07/13/2016 9:50AM

Rookie trainer gets leg up from father

Shigeki Kikkawa
Shelbe Ruis, 25, is training some high-dollar 2-year-olds bought by her father, Mick.

Trainer Shelbe Ruis will have a high-profile rookie season at Del Mar this summer.

Ruis, 25, has a 14-horse stable consisting primarily of 2-year-olds purchased in recent months by her father, Mick, at sales in California, Florida, and Maryland. The group includes more than $2.1 million in acquisitions, led by a Medaglia d’Oro colt bought for $600,000 in May and a Union Rags filly purchased for $375,000 in April.

The runners have been gearing toward Del Mar.

“My dad is excited about it,” Shelbe Ruis said on a recent morning at Santa Anita. “My dad has been waiting to get horses and ready for me to get my license.”

Ruis started her first horse in early April at Santa Anita and won for the first time in May with the maiden Rockport Babe, who is owned by her parents. At the time, Mick Ruis was actively buying at sales, building the team. Five of the 2-year-olds each cost $100,000 or more.

Shelbe Ruis had four starters in the final two months of the Santa Anita spring-summer meeting, which ended Sunday. Her first starter of the Del Mar meeting is the oldest horse in the barn – Nextdoorneighbor, 9, is entered in Friday’s fourth race, for $20,000 claimers.

Mick Ruis has financed his investment in racing through a partial sale of his company, American Scaffold, earlier this year. The company provides scaffolding for the U.S. Navy’s shipyards. Ruis said he has budgeted $3.5 million to buy horses this year and had no hesitation in bankrolling the launch of his daughter’s stable.

“I was in a position to buy some horses,” he said last week. “I enjoy the gambling part. I do love the horses. She’s been a total horsewoman since she was 14. She doesn’t bet and do that kind of stuff. She’s real focused.

“I know Shelbe. She’ll take care of those horses. We’re excited about it.”

Mick Ruis, 55, has also bought one of the $1 million berths in the new Pegasus World Championship at Gulfstream Park in January. Ideally, he would like to acquire a horse worthy of starting in the $12 million race. If that doesn’t occur, he could sell the berth.

“My first choice is to try to buy a horse that can be competitive or a 3-year-old that is getting good now,” he said. “We have a lot of options.”

Mick Ruis trained briefly in the 2000s while based at San Luis Rey Downs. It was a short-term venture, he said.

“I didn’t have the money behind me that Shelbe has,” he said.

His son, also named Mick, rode in the 2000s and won two graded stakes at Santa Anita. He now works with his father.

Among the stable’s 2-year-olds, the leading filly may be Union Strike, an unraced filly by Union Rags purchased for $375,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s auction of 2-year-olds in training in April. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has been working Union Strike, who could start this month.

“We were waiting to have something he would like to work,” Shelbe Ruis said of Smith.

Operating a racing stable was not always part of Shelbe Ruis’s career plans.

“I wanted to be a vet,” she said. “I went to vet tech school. After I finished it, I didn’t want to do it.”

Ruis spent much of the last year working for trainer Clifford Sise Jr. before the launch of her stable. During her time with Sise, Ruis saw the early development of Danzing Candy, the winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March. He set the pace in the Kentucky Derby before fading to finish 15th.

For now, Shelbe Ruis has a family-owned, private stable with no outside clients. In time, that could change, she said.

“I’ve had people ask me,” she said. “Eventually, when I get my horses running and when I start more, I would love to have other owners. Right now, I’m good with where I’m at.”