Jeff Ruby Steaks Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade III Race @TP

Jockey Florent Geroux will be aboard Tarantino for trainer Mark Casse in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on Saturday Evening. See what the connection's chances are as they face a full field of colts looking to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey Florent Geroux will be aboard Tarantino for trainer Mark Casse in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on Saturday Evening. See what the connection's chances are as they face a full field of colts looking to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

1 1/8th (Dirt), Jeff Ruby Steaks, Purse $250k, 3

This race seems to always produce a nice set of turf routers that emerge later in the season (i.e. Field Pass and Somelikeitbrown). Certainly, Hard Spun and Animal Kingdom standout as those that were able to transition from the AW surface to the dirt, but their numbers are few and far between. Having made these rather disparaging remarks, that does not mean that 2021 will be lackluster or unproductive. Turfway is a unique track that sets up differently from any dirt cousin. Therefore, runners that like to come from off-the-pace have an advantage, unless you catch the proverbial “flier.” Whatever the case, Kentucky Derby Points are on the line to the tune of 100-40-20-10, for the win and each subsequent placing. Not bad for a Grade III contest that is late in the game.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Like the King (Jky: D. Van Dyke/Trn: W. Ward):

When it comes to Turfway Park, trainer Wesley Ward’s numbers at the Meet of 69 starts, 21 wins, 10 seconds, and 5 third place finishes, reigns supreme at 30%. That is rather remarkable. He is sending Like the King #1 back to the track to try and close out the TP Derby Series that saw his entry finish 2nd last time in the Battaglia100k. The colt just missed beating Hush of a Storm #2 who will be right next door in the gate beside him. AT this point, it is difficult to criticize this son of Palace Malice’s fitness level, after a bullet work at Keeneland on 20 March. If he can sharpen up, maybe get closer to the engine, then he might have a good chance to take the top prize. The trouble is… there are a number of others that entice…

Grade: B


#2 Hush of a Storm (Jky: S. Gonzalez/Trn: W. Morey):

The Morey Barn has a strong entry for the Jeff Ruby that is riding in on a 3-win streak. Those scores by Hush of a Storm #2 were part of a graduated approach, that led this son of Creative Cause to rack up a MSW32k, an OC50k, and finally, the Battaglia100k. If there is a horse-for-the-course in this race, then here he is, front and center. Santiago Gonzalez knows exactly where to place him along the backstretch, heading into a 2-turn. That is precisely where he makes his money moves, before the lane arrives. This race is about utilizing what the course gives you. This colt seems ready to move up once again.

Grade: B+


#3 King’s Ovation (Jky: A. Jimenez/Trn: D. Romans):

Trainer Dale Romans has a pair of runners in this race, and both have issues with their PPs. King’s Ovation #3 ran last time in the FOY (G2) @GP and he was out of it before the stretch. Even though he was 2nd in the Swale (G3) @GP, it was a notch at long odds, in which few punters thought he could actually win. My own observation is that Romans’ stable is not what it once was in the past. Ideally, I want to see an entry come into the Jeff Ruby with some Turfway Park experience. This son of Not This Time seems to need some major class relief. How he will fair against another field of strong competitors remains to be seen. What is for sure is Albin Jimenez is going to have to raise his mount’s game. It will not be easy.

Grade: C-


#4 Awesome Gerry (Jky: M. Garcia/Trn: S. Joseph):

Trainer Saffie Joseph continues his march up the charts in wins, earnings, and shipping. One of these days… is a sentence with regard to this conditioner that I have typed many times. Joseph can send them outside of S. Florida, you know… and 2 of them draw in here. Awesome Gerry #4 will serve as the longer odds horse to be sure, since his ability to even hit the board after moving from 100k Co. and into “Graded” races has been stymied (6th-TAM Derby, last time). This colt out of Liam’s Map will be afforded another chance to right the ship, and put to use some of that great class that he has collected since running in the Holy Bull (G3) back in January. Getting jockey Martin Garcia is a steal. He continues to be underrated, and he has all the requisite skills to come to play.

Grade: C+


#5 Sainthood (Jky: G. Corrales/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Speaking of a trainer who ships well, none is more powerful and announces his authority like Todd Pletcher. He has a young and inexperienced runner drawing in here by the name of Sainthood #5. He is lightly-raced, with only 2 under his belt, but he broke his maiden last time at the Fair Grounds. Coming into a “G” race for the first time is no small task, but Pletcher gets them ready. Counting him out with stellar rider, Gerardo Corrales might be underestimating his chances. One on the make here…

Grade: B


#6 Smiley Sobotka (Jky: D. Cannon/Trn: D. Romans):

Here is a runner, the 2nd, who is entered by Dale Romans. He was a semi-popular selection in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay when he went off at 6/1. Based on that 22-length loss he received, you would think his odds should have been more like 60/1. How Romans gets him to run in this spot is a true conundrum, as Declan Cannon rides. Which Smiley Sobotka #6 will show up at Turfway on Saturday evening? Your guess is as good as mine because during the Fall of 2020, he was quite good.

