Why Gretzky Looks Great in Jeff Ruby Steaks

Gambling
A Grade 1 winner on grass, Gretzky the Great has a chance to improve in his second start on a synthetic surface in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks March 27 at Turfway Park. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s renewal of the $250,000, Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park will have a decidedly different feel compared with years past.

A few things haven’t changed: the race will still take place at 1 1/8 miles; it will still award qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby; and — as usual — a large, competitive field of 3-year-olds will vie for victory.

But two key factors are different for 2021. For one, the Jeff Ruby will take place on Turfway’s new Tapeta Footings synthetic main track, which replaced the old Polytrack surface first used in 2005. For another, the Jeff Ruby will award Derby qualification points to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 basis, far exceeding the 20-8-4-2 points up for grabs in 2020.

As a result of these changes, in particular the points increase, the 2021 Jeff Ruby has drawn its strongest field in years. No fewer than 10 of the 12 starters have previously competed in a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race, led by #2 Hush of a Storm, #1 Like the King, #10 Gretzky the Great, and #9 Hard Rye Guy, the top four finishers, respectively, from the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway last month.

Many bettors will support Hush of a Storm, and understandably so. Although the son of Creative Cause failed to factor in his debut on dirt, he’s been unstoppable since switching to the Turfway Tapeta surface, going 3-for-3. A 5 1/2-length maiden romp and a determined allowance victory preceded his score in the Battaglia, where he rallied resolutely from eighth place to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths.

But will Hush of a Storm maintain his supremacy in the Jeff Ruby? Not necessarily. Like the King, Gretzky the Great, and Hard Rye Guy all had varying degrees of excuses for their Battaglia defeats, and even slight changes in circumstances could allow one (or more) to turn the tables on Hush of a Storm in the Jeff Ruby.

Consider Like the King. Normally a pacesetting/pressing type, Like the King wound up farther off the lead than usual in the Battaglia, racing in fourth place through the opening half mile. Nevertheless, he rallied into contention around the far turn and was vying for command when Hush of a Storm drifted in, squeezing Like the King between rivals. Hush of a Storm did appear to have more momentum than Like the King, but the latter might have finished closer with an unhindered stretch run.

Gretzky the Great (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Gretzky the Great appears to have even more upside for the Jeff Ruby. Winner of the Grade 1 Summer Stakes on the Woodbine turf course last fall, Gretzky the Great ran a big race when switching to Tapeta for the John Battaglia. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist wasn’t cranked for a peak effort in his first start of the season, but even after dueling for the lead through quarter-mile fractions of :23.86, :47.11, and 1:11.24 (relatively fast for Turfway), he held on gamely down the stretch to finish third by just 1 3/4 lengths.

Gretzky the Great has turned in two encouraging workouts since the Battaglia, setting the stage for improvement on Saturday. Just as importantly, Gretzky the Great will start from post-position 10 after breaking from the rail in the Battaglia, opening the door for a much more relaxed trip under hot jockey Chris Landeros. All signs suggest Gretzky the Great will be a dangerous threat in the Jeff Ruby — maybe even the horse to beat.

Don’t sleep on the chances of Hard Rye Guy, either. After finishing less than a length behind Hush of a Storm in the latter’s Turfway allowance win, Hard Rye Guy endured a very unlucky trip in the Battaglia. A slow start left the son of Hard Spun nearly 10 lengths off the early pace. After rallying gamely between rivals on the far turn, Hard Rye Guy got shut off in traffic along the rail, steadying hard before settling for fourth place.

Who knows what might have happened if Hard Rye Guy had gotten a clean run up the inside. He was less than a length off the lead at the eighth pole, seemingly with more to give, and he potentially could have challenged for victory. There’s no guarantee Hard Rye Guy will receive a traffic-free trip in the Jeff Ruby, but if he does the improving chestnut can outrun expectations at a big price.

So how should we bet the Jeff Ruby Steaks? My strategy will be straightforward — I’ll bet Gretzky the Great on top of all my tickets while emphasizing Hush of a Storm and Hard Rye Guy underneath. Like the King is another I’ll include, along with the Florida shipper #7 Tarantino, runner-up in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. Although Tarantino has never run on a synthetic surface, he’s shown strong form on both dirt and turf, suggesting he has the versatility to handle the Turfway Tapeta.

#11 Dyn O Mite will complete our superfecta tickets.

Wagering Strategy on a $12 Budget: Exacta

$6 exacta: 10 with 2,9 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $6 exacta 10 with 2,9

Wagering Strategy on a $24 Budget: Trifectas

$2 trifecta: 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $2 trifecta 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9

$2 trifecta: 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 2,9 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $2 trifecta 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2

Wagering Strategy on a $48 Budget: Trifectas and Superfectas

$3 trifecta: 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9 ($18)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $3 trifecta 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9

$2 trifecta: 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 2,9 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $2 trifecta 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2

$0.50 superfecta: 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2,7,9,11 ($9)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $0.50 superfecta 10 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2,7,9,11

$0.50 superfecta: 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 2,9 with 1,2,7,8,11 ($9)

What to say at the betting window: Turfway Park, 11th race, $0.50 superfecta 10 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2 with 1,2,7,9,11

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

2021 Jeff Ruby Steaks
March 27th, 2021

Winning Time: 1:50.22
  • Purse: $250,000
  • Distance: 1 1/8 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: All Weather Track
  • Winning Time: 1:50.22
Results
Win
Place
Show
1st
1 Like the King
$16.00
$7.60
$5.60
2nd
5 Sainthood
$9.40
$6.60
3rd
12 Hockey Dad
$6.20
4th
9 Hard Rye Guy
5th
10 Gretzky the Great
6th
8 Moonlite Strike
7th
11 Dyn O Mite
9th
3 King's Ovation
10th
6 Smiley Sobotka
Scratches
Payoff
Pick 3
9-8-1
9-8-1
$167
Pick 4
3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$557
Pick 5
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$17
Pick 5
XC P5 TP/AQU 9-12-8-2-1
XC P5 TP/AQU 9-12-8-2-1
$6,745
Pick 5
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$1,365
Pick 6 Jackpot
6-1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
6-1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$3,534
Daily Double
8-1
8-1
$36
Exacta
1-5
1-5
$168
Superfecta
1-5-12-9
1-5-12-9
$589
Super High Five
1-5-12-9-10
1-5-12-9-10
$0
Trifecta
1-5-12
1-5-12
$354
Race Replay
Play
Payoff
Pick 3
9-8-1
9-8-1
$167
Pick 4
3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$557
Pick 5
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$17
Pick 5
XC P5 TP/AQU 9-12-8-2-1
XC P5 TP/AQU 9-12-8-2-1
$6,745
Pick 5
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$1,365
Pick 6 Jackpot
6-1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
6-1/13/14-3/4/5/6/7-9-8-1
$3,534
Daily Double
8-1
8-1
$36
Exacta
1-5
1-5
$168
Superfecta
1-5-12-9
1-5-12-9
$589
Super High Five
1-5-12-9-10
1-5-12-9-10
$0
Trifecta
1-5-12
1-5-12
$354

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