Emmy Gaffney and Jessica Savin’s Rule Number Six may be the smallest horse in size in trainer Ronald Gaffney’s barn, but his career success has grown exponentially and has become the stable star among Gaffney’s horses at Calder Casino & Race Course.
The 4-year-old colt by Repent, out of Rikta has blossomed in 2013. He comes into Saturday’s $75,000 Memorial Handicap on a three-race winning streak that was highlighted by his first career stakes victory as the second-longest shot on the board in the Sumter Stakes at Calder on May 5. He’s also shown versatility, overcoming obstacles and winning in a different fashion in each race.
“He’s not a difficult horse to ride, he’s kind of proved that,” co-owner Emmy Gaffney said. “He doesn’t have to be up close, he doesn’t have to have everything his way because he’s never had everything his way. Really he hasn’t. He’s always in trouble.”
In the victory that kicked off the winning streak, Rule Number Six was clear breaking from the rail in a 1 1/8-mile turf starter allowance, but Argueta had to check him going around the first turn and lost a few lengths. He continued to race behind horses before the rail opened up down the stretch for Rule Number Six to come away with the victory.
Two races ago, Rule Number Six broke through the gate before the start of a 1 1/8-mile allowance optional claimer at Calder, but fortunately the starter kept a tight hold and did not let him go anywhere. Rule Number Six raced in the middle of the pack stalking the leaders throughout much of the race and surged ahead down the stretch for the win.
In the Sumter, jockey Mario Argueta had to take Rule Number Six outside the six other horses in the field going around the final turn and commanded the middle of the track as he closed down the stretch to overtake Megamove.
“It’s always a thrill when his little head comes out through all the mess he gets himself into,” Gaffney said.
Gaffney said the main reason they purchased Rule Number Six was because they liked the Bwana Charlie colt Liquid Luck, who is out of the same mare as Rule Number Six. Just by looking at the horses, however, no could tell that they are from the same dam.
“They look nothing alike,” Gaffney said. “I don’t know if they ever look like her. They all look like the stallions. We had another one by Full Mandate and he just looked like Full Mandate and this one (Rule Number Six) looks like Repent and he (Liquid Luck) looks like Bwana Charlie. So I don’t know what the mare looks like.”
Visually, Rule Number Six does not stand out. His performance in the races, however, does.
“He’s just an ordinary little black horse to look at,” Gaffney said. “He’s just got a big heart.”
Rule Number Six’s career began without a maiden victory in four starts as a 2-year-old. He kicked off his 3-year-old season by breaking his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park. After two more starts at Gulfstream, Rule Number Six moved up to allowance company at Calder, finishing second three times in a row. He then had a third and a fourth place finish before bone bruising sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
He returned to the races this January, finishing eighth in a 1 1/16 mile turf claiming race off the layoff. He progressed to second in a 1-mile turf starter optional claiming race before finishing third in a 1-mile turf starter allowance, all at Gulfstream. Then, his winning streak began.
The Gaffney’s are partial to the dam Rikta, having raced a total of three foals out of Rikta in recent years.
Despite being the smallest of the three, Rule Number Six has been the most successful.
Liquid Luck resides right next to his half-brother in Gaffney’s barn and is still in the hunt for his maiden victory. The closest he has come to breaking his maiden in 21 career starts was in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden special weight race at Calder in 2011. He has had one other second-place finish and five third-place finishes.
Hungry Hill, by Full Mandate, raced only six times as a 3-year-old and now lives at a Thoroughbred retirement home.
Rule Number Six is the first stakes winner in recent years for the Gaffney’s, who moved to Florida from the New England area in 2001. They own many of their horses, which heightens the excitement when the horses race.
“It’s over the top. No matter how small the stake is or whatever, you’re just so proud. You’re so proud of them. It hurts you when they get beat. You take it personal,” Gaffney said. “You spent all that time with them, you picked them out, it’s your horse.”
Argueta will be back aboard Rule Number Six in the 1 1/6-mile Memorial Handicap, and they will break from post position six. Despite being the only horse in the field to have a stakes victory in the last few months, Grade 3 winner Csaba most likely will be the post time favorite. He will break from the rail.
“He’ll run all day. That’s one thing we do know,” Ronald Gaffney said. “Your question mark is the one horse, of course, but he’s been off awhile. And that other horse they supplemented (Eldaafer).”
Rule Number Six will add to his resume and earn back-to-back stakes scores with a win in the Memorial Handicap.
Even with the graded stakes-winning competition Rule Number Six will face in the Memorial Handicap, and an undesired propensity for finding himself in trouble, one key attribute will be to his advantage.
“There are a couple of nice horses in there. There’s no doubt about it,” Gaffney said. “But we know where they are. He doesn’t have to be much better. He’s a pretty good kid.”