Grade: C


#7 Tarantino (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: R. Brisset):

The M/L favorite who is getting most of the turfwriting chatter is Rodolphe Brisset’s Tarantino #7. There is much to like here, not only because Brisset is a bright trainer, but also because Starlight Racing is involved with this son of Pioneerof the Nile. That translates to quality and a job well-done. Speaking of those topics... Florent Geroux comes into town to ride him for the first time, after bouncing back and forth in between Oaklawn and Fair Grounds. So, that makes me think that this runner is primed for a score. Even though the GP Derby Series did not lead him to resurfacing in the Florida Derby (G1) it does not mean he does not have the ability to pick up those same KYD Points just as easily here. No pulp fiction present…

Grade: A-


#8 Moonlite Strike (Jky: R. Hernandez/Trn: S. Joseph):

I have been on the Moonlite Strike #8 bandwagon before, especially before he took on Caddo River in the Smarty Jones 100k @OP. I suppose here is the chance to admit that was folly, but I standby what I said when it came to not only his conditioner’s ability to ship, but also his work to have this one ready. They certainly lived up to that role the next time in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) by finishing 3rd behind Helium and Hidden Stash. Considering that field, I think he could be a massive overlay in this spot. Rafael Hernandez is a “real deal” jockey, and with him aboard, I like this one’s chances very much.

Grade: B-


#9 Hard Rye Guy (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: I. Wilkes):

Another jockey with smart ability who normally rides elsewhere is coming to Turfway to temporarily join the colony. Brian Hernandez has had a fine year to date, retaining mount after mount at the Fair Grounds. Coming into N. Kentucky, he is back aboard this colt that he did ride on the dirt at Keeneland back during their Fall Stars Meet. That did not go particularly well, but mental and physical maturity can grow by leaps and bounds for a horse in the space of 5-6 months. Hard Rye Guy #9 is fast and furious for trainer Ian Wilkes. His 4th in the Battaglia100k was not a poor performance in that he just missed hitting the board, and did it at double-digit odds of 14/1. Bourbon Lane Stable continues to make investments in Wilkes… it would be nice to see them pay off in a Derby Points race like this one…

Grade: B-


#10 Gretzky the Great (Jky: C. Landeros/Trn: M. Casse):

Eclipse Thoroughbreds, led by the sensational Aron Wellman, continues to make shrewd investments for their clients. Gretzky the Great #10 is one of those because not only is he “thoroughly bred,” but he also has a strong class background. Mark Casse had him in the right spot coming into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but he never got to really showcase his talent. Switching to the AW for the Battaglia100k off the bench was a stroke of genius considering his turf ability from last year. If Chris Landeros can get him forwardly placed, then he might have a chance to be there, “hanging around” at the conclusion.

Grade: A-


#11 Dyn O Mite (Jky: D. Parker/Trn: K. Desormeaux):

Trainer Keith Desormeaux is venturing up to Turfway Park with the hope that he can exploit his horse’s stellar fitness regime. Dyn O Mite #11 clearly has grass ability after finishing 2nd just 3 weeks ago in the Black Gold75k contest down @FG. He has been a part, up until that point, of some mixed efforts. The few “G” events that he has entered back when he was a 2-yr-old, resulted in some sketchy finishes. I am all for any mount that Deshawn Parker rides, who is the 2021 George Woolf-winner for North America’s best jockey as voted on by his peers. Still, even Parker has his limits. That reason alone makes me want to look elsewhere.    

Grade: C+


#12 Hockey Dad (Jky: R. Bejarano/Trn: D. O’Neill):

We are coming up on 5 years since SoCal-based Doug O’Neill last won the Kentucky Derby. That day, he scored his 2nd “Run for the Roses” with Nyquist, who is the sire of his entry in the Jeff Ruby. Small world… Hockey Dad #12 looks special, and exhibits some of his father’s traits when it comes to strength and speed. The question is… can he stretch out in this spot after running primarily as a sprinter. That is interesting, and worthy of consideration if you are thinking about backing this one. Having never run on the AW, that is concerning too. Maybe staying put in SoCal would have been in order. Then again, O’Neill had a pretty excellent weekend down in New Orleans when he sent Hot Rod Charlie into the LA Derby (G2). Moral… don’t underestimate Doug O’Neill.  

Grade: B+


Join us Saturday for all of our Turfway Park selections! Should be a great set of races for Jeff Ruby Steaks Day!