09/18/2009 11:00PM

Rutherienne in front at the right time

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Rutherienne's win margin in Saturday's Noble Damsel at Belmont Park was so short even her rider thought she had lost.

ELMONT, N.Y. - As they hit the wire in unison at the end of Saturday's at Belmont Park, Alan Garcia, the jockey of 2-5 favorite Rutherienne, congratulated Javier Castellano, the rider of 9-1 shot Quiet Meadow for winning.

Thus, no one was more surprised than Garcia when it was Rutherienne's number that was put on the tote board as the winner of the $107,000 Noble Damsel, by a left nostril over Quiet Meadow.

"How did that happen?" an exasperated and relieved Garcia said.

No one is really sure, but somehow it did. Never in front until the wire, Rutherienne won for the 11th time in 22 starts for owner Virginia Kraft Payson and trainer Christophe Clement. It was her 10th stakes victory.

"This is a great filly. Look at her career - she's never run a bad race," Clement said. "I know she only won by a nose today, but she's a very good filly. She didn't run a bad race, the second filly ran a very good race."

Quiet Meadow was fifth and Rutherienne was sixth early on as Meadow Saffron ran a fast opening quarter-mile of 22.75 seconds before being timed in 47.17 for the half. Approaching the quarter pole, Quiet Meadow was in the fourth path with a big opening between her and Stealin Kisses.

Turning for home, Garcia attempted to shoot Rutherienne through, but Castellano asked Quiet Meadow to run, and the two quickened through the lane, finishing together. Castellano allowed Quiet Meadow to crowd Rutherienne toward the rail, but Rutherienne was not intimidated and kept on running to the wire.

Quiet Meadow was second by 3 1/4 lengths over Social Queen.

Rutherienne covered the mile in 1:34.34 over a firm Widener Turf Course and returned $2.80 to win.

"He tightened it up on me, but there was still space enough for me to make a run inside," Garcia said. "She still won the race."

Castellano said Chad Brown, the trainer of Quiet Meadow, told him to wait as long as possible to make his move, but he knew he had to go when Rutherienne did.

"I tried to block her a little bit to put her in a spot right there, but she still ran," Castellano said of Rutherienne. "I thought I won, actually. [Garcia] told me congratulations right at the wire.''

Only it was Garcia who wound up celebrating.