by Ted Black
In her three starts for trainer Wesley Ward, Ruby Notion has shown two things: a good deal of speed and a genuine willingness to travel.
That’s good, because the West Virginia-bred daughter of Great Notion has now raced at three different tracks on two continents. She’s also recorded victories in two of those three outings, including her most recent score in August in the five-furlong, $60,000 Colleen Stakes on the grass at Monmouth Park.
Ruby Notion was also one of 10 horses that Ward took with him on what has become an annual trip across the Atlantic Ocean to compete at Royal Ascot. In fact, Ward won a pair of races at the prestigious meet in June, taking the Grade I Golden Jubilee with Undrafted and the Grade II Queen Mary with Acapulco.
“We had a bunch of horses going over there, so I thought maybe we could try her on the grass,” Ward said of Ruby Notion, who could run next in the Selima Stakes on the Laurel Park turf course. “We were pointing Acapulco for the Queen Mary and Undrafted for the Golden Jubilee, and I had Luck of the Kitten going in the Jersey Stakes. I thought we could try her on the grass over there, and she ran well.”
Indeed, she did. Ruby Notion tried the turf and male rivals for the first time in a $100,000 stakes for two-year-olds at Royal Ascot and finished fifth, four lengths behind, in a good try in a race won by Washington DC.
Ruby Notion made her career debut in a maiden $40,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 14 and promptly wired the field. Third-place finisher, Scoff, came back two months later to win a maiden special weight race at Charles Town. When she returned to the States following her English sojourn, Ruby Notion displayed no signs of let lag as she darted to a flashy two-length score in the Colleen Stakes as the 6-5 favorite under Rafael Hernandez.
“She just broke so easy and so quick from the gate,” said Hernandez, who was aboard Ruby Notion when she won at first asking at Churchill Downs in May. “Once we turned for home I knew she had plenty left. She is better now than she was in her first race on the dirt. She’s going to be tough to catch in those sprint races on the grass no matter where she runs.”
Owned and bred by Silverton Hill Farm, LLC, the West Virginia-bred daughter of Great Notion out of the stakes-placed Volksraad mare Modena Bay could also run next month in the West Virginia Breeders Classics on dirt at Charles Town. Two years ago, another speedy West Virginia-bred named Nana Anna, who began her career under Ward’s tutelage in Indiana, arrived at Charles Town to capture the Rachel’s Turn Stakes before finishing second in WV Breeders Classics night in the last start of her career.
With an open stakes win on the grass already under her belt, Ruby Notion has already surpassed the wins and earnings that Nana Anna posted in her brief career. Still, the Selima looks like the more logical spot for the freshman filly who covered the five furlongs on the Monmouth turf in a sharp 56.77 for her second win in three career tries. Her fondness for the turf should not have come as surprise since she can trace her lineage back to Northern Dancer on both the sire and dam’s side, and Modena Bay’s best career effort came on the lawn.
As an apprentice jockey, Ward won an Eclipse Award, and last year his top trainee, Judy The Beauty, garnered an Eclipse Award as champion distaff sprinter. While Ruby Notion may not be headed for such great heights, she was part of Ward’s successful venture to Ascot where both Undrafted and Acapulco earned victories in prestigious group stakes. It was Ward’s second score in the Queen Mary.
“I was elated,” Ward said of his latest journey across the pond. “The Diamond Jubilee was the biggest race I’ve won, and I’ve won Breeders Cup races here. But to go to England to win a Group I and stand by the Queen was such a fantastic experience. Undrafted had been training unbelievably well and the ride that Frankie [Dettori] gave him was superb. You can have a Porsche racing other Porsches, but you still need the right guy behind the wheel.”