award for rivalry of the year, will at least work at Santa Rosa.

If everything goes perfectly, she might be ready to race there on closing weekend, although owners Sonny and Mary McPherson believe it more likely that she would make her first start of the year at Ferndale or Fresno.

"It's a remote possibility," Sonny McPherson said. "Unless everything fits, we're not going to run her at Santa Rosa."

The Sonoma County Fair manager, Corey Oakley, is considering the possibility of parading Black Ruby, the biggest attraction on the fair circuit over the past decade, should she not be ready to race.

Black Ruby is a Sonoma County resident at the McPherson ranch near Healdsburg.

Hampered by an arthritic ankle and the emergence of Sarah Nelson and Smokin Joe in the past two years, Black Ruby is no longer the pre-eminent mule in the sport. But she remains the most popular and talked-about runner on the fair circuit.

"Mules can run until they are 16, and we'd like her to run her whole career," Sonny McPherson said. "She would have to run first, second, or third in a race this year to come back next year."

"Everything's a big 'if' with her," Mary McPherson said. "If she can't race this year, her career is over."

Black Ruby last raced Oct. 13 at Fresno.

Although Black Ruby has been treated with arthritis medicine since the end of the 2005 racing season, the McPhersons did not necessarily plan to run her this year.

"Every time, we'd leave for the track, she'd run up and down the fence chasing us," Sonny said. "She'd be waiting at the corner when we got back, and she'd run evenly with the truck all the way up our driveway. That's when we realized she still wanted to compete.

"So far, everything's breaking well. The main thing is we're behind schedule. She's a little plump, and with mules, it's tough to get the weight off.

"She worked 350 yards at Solano on July 15, and it took a lot out of her, but she'll work early at Santa Rosa. She needs at least a couple more works. If she's in shape, we'll look for a conditioned race, but she won't run against Sarah Nelson or Smokin Joe."

One easy win, one not-so-easy

It wasn't as easy as it may have looked for Russell Baze to sweep the closing weekend stakes at Solano.

Well, maybe Sunday was, as A. V. Flynn improved her record to 2 for 2 with a 4 3/4-length victory in the Mick Freese Solano County Juvenile Filly Stakes for 2-year-old Cal-bred fillies.

A. V. Flynn, who broke a Pleasanton track record for five furlongs in her debut, grabbed the lead out of the gate and was never threatened.

Catch My Fancy's victory in Saturday's Fairfield Stakes for 3-year-old fillies may appear somewhat routine when reading the chart of the race. It was, however, anything but.

First, Catch My Fancy dumped Baze at the start of the post parade and ran off.

Once the race started, she showed no speed. She picked up momentum on the turn to become a factor but then had to swerve when Brenda Meova broke down at the quarter pole.

She then rallied between horses and was bumped by favored Yessiremychickadee, brushing with Come On Margaret, who then took up in tight quarters. Despite the adversity, she was all business in the lane, winning by a half-length over River Song, who got first run and a clean trip with a three-wide rally.

Landeros back in action

Apprentice Chris Landeros, who injured a knee after his mount Shytrando tried to leap the fallen Paint Me Quick in a July 1 race at Pleasanton, returned to action Sunday at Solano. He was unplaced in two races.

Landeros, who won eight races at Stockton and had four wins in the first four days at Pleasanton, will ride at Santa Rosa.