Joseph P. Morey Trust’s $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes winner Hush of a Storm, along with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Grade 1-winning colt Gretzky the Great top a field of 12 3-year-olds that were entered in Saturday afternoon’s 50th running of the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) – the premiere stakes event at Turfway Park’s meet.
The Jeff Ruby Steaks is one of six stakes events on Saturday’s 12-race afternoon spectacular at Turfway, which begins at 1:10 p.m. (all times Eastern). The centerpiece 1 1/8-mile race over the synthetic Tapeta surface is carded as Race 11 with a post time of 6:25 p.m. Wagering is available online at www.TwinSpires.com, the official ADW of Churchill Downs Incorporated.
The Jeff Ruby Steaks will award the top four finishers points on a 100-40-20-10 scale towards a spot in the starting gate for the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
The other stakes races on Saturday’s card are the $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks (Listed), a Championship Series race on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks worth 50-20-10-5 points to the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1); $150,000 TwinSpires.com Kentucky Cup Classic (Listed); the $100,000 Rushaway; the $100,000 Latonia Stakes; and the $65,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes.
Hush of a Storm, trained by Bill Morey and ridden by Santiago Gonzalez, was the 1 ½-length winner of the Feb. 26 Battaglia Memorial, the local prep for the Jeff Ruby Steaks. The Creative Cause colt had to survive an inquiry and objection in the race after he lugged in and appeared to affect fellow rivals Like the King, Gretzky the Great and Hard Rye Guy in the stretch. Following a review of the race, the stewards issued no change to the order of finish. Hush of a Storm is a perfect 3-for-3 over the Tapeta surface at Turfway. He broke his maiden by 5 ½ lengths on Dec. 19 and followed up that win three weeks later with a half-length first-level allowance score. His only blemish came in a seven-furlong maiden claiming $150,000 race over the dirt at Churchill Downs. Hush of a Storm drew post No. 2.
One of the other top rivals in the Jeff Ruby Steaks is $250,000 Summer (G1) winner Gretzky the Great. Named after the NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, the Nyquist colt was the even-money favorite in the Battaglia Memorial. In that race, he was pressured on the lead for nearly one-mile before giving way to Hush of a Storm. The Mark Casse-trainee will get a jockey change to Chris Landeros for the Jeff Ruby Steaks and will break from post 10.
Another horse likely to garner attention in the race is SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Golconda Stable, Siena Farm and Robert Masterson’s $200,000 Holy Bull (G3) runner-up Tarantino. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, Tarantino began his career on turf at Del Mar in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He finished second in the $101,000 Zuma Beach at Santa Anita prior to his transfer to Brisset. Immediately after he entered Brisset’s string in South Florida, he defeated six rivals in a first-level allowance over the turf at Gulfstream Park. His most recent start was a fourth-place finish in the $300,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) where he was defeated 5 ¼ lengths by Greatest Honour. Jockey Florent Geroux will ride from post 7.
The complete field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Like the King (Drayden Van Dyke, Wesley Ward); Hush of a Storm (Gonzalez, Morey); King’s Ovation (Albin Jiminez, Dale Romans); Awesome Gerry (Martin Garcia, Saffie Joseph Jr.); Sainthood (Gerardo Corrales, Todd Pletcher); Smiley Sobotka (Declan Cannon, Romans); Tarantino (Geroux, Brisset); Moonlite Strike (Rafael Hernandez, Joseph); Hard Rye Guy (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ian Wilkes); Gretzy the Great (Landeros, Casse); Dyn O Mite (Deshawn Parker, Keith Desormeaux); and Hockey Dad (Rafael Bejarano, Doug O’Neill).
Hard Rye Guy and Hockey Dad were not nominated to the Triple Crown at the early closing but could become eligible with a $6,000 late payment that is due on Monday.
The National Weather Service forecast for Florence, Ky. calls for a gorgeous afternoon of racing with sunny skies and a high temperature of 71 degrees.