10/19/2011 2:55PM

Breeders' Cup: Ruler On Ice may be sharper of two Belmont winners

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
The often-temperamental Ruler On Ice has been training well at Monmouth Park.

While the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes is known as the Test of the Champion, in recent years many of its winners have had a strikingly inglorious record coming out of that race. Since 2000, Commendable, Empire Maker, Sarava, Afleet Alex, Jazil, Rags to Riches, and Da’ Tara never won another race. Drosselmeyer, last year’s winner, got back to the winner’s circle this year against lesser company, and Ruler On Ice is winless in three tries since his upset victory four months ago.

But this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs will be notable in that the last two Belmont winners, Drosselmeyer and Ruler On Ice, are at least in the 1 1/4-mile race, which is better than you can say for the last two winners of both the Kentucky Derby (Animal Kingdom and Super Saver) and Preakness Stakes (Shackleford and Lookin At Lucky).

Both Drosselmeyer and Ruler On Ice rate at least longshot looks, if for no other reason than you know they can get the distance. Drosselmeyer was second to Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time out, but it is Ruler On Ice who may very well have the most upside. He comes off a sharp, second-place effort against To Honor and Serve in the Pennsylvania Derby, showed a new, off-the-pace style in that race that gives him more options, and will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who won last year’s Classic, also at Churchill Downs, aboard Blame, who sent Zenyatta to the lone defeat of her magnificent career.

Though Ruler On Ice, a gelding, has not won since the Belmont, he has run three decent races. He was a deceptively good third in the Haskell after diving to a dead rail in the stretch, and was fourth in the Travers Stakes after appearing uncomfortable racing inside horses the whole way.

In the Pennsylvania Derby, Ruler On Ice was taken back early on by Gomez, then rallied outside horses and advanced from seventh to second in the final quarter-mile. Though beaten 2 1/4 lengths by To Honor and Serve, Ruler On Ice was 3 1/2 lengths clear of the rest of the field. And under the conditions of that race, Ruler On Ice had to give To Honor and Serve 10 pounds (124-114). In the Classic, they each will carry 122 pounds, and get four pounds from their elders.

“We think he has a legitimate shot in the Classic,” Kelly Breen, the trainer of Ruler On Ice, said Wednesday from his base at Monmouth Park. “His last race was great. It was on a speed-biased track, he gave To Honor and Serve 10 pounds, and Garrett got a chance to know him. With that new dimension, he should do well, especially since we think there’s going to be enough speed in the Classic.”

One thing that has stood in the way of Ruler On Ice’s advancement has been Ruler On Ice himself. He has shown himself, at times, to be stark-raving mad. Even after the Belmont win, he spooked when the flowers were draped over his withers. He’s been a project for Breen. But Breen believes – perhaps is even crossing his fingers – that Ruler On Ice is maturing.

“He really likes training at Monmouth,” Breen said. “We had some trouble with him in New York during the winter. He would try to dump the rider going to the track in the mornings, things like that. My barn at Monmouth is right near the gap, and he’s content. He hasn’t done anything ignorant for a while.”

Breen said he was hoping to be stabled at Churchill Downs in a barn that is near the gap to the track.

Regardless, though, “He’ll go out with a pony, and a gallop mate, so there will be enough surrounding him to try and emulate everything we do here,” Breen said.

“He’s going to have two more works at Monmouth, and then we’ll ship,” Breen said. “Hopefully when we tighten things down, get him race-ready, he doesn’t do anything dumb.”