The $200,000 Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks is somewhat of a unique race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and not just because its name is a fun play on words.
The 1 1/8-mile race is held over the synthetic Polytrack course at Turfway Park, so horses that are best on dirt are usually at a disadvantage. Since 2010, the race has been won without fail by horses with experience racing on turf, and seven of those eight winners prepped for the Jeff Ruby at Gulfstream Park, where the competition is tough and running well means you’re a serious racehorse.
Trainer Mike Maker has certainly capitalized on this trend, winning the last two editions of the Jeff Ruby with the experienced turf horses Fast and Accurate (who prevailed at 24.50-1) and Oscar Nominated (who upset the race at 23.60-1). Maker will be seeking a third straight win with the unbeaten #2 Cash Call Kitten, who enters the Jeff Ruby off a pair of convincing wins at Gulfstream Park.
Granted, Cash Call Kitten hasn’t been beating the toughest competition. He debuted in a $20,000 maiden claiming race going a mile on turf and unleashed a strong finish to win going away by 5 ¼ lengths, then stepped up in class for the Sage of Monticello Stakes (restricted to horses that have competed in claiming races) and chased what appeared to be a quick pace before holding off a couple of capable late runners to win by a length.
But while Cash Call Kitten figures to be overlooked in the betting since he started his career in a claiming race, it’s worth noting that Fast and Accurate also broke his maiden in a claiming race and prepped for the Jeff Ruby by winning – you guessed it – the Sage of Monticello Stakes.
Perhaps Cash Call Kitten will find the waters a little deep on Saturday, but his pedigree suggests that the surface switch won’t be an issue (his sire, Kitten’s Joy, has sired two previous winners of the Jeff Ruby), and drawing post position 2 should help him save ground. I’ll make him the focus of my wagers while also considering #4 Pony Up, runner-up in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes over the Gulfstream turf course for trainer Todd Pletcher; #5 Magicalmeister, winner of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park last month; and #11 Ride a Comet, a sharp winner going a mile on turf at Fair Grounds on Jan. 6.
Here’s how I would play the race:
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$5 to win/place on #2 Cash Call Kitten ($10)
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget
$10 to win on #2 Cash Call Kitten
$1 exacta: 2 with 4,5,11 ($3)
$2 exacta: 4,5,11 with 2 ($6)
$1 trifecta: 4,5,11 with 4,5,11 with 2 ($6)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!