09/11/2009 12:00AM

Native Ruler primed for big race in stakes

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Sunny Taylor / Coady Photography
Native Ruler's best career race came in a 1 1/2-length win in the King Cotton at Oaklawn.

Native Ruler ran the best race of his career back in January, and there are reasons to believe he might be sitting on a similar kind of effort Sunday at Zia Park when he starts as the probable favorite in the $100,000 Premiere Handicap.

Native Ruler is the 122-pound highweight off a quick win in the $75,000 Prairie Meadows Sprint on Aug. 15. The race was his first since June, and he covered six furlongs in a sharp 1:08.20 to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"I think he's rounding into his best form," said Chris Richard, who trains Native Ruler for Maggi Moss. "I think he's sitting on a better race than the last one, but he needs to run better than his last race because it's a pretty solid field."

The Premiere, for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, is the first stakes of the Zia meet. The field of eight includes stakes winners Ez Dreamer, Sok Sok, and Rapper S S. Greeley's Conquest, who was entered, will be scratched after he "got a touch of colic," on Thursday morning, trainer Gary Thomas said.

Native Ruler has long been a solid stakes performer, but this winter at Oaklawn Park he reached a pinnacle when he won the $50,000 King Cotton with a 104 Beyer. He won by 1 1/2 lengths over Semaphore Man, who later in the meet won the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. As for Native Ruler, he did not turn up in the entries again until the end of May.

"He had had some foot problems," Richard said. "We had some setbacks with him, but right now he's doing very well. He's coming into the race in very good shape physically."

Native Ruler worked a bullet half-mile in 47.40 seconds at Prairie Meadows on Sept. 6 in his final prep for the Premiere. Terry Thompson, who was aboard for the Prairie Meadows Sprint, has the mount Sunday.

Native Ruler could get a nice pace to chase on account of the presence of front-runners Ez Dreamer, the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap winner in June who breaks from the rail; Loves Bonus, a wire-to-wire winner over five furlongs in an overnight stakes last out at Ruidoso Downs; and Rapper S S, a winner of his last three starts.

"I think with that much speed, we'll probably try to see him get a good stalking position," Richard said.