05/10/2005 11:00PM

A chilly Ruis warms up in a hurry


AUBURN, Wash. - Big things were expected of rider Mick Ruis when he arrived at Emerald Downs after successful stints in Southern California and Arizona, but he began the meet with just three wins from his first 38 mounts.

Ruis heated up with three more wins from 10 mounts last Friday and Saturday, however, and he caught fire with five wins from 10 mounts on Sunday.

Ruis, who is just 18, became the 10th rider to win five races on a single card at Emerald. Only Kevin Radke has won six, a feat he accomplished in 2002.

"I wasn't getting discouraged," Ruis said. "I knew things would come around eventually, but I'm glad they came around when they did. Now I feel like I'm on the right track, and I'm hoping to have a great meet."

Ruis capped off his big day with a score aboard Marva Jean in the $40,000 Hastings Park Handicap for older fillies and mares at six furlongs. Marva Jean briefly stalked the pace of Only Oralee and Spirit to Spare from the outside, but she was only a head back after a quarter-mile in 21.80 seconds, and she was two lengths in front after a half-mile in 44. She opened a commanding five-length advantage with a furlong to run, then dug in to hold off the furious late rally of Sariano to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:09.

The 5-year-old Marva Jean went off as the 3-1 second choice after winning a 5 1/2-furlong allowance prep here on opening weekend. She might have been favored for the Mother's Day feature if bettors had been privy to a nugget of inside information.

"She is named after my mother," said owner Chris Randall. "My mother came out to watch her run, so I guess it was only fitting that she won."

Marva Jean placed in three stakes last year while coming from well off the pace, but she was winless in nine starts. This season she is 2 for 2, and she raced up front early in both wins.

"Chris and I have had a million conversations about how she should run, but in the end we just left it up to Mick," said trainer Frank Lucarelli. "It looked like he just pretty much let her run her race, but I'm glad she relaxed for a little while before she took off. She has a big turn of foot, but she can stop pretty quickly and I was a little worried there at the end."

Lucarelli said his own confidence grew with each win that Ruis notched on Sunday.

"I always like riding a guy when he's hot," Lucarelli said. "Mick came into the paddock telling us all that he was going to win his fifth race on our horse, and that's the way I like my riders to feel. When they are confident like that, they tend to make the right decisions."

Norm's Nephew targets Pepsi Cola

Trainer Jimmy Orr said Norm's Nephew is stakes-bound after he crushed a good field of allowance runners here in Saturday's six-furlong feature for 3-year-olds. Norm's Nephew, a son of Jazzing Around and My Lady Mary, won off by nearly seven lengths in 1:09.40. In his previous start on April 22, he defeated maiden special weight company by more than two lengths in 1:03.20 for 5 1/2 furlongs, and he ran second to maiden special weight company in his lone start at 2.

Orr said Norm's Nephew will go next in the $50,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs on May 30.

"I think we've got to go in the stakes now," said Orr. "I was tempted to run him in the first stakes for 3-year-olds, but it made sense to give him a little more seasoning. I've liked him all along, though. Nobody could touch him in his works last year, but he had some health issues and I didn't get him started until the end of the year."

Norm's Nephew should fit rather snugly in the Pepsi Cola. In last weekend's allowance, he beat Swiss Creek by 6 3/4 lengths, and it was another length back to Tomorrow's Turn in third. Tomorrow's Turn lost to Beau Maggie by only a neck in his previous start, and Beau Maggie came back to win the six-furlong Auburn Stakes on May 1.

* Saturday's all-sources handle of $2,656,270 was the best in the track's 10-year history for Kentucky Derby Day. Of that total, $665,590 was wagered at Emerald and its 20 satellite sites on the Kentucky Derby.

* Trainer Grant Forster said last season's top 2-year-old filly at Emerald, A Classic Life, is slated to return to action this Saturday in a six-furlong overnight handicap worth $40,000 at Arlington Park. A Classic Life is undefeated after three starts last year at Emerald.

* Seattle's Best Joe, who was named the top Washington-bred 2-year-old last season, is sidelined with a bruise in his hoof. Trainer Howard Belvoir said he will probably return in California, as the Emerald sprint stakes will be over by the time he is ready to run.