07/30/2010 3:23PM

Unrivaled Belle looks tough to beat in Saratoga's Ruffian


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Unrivaled Belle already has the distinction of defeating Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra earlier this year. What she still doesn’t have is a Grade 1 win on her r é sum é .

Unrivaled Belle will be heavily favored to earn her first Grade 1 victory facing five other older fillies and mares in Sunday’s $250,000 Ruffian Invitational at Saratoga, a Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. The Ruffian is being decided at Saratoga for the first time this year after having been moved from its traditional spot on the Belmont Park stakes schedule.

Unrivaled Belle gave a hint she would be a force to reckon with in her division in 2010 after closing out her 3-year-old campaign finishing second in the Grade 1 Gazelle. After opening the season finishing fourth over the Pro-Ride synthetic track at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 La Canada, Unrivaled Belle returned east to capture Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Rampart.

Her performance in the Rampart earned Unrivaled Belle a shot at the champ in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs and she made the most of that opportunity, outgaming Rachel Alexandra following a stretch-long duel to post a hard-fought head victory. Unrivaled Belle was bet to 3-5 off that effort when trying Grade 1 company for the second time in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, but ran into the equally hot Life At Ten, dropping a 2 3/4-length decision after chasing the winner throughout.

“She’s had a couple of good works since her last start and is doing well,” said Bill Mott, who trains the homebred Unrivaled Belle for owners Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso. “The paddock can always be an issue with her but I’ve schooled her several times and it seems like she’s handling that okay.”

Unrivaled Belle will carry high weight of 119 pounds, including regular rider Kent Desormeux, in the Ruffian, conceding from three to six pounds to the competition.

Malibu Prayer is also at the top of her game at the moment for trainer Todd Pletcher and looks to have the best chance of upsetting the favorite. A 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, Malibu Prayer has captured three of her last four starts, including the Grade 2 Chilukki to close out her 3-year-old campaign and Monmouth Park’s Lighthouse by 4 1/2 widening lengths in her most recent appearance on June 26.

“She ran a big race at Monmouth,” said Pletcher. “The timing of this race is good, plus it’s a Grade 1, which is attractive.”

Tasty Temptation ships down from Woodbine, where she has won her last four starts. The Ruffian will mark her first try against graded competition and her first experience over dirt. Tasty Temptation did work a very strong five furlongs in 58.40 seconds over Woodbine’s dirt training track on July 5.

Classofsixtythree – the only member of the field with a win at Saratoga – Zaphyra, and Starship Angel round out the lineup.