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Jeff Ruby Preview: Hush of a Storm Faces Invasion
Hush of a Storm winning the Battaglia Memorial (Credit: Coady Photography)

Jeff Ruby Preview: Hush of a Storm Faces Invasion

FLORENCE, KY – Local hero Hush of a Storm faces a field of 11 rivals, including 8 invading out-of-towners, all taking a shot at glory in Saturday’s $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park.

The Jeff Ruby is a 1 1/8-mile synthetic route restricted to 3-year-olds that offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby (G1) points to the top four finishers. This year’s edition is the 11th event on a 12-race card that includes the Bourbonette Oaks, a Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep race, and has a local post time of 6:25 PM.

Here’s a look at the full field for the Jeff Ruby:

1. Like the King 6/1 – He was runner-up in last month’s John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, the local prep for this held at 1 1/16 miles, in his first try in 3 months. He was an easy gate-to-wire winner going a two-turn mile here last December against optional claimers and has every reason to improve for trainer Wesley Ward, who connects at 31% with runners making their second starts after similar layoffs.

2. Hush of a Storm 4/1 – His Battaglia victory was his third straight, all routes over this course dating back to last December, and earned him an 85 Beyer Speed Figure that’s higher than the career best of anyone else in this field. This is the toughest group that he’s faced to date, but trainer Billy Morey hits at 26% on synthetic and Santiago Gonzalez hops back aboard after riding him to all 3 prior victories.

3. King’s Ovation 15/1 – He ships north after finding Gulfstream Park’s graded stakes circuit too much to handle, including finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last time out. Trainer Dale Romans is taking every shot he can at putting a horse into this year’s Kentucky Derby starting gate, but it’ll likely take a career-best effort (and then some) to win his first start on synthetic.

4. Awesome Gerry 20/1 – After winning 2 straight dirt sprints against lesser to start his career, he shows up here trying to end a 5-race skid while tackling synthetic for the first time. He lost by double-digit lengths in each of his past 2 starts (the Holy Bull Stakes [G3] and the Tampa Bay Derby [G2]), but progeny of sire Liam’s Map have done well on artificial ground (14% wins), so the surface swap could help.

5. Sainthood 12/1 – He steps up for the first time in this spot after breaking his maiden by a nose going 1 1/16 miles on the Fair Grounds main track in mid-February. He was a head away from breaking his maiden on debut in a 6-furlong Gulfstream Park debut, but the horse he beat last time out is an 0-for-6 maiden and trainer Todd Pletcher is just 1 for 14 with runners making synthetic ground debuts.

6. Smiley Sobotka 15/1 – He looked like a legitimate prospect last fall, breaking his maiden at Keeneland before finishing second by 3/4 of a length in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchil Downs. He returned from 2 months away to finish ninth, beaten nearly 23 lengths, in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and feels like another dart Romans is tossing at the board in hopes of hitting a Derby starter.

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7. Tarantino 3/1 – He compiled a 3-2-1-0 record on turf (with his lone defeat coming by a nose in the Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita Park), then switched to dirt and finished second in the Holy Bull behind Greatest Honour, favored to win Saturday’s Florida Derby (G1). Progeny of his late stallion Pioneerof the Nile (who sired 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah) win 18% in synthetic routes.

8. Moonlite Strike 12/1 – He earned a career-best 77 Beyer Speed Figure for finishing third in the Tampa Bay Derby last time out, though he was 4 1/2 lengths back after closely tracking the early pace. Awesome Gerry’s stablemate in the Saffie Joseph Jr. barn adds blinkers (a 19% winning move) and picks up Rafael Hernandez, last year’s leading rider at Woodbine (which has a synthetic main track).

9. Hard Rye Guy 10/1 – He broke his maiden at fifth asking in a local two-turn mile while making his synthetic debut, then nearly repeated against optional claimers before finishing 3/4 of a length behind Hush of a Storm. He overcame an awkward break in the Battaglia and made a stretch move that nearly got him to the front until he was pinched back to fourth late; a cleaner trip here may change his result.

10. Gretzky the Great 5/1 – The clubhouse leader to be named Canada’s 2020 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt, he set a pressured pace in the Battaglia before yielding late and missing second by a neck. That was his first appearance after nearly 4 months away and has every reason to improve: Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse connects at 14% with runners making their second starts following similar layoffs.

11. Dyn O Mite 15/1 – The most experienced runner in the field makes his 10th career start after coming within a nose and a neck of winning a turf stakes routes in his past 2 starts. His older siblings are 0-for-2 on synthetic and his sire Goldencents has produced just 7% winners on artificial ground, though Goldencents enjoyed a 5-2-3-0 record on Del Mar’s former all-weather surface that includes a Grade 2 score.

12. Hockey Dad 10/1 – He exits the California-bred ranks for his first try routing and away from Santa Anita Park while riding a 3-race win streak that includes a two-turn turf mile against his own kind last time out. While new jockey Rafael Bejarano is unfamiliar for this horse, he and trainer Doug O’Neill won together often (16% overall, including 10 stakes) when Bejarano was still based in California.

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