08/04/2011 5:17PM

Saratoga: Rule proves best in Birdstone Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Rule (left), with Javier Castellano riding, wins the Birdstone Stakes by a neck over Sangaree, with Rajiv Maragh aboard.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Inseparable through virtually every step of Thursday's nine-furlong Birdstone Stakes, Rule outlasted Sangaree to win the $75,000 race by a neck at Saratoga. It was eight lengths back to Gautier in third.

Sangaree, on the inside under Rajiv Maragh, and Rule, on the outside under Javier Castellano, hooked up right out of the gate and set fractions of 23.62 seconds for the quarter and 47.09 for the half. Rule dropped back by maybe three-quarters of a length midway down the backside, but then re-engaged Sangaree entering the far turn.

Coming to the quarter pole, Sangaree came out and bumped with Rule, and straightening down the lane they brushed again. Undeterred, both Rule and Sangaree kept going, with Rule edging clear late. Rule, a son of Roman Ruler owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.60 and returned $3.20 as the 3-5 favorite.

While thankful for the victory, Castellano thought he was going to have a much easier time of it.

"I expected to be on the lead, but Rajiv gave me a little bit of a hard time at the beginning," Castellano said. "After that, he gave me a bump by the far turn. My horse lost his balance a little bit, and I had to let him recover and pick it up himself. He responded very well. He was much the best horse in the race."

Sangaree was equipped with blinkers for the first time in a year and showed more speed than he had in his previous races.

"I was going to let my horse place himself, and he showed good natural speed, so I wasn't going to take it away from him," Maragh said.

Rule won for the first time since he took the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis in February 2010. Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm, said Rule would be pointed to the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes here on Sept. 3.