News and STORIES
Don’t Forget About the Jeff Ruby Stakes
Author: Ryan Knuppel
Published: Friday March 26, 2021
Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, hosts the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks, which awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. Despite being overshadowed by the Florida Derby on Saturday afternoon, two horses will probably leave the track with invitations to the Triple Crown opener on May 1st.
While seven horses in the field have collected qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, none of them have more than 11 points. The race lacks a marquee horse that most of the other 100-40-20-10 races have in their fields.
Since 2005, Turfway Park has had a synthetic track surface that drains well and holds up better than dirt in severe weather conditions. The Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) owned track is just 10 miles from Cincinnati and holds one meet in December and another from January to late March or early April. The synthetic surface is always listed as fast and is much safer for horses.
The smaller purse size and the unique race surface contribute to the lack of a quality field. It’s a bit surprising that the race awards points at the level that it does, but with CDI in charge, they can pretty much do what they desire. Regardless, the winner will definitely be racing in the Kentucky Derby and will probably be joined by the second-place finisher.
Big Field at Turfway
What the field lacks at the top, it makes up for in quantity, with 12 horses entered in the 1 1/8 mile contest. There is no standout favorite, and only one entry has won any of the previous qualifying races. Hush of a Storm won the 10-4-2-1 John Battaglia Memorial, the prep race at Turfway for the Jeff Ruby Steaks.
The top four finishers in the John Battaglia Memorial are in the Jeff Ruby field, but Tarantino is the slight favorite at 3/1 odds and is making his first start at Turfway. The early oddsmakers must see something in Tarantino that he hasn’t recently demonstrated, with a second place in the Holy Bull Stakes followed by a fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, both at Gulfstream Park.
Depth Behind the Favorite
Hush of a Storm is a close second in the odds at 4/1, which is totally justified given the win in his last outing. Both experience on the synthetic surface and his recent performance should make him the favorite, but for some reason, Tarantino is getting the nod.
Gretzky the Great finished third in the John Battaglia Memorial, which was only the Mark Casse-trained colt’s second race since a one-mile win in the Summer Stakes on turf on September 20th. The 5/1 odds seem to be a bit generous given the lack of recent quality performances.
The runner-up in the John Battaglia Memorial was Like the King, finishing a length and a half behind Hush of a Storm. At 6/1 odds, the winner of an allowance race at Turfway in December should be considered a serious contender to finish in the top two and secure a Kentucky Derby entry.
Hard Rye Guy finished fourth in the John Battaglia Memorial, his only career stakes race. He has just one win, breaking his maiden at Turfway on December 4th. Otherwise, his unspectacular record of 6-1-1-1 doesn’t seem to justify his 10/1 odds in the Jeff Ruby Steaks.
With 11 qualifying points, Moonlite Strike leads all entries in that category after a third-place finish at the 50-20-10-5 Tampa Bay Derby. That was an improvement after finishing in fourth place at the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in January. At 12/1, he’s looking like a good choice for a place or show bet, if not an outright win.
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