01/08/2011 11:57AM

Mother Ruth takes to new track in Kalookan Queen

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Benoit Photo
Mother Ruth (right) leads her Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Gilded Gem home in Friday's Kalookan Queen.

ARCADIA, Calif. – For much of Mother Ruth’s career, trainer Bob Baffert has sent her out of town, to Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Saratoga, Aqueduct, Lone Star, and Calder, desirous of keeping her on dirt. Now that Santa Anita has returned to a dirt surface, Mother Ruth can feel right at home.

On Friday, Mother Ruth led a one-two Baffert sweep of the $81,150 Kalookan Queen Handicap, holding off Gilded Gem, another 5-year-old mare, to win by a half-length. It was her sixth win in 14 starts, and fourth in eight starts on dirt. With jockey Mike Smith aboard, Mother Ruth was timed in 1:14.61 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

“She’s just a different mare on the dirt,” Baffert said. “She was pretty explosive today. There’s no reason to leave California now. This is a great place to run, we’ve got a great dirt track, and now we’ve got decent weather.”

Mother Ruth led from gate to wire, as she did in the Lou Rowan Stakes during the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood Park on Oct. 3. In her lone start since then, she was second in the Playa Del Rey at Hollywood Park.

“Last time she sort of walked away from the gate,” Baffert said.

Wait was worth it for Fast Master

It took Fast Master until Friday to finally make his debut, at age 4, but he tried to make up for lost time, speeding six furlongs in 1:07.95 in an eye-catching effort. He covered the final quarter-mile in 23.20 seconds.

Baffert had high hopes for Fast Master, and he was bet accordingly, going off as the 6-5 favorite. His last two drills before the race were both the best of the morning for five furlongs, 57.60 seconds from the gate on Dec. 24, and 57.20 on Jan. 1.

“I tried to get him to work in 58 and change. But I can’t do it,” Baffert said. “He can’t work slow. You can’t slow him down.”

Fast Master is by Tiznow. He cost owner Kaleem Shah $435,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2008. Before he raced, though, Baffert had him gelded.

“He was a real rogue. He wouldn’t train,” Baffert said.

California suits Unbridle’s Dream

Last winter, Unbridle’s Dream was part of trainer Steve Asmussen’s contingent at Fair Grounds. He ran three times all winter, all in races rained off the turf to the main track during a wet winter.

“I actually entered him about nine times and just ran him in those races because I got tired of scratching him,” Asmussen said. “When I first got out here and it was raining, I thought it was all his fault.”

Unbridle’s Dream is part of Asmussen’s Santa Anita group this winter, and he made his West Coast debut a winning one on Friday when leading from start to finish in a third-level allowance going one mile on turf. Now 5, Unbridle’s Dream has raced 15 times, but has had several gaps in his training. Friday’s race was only his second outing in the last six months. Earlier in his career, he missed 10 months of the 2009 campaign.

“Just silly little things,” Asmussen said of the layoffs. “Nothing serious. He’s shown us he’s capable of some real nice ability.”