Stablemates Pants On Fire and Ruler On Ice were lovingly referred to as “Fire and Ice” by horse racing fans. Both horses were owned by George and Lori Hall and trained by Kelly Breen. They both broke their maidens at Delaware Park on October 4th, 2010 and both ran in one leg of the 2011 Triple Crown series - Pants On Fire in the Kentucky Derby and Ruler On Ice in the Belmont Stakes. Each of them also placed in Breeders’ Cup races, though in different years.
While there were many similarities between those two horses, they also had quite a few differences. Unlike their names may lead you to believe, Pants On Fire was the more gentle and easygoing horse of the two. Ruler On Ice was known for his temperamental attitude and immaturity. Pants On Fire raced for six seasons while Ruler On Ice only raced for four (he retired after just one start as a six-year-old).
Ruler On Ice ultimately retired as a Grade 1 winner and Pants On Fire retired with two Grade 2 wins and two Grade 3 wins.
Get to know more about Fire and Ice's careers below.
Ruler On Ice was bred by Liberation and Brandywine Farm in Kentucky. He is sired by Haskell (G1) winner Roman Ruler and is out of the Grade 1 placed Saratoga Six mare Champagne Glow. Lori and George Hall purchased Ruler On Ice at the ‘09 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $100k.
It didn’t take long for the chestnut gelding to find the winner’s circle; he broke his maiden in his second start and won an Allowance in his fourth start. He moved up into graded stakes company to place 3rd in the Sunland Derby (G3). He then finished 2nd in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico in preparation for the race that would cement his name in horse racing history - the Belmont Stakes (G1).
The 2011 Belmont Stakes attracted the top seven finishers from that year’s Kentucky Derby and was slated to be a match-up between the Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and the Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. It was believed that Ruler On Ice, who had never won a graded stakes race in his career, had no chance at winning. While the betting public dismissed him, his connections did not. Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. had always liked Ruler On Ice. In fact, Valdivia liked him so much that he told Kelly Breen that he would be happy to “freeze his butt off every morning” to exercise him (American Classic Pedigrees).
Trainer Kelly Breen also had faith in his horse despite his immature attitude. Ruler On Ice was known to be high-energy and temperamental with a bad habit of kicking the walls of his stall. Blinkers were added in the Belmont Stakes to help him focus. “We used the blinders because he wouldn’t grow up,” Breen remarked. “He’s already a gelding so we can’t castrate him again.”
Heavy rains on Belmont day left the track sloppy; Ruler On Ice showed an affinity for the slop when he broke his maiden and this was certain to help his chances. Nevertheless, the public still dismissed him and sent him into the starting gate at odds of 24-1. Ruler On Ice got out of the gate cleanly and settled at the front of the pack in second, which was not the case for the Belmont favorite Animal Kingdom, who clipped heels with Mucho Macho Man at the start and nearly went down, leaving him to trail the field in dead last.
Ruler On Ice overtook the pacesetter Shackleford at the top of the stretch and held off a strong drive from Stay Thirsty to upset the Belmont Stakes by ¾ lengths. It was certainly not the match race that the public expected for Shackleford and Animal Kingdom - they finished 5th and 6th respectively.
[Video: Watch Ruler On Ice’s Belmont Stakes win]
It was the first Belmont Stakes win for trainer Kelly Breen, jockey Jose Valvida Jr., and owners George and Lori Hall. Ruler On Ice was also only the second gelding in history to win the Belmont Stakes.
While Ruler On Ice had missed the Kentucky Derby before finding glory in the Belmont Stakes, his stablemate Pants On Fire had already made a name for himself on the Derby trail. Bred by George and Lori Hall's K & G Stables in Kentucky, Pants On Fire is sired by Grade 2 winner Jump Start and is out of the Cape Town mare Cabo De Noche.
Pants on Fire was slightly slower at finding the winner’s circle than Ruler On Ice; he broke his maiden in his third start before placing in the Count Fleet Stakes and LeComte Stakes (G2), the latter of which he lost by just a head. He then finished a disappointing 6th in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) before competing in the Louisiana Derby (G2). It was here that he was able to elevate himself to graded-stakes-winning status by holding off Nehro and Mucho Macho Man to win by a neck.
[Video: Watch Pants On Fire win the Louisiana Derby]
Pants On Fire finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby (Nehro and Mucho Macho Man, the horses he defeated in the Louisiana Derby, ran 2nd and 3rd in the Kentucky Derby) but rebounded immediately after to win the Pegasus Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park.
Pants On Fire’s Louisiana Derby and Pegasus wins and Ruler On Ice’s Belmont Stakes win gave them both the opportunity to run in the Haskell Stakes (G1) in July of 2011; Ruler On Ice was 3rd and Pants On Fire was 5th. The stablemates went their separate ways after that - Ruler On Ice was 4th in the Travers (G1), 2nd in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), and 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) while Pants On Fire didn’t race again for the rest of the year.
Both horses returned in 2012. Pants On Fire’s best performance that year was a win in the Skip Away Stakes at Monmouth Park while Ruler On Ice failed to find the winner’s circle in four starts. They also both returned as five-year-olds in 2013. Pants On Fire won the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2) and set a record in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) while Ruler On Ice’s only win came in Allowance company.
After a 5th place finish in the Mountainview Handicap in his sole start in 2014, Ruler On Ice officially retired to his owner's farm. Pants On Fire, on the other hand, raced for quite a few more years. He won the Wild and Wonderful Stakes and placed in the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in 2014. In 2015 he won the Sir Shackleton Stakes and Wild And Wonderful Stakes and finished 3rd in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2).
Pants On Fire retired to stud in 2015 but showed no interest in breeding, so he was sent to Dubai to continue racing with hopes of him becoming more interested in breeding in the future. He raced 5 times at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in 2018, finishing out of the money each time, and finally raced for the last time in an Allowance in Dubai in February of 2019.
In all, the duo known as “Fire and Ice” ran a combined 64 times with 15 wins (4 from Ruler On Ice and 11 from Pants On Fire). Pants On Fire made himself known with four graded stakes wins and one stake record and Ruler On Ice cemented himself in history with his win in the 2011 Belmont Stakes.
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