08/01/2010 6:00PM

Malibu Prayer extends hot hand for Velazquez, Pletcher

Barbara D. Livingston
Malibu Prayer (right) outbattles favored Unrivaled Belle to win the Ruffian at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Malibu Prayer added to jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher’s hot start to the 2010 Saratoga meeting while also preventing Bill Mott from sweeping the weekend’s two Grade 1 stakes with her gate-to-wire, 1 3/4-length victory over the odds-on Unrivaled Belle in Sunday’s $250,000 Ruffian Stakes.

Malibu Prayer’s triumph in the Grade 1 Ruffian was the fifth stakes tally of the meet for Velazquez and his second Grade 1 win. He also combined with Pletcher to capture the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks with Devil May Care eight days earlier.
Mott had won the Grade 1 Diana with Proviso on Saturday.

The complexion of the 1 1/8-mile Ruffian may have changed shortly after the start when Malibu Prayer came out slightly to bump Unrivaled Belle, knocking her momentarily off stride and causing the 3-5 choice to stumble.

Malibu Prayer took advantage of the incident and her inside post to take control of the race into the clubhouse turn with Unrivaled Belle recovering quickly enough to force the issue from her outside. Malibu Prayer maintained a clear lead exiting the backstretch, at which point jockey Kent Desormeaux called upon Unrivaled Belle to go after the leader. But Malibu Prayer was equal to the task, turning back her lone challenger before edging away to a clear-cut victory.

Unrivaled Belle, who chased Malibu Prayer’s stablemate Life At Ten with similar results when second best in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in her previous start, finished nearly 10 lengths clear of Classofsixtythree, who was up for third while never a threat to the top pair.
Malibu Prayer, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Malibu Moon owned by Edward Evans, ran nine furlongs in 1:48.14 over a fast track and paid $6.70. The victory also completed a huge weekend for Evans, who won the Grade 1 Jim Dandy with A Little Warm the previous afternoon.

“She ran a great race,” said Pletcher’s assistant, Tristan Barry. “When Unrivaled Belle stumbled at the start, that gave us a bit of an upper hand. She was able to get into rhythm and just took it from there.”

Mott said the incident after the start could definitely have affected the final outcome of the race.

“She took a pretty good bump and stumbled and it could have made a difference,” said Mott after watching the head-on replay of the break. “We might have been able to put a little more pressure on the winner than we did, been lapped on her going to the first turn instead of letting her open some daylight. I’m not sure what they would have done but I think the stewards should at least have taken a look at it.”