07/14/2011 3:26PM

Ellis Park: Native Ruler back to defend Don Bernhardt title

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Native Ruler has earned more than $567,000 since being claimed for $25,000 by owner Maggi Moss 3 1/2 years ago.

When owners claim horses, they’re hopeful that in a challenging business their new acquisitions can at least make back the price they paid, perhaps a little more.

Native Ruler, a 7-year-old Elusive Quality horse owned by Maggi Moss, has done a lot more than that. A $25,000 claim in December 2007, he has since made more than $567,000 for her in the 3 1/2 years that have followed.

On Saturday, he can add to that total when he starts as the probable favorite against a full field of 12 in the $50,000 Don Bernhardt at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Ellis Park main track.

Trained since joining the Moss stable by Chris Richard, Native Ruler is far and away the most accomplished entrant and the defending champion, having won the 2010 Don Bernhardt in his only race at Ellis Park.

Moss – winning at a 36 percent rate with her runners in 2011, what she calls the best year ever – admits that when she claimed Native Ruler “everything came together, and we got lucky.”

Native Ruler appears just as good this year as last. He has run Beyer Speed Figures of 93 or higher in all five of his races this year, including when he won a seven-furlong allowance race June 10 at Churchill Downs.

Jamie Theriot rides.

After the Don Bernhardt, Moss expects to run Native Ruler just one more time Aug. 6 in the $85,000 Sen. Robert C. Byrd Memorial at Mountaineer Park on West Virginia Derby Day.

She wants to retire him sound, before moving him on to his next career as a stallion, mentioning Indiana, Pennsylvania, or Iowa as states where he could stand at stud.

A regular foe of Native Ruler, Agastache, heads the opposition. Second to Native Ruler in this race last year, he also has met Native Ruler in three of his six races this year, while always finishing behind that rival.

He was just a half-length behind him when a wide third in a June 10 allowance race at Churchill Downs in their last matchup. Jon Court rides for trainer Rick Hiles.

Other leading contenders include recent allowance winners Auspicious Risk and Phat Day; Good Lord, a troubled fourth in the Wild and Wonderful Stakes on June 18 at Charles Town; and Grand Traverse, an 8-year-old gelding who is 3 for 3 over the Ellis Park strip.