ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2011) – Bob Baffert, with eight training victories through the first eight days of Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet, added No. 9 on Friday when he had the 8th running of the $81,150 Kalookan Queen Handicap virtually surrounded. His Mother Ruth held off stablemate Gilded Gem to prevail by one-half length in the competition for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs.

Bet down to 6-5 favoritism in the field of five and ridden for the first time by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Mother Ruth took command at the outset, discouraged longshot U R All That I Am through fractions of 21.66, 44.12 and 1:07.98, and finally withstood the closing surge of Gilded Gem under Joel Rosario in 1:14.61.

Quisisana, the 7-5 second choice with Rafael Bejarano aboard, finished a well-beaten third, 1 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up. U R All That I Am faded to last, far behind fourth-place Distinctive. A third Baffert entrant, Subsidized, was scratched earlier in the day.

Mother Ruth clearly relished Santa Anita’s new dirt racing surface, and Baffert expected she would. “I told Mike (Smith) she was a different filly on dirt,” said Santa Anita’s leading trainer.

The 5-year-old mare, owned by Zayat Stables, had run twice previously over Santa Anita’s former surface, a synthetic ProRide composition, without winning. But in other venues, she had compiled a 3-2-1 record in seven starts over dirt tracks.

Mother Ruth had handily captured Oak Tree’s Lou R. Rowan Stakes while going wire-to-wire over Hollywood Park’s synthetic surface in October before losing by a neck in Hollywood Park’s Playa del Rey Stakes in November.

The Kalookan Queen seemed a perfect fit. In addition to the preferred surface, there was little serious speed to contend with Mother Ruth early, and she owned a 2-for-2 record at the race distance.

“I thought the other filly (Gilded Gem) was going to run her down,” Baffert said afterward, “but she came running late, and Mike had a lot of horse left. They both ran very well.”

“She ran great,” Smith said of Mother Ruth. “From the first jump, she broke extremely well, and I took advantage of it. I was able to give her a long breather before we got to the far turn, and when she switched to her left lead, she ran around the turn pretty impressively. She got another breather just before the quarter-pole and went again.”

Mother Ruth paid $4.40, $2.40 and $2.20. The prices on Gilded Gem were $3.20 and $2.40. Quisisana paid $2.20 to show. The winning purse of $46,800 elevated the earnings of Mother Ruth to $268,943. The daughter of Speightstown boosted her career record to 6-4-1 in 14 races.

“Mother Ruth will stay here (at Santa Anita),” said Baffert. “There’s no reason to leave Southern California now. Maybe later on some of my 3-year-olds will leave for some of the (Kentucky Derby) preps, mainly to keep them separated. But right now, this is the best place to run. You can’t beat the surroundings, and now we finally have some decent weather.”

The 74th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes heads Saturday’s nine-race program. Baffert has two entrants, Spurrier and Red Door Drive, in the field of five. First post is at 12:30 p.m.