Jeff Ruby Stakes 2021 Preview: Tarantino a cut above

Tarantino looks to stamp his ticket to the G1 Kentucky Derby
Tarantino looks to stamp his ticket to the G1 Kentucky Derby

It is a big day at Turfway Park and the Grade III Jeff Ruby Stakes is now an 100 point race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The race is set for Race 11 on the card.

A 12-deep field of three-year-old fillies have been entered and our Race Card with Morning Line Odds is embedded below along our in-house handicapper full race preview...

The main choice you have to make in betting the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks is whether you want to take a runner out of the Rushaway, the local prep for this race, or an out-of-town invader who has yet to try this synthetic surface. I don’t have any major qualms with those exiting the Rushaway, but I do think Tarantino (#7) is a cut above this field and should handle the track.

After beginning his career out west with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Tarantino was shipped to the East Coast following a pair of decent turf efforts and put under the care of Rodolphe Brisset. He promptly picked up a victory in his first start with Brisset, albeit a rather unconvincing one against a weak optional claiming field at Gulfstream, but he really came alive in his next start in the G3 Holy Bull, finishing second behind top Kentucky Derby prospect Greatest Honour at odds of 26-1. Proving that performance was no fluke, Tarantino followed it up with another solid effort in the G2 Fountain of Youth, though he could only manage a fourth-place finish. The identical 80 Beyer Speed Figures he received for those races don’t make him a standout here, however I think he’s getting a good deal of class relief in this spot, and given his early success on turf I believe his form should translate to this surface. He’s not going to be a big price, but I believe he’s clearly the most likely winner of the Jeff Ruby Steaks.

I like Tarantino, but I wouldn’t discount the four horses coming out of the Rushaway as they each have their merits to varying degrees. It may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but I actually am not all that interested in winner Hush of a Storm (#2), who is a perfect 3-for-3 at Turfway but benefitted from a good trip in the Rushaway. Instead, I think Hard Rye Guy (#9) and Gretzky the Great (#10) are more compelling value plays. Fourth-place finisher Hard Rye Guy was actually sitting a very good trip until he tried to rally along the rail in the stretch and was completely stonewalled at the eighth pole. Given the way he was finishing he may have won the race had he gotten through and he should get ample pace to run at yet again. He’s my preferred backup to Tarantino.

Gretzky the Great, meanwhile, pressed a very fast pace in the Rushaway and held well to be third, all things considered. It’s possible he needed the race off the layoff and it would definitely be premature to give up on this Grade 1 winner after one disappointing performance to begin his sophomore campaign.

Order of preference:  7-9-10-2

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