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FLORENCE, KY – M Racing Group’s Like the King rallied to take Saturday’s $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park.
Breaking from the rail under Drayden Van Dyke as the 7/1 fourth choice, Like the King settled off the pace in the back half of the field while Moonlite Strike set the pace, posting fractions of :22.93, :46.81, and 1:11.65.
Gretzky the Great challenged for the lead midway through the far turn and straightened for home on top, but he was soon swallowed up as Like the King and Hockey Dad swept past him halfway home.
The Wesley Ward-trained Like the King drew off late to win the 1 1/8-mile fast synthetic route by 1 length in 1:50.22.
“I got together with my agent and Wesley, and we decided to change up the tactics a bit today,” Van Dyke said. “We went back and watched some replays of this horse and thought he doesn’t really like to be up in the race. It ended up working out well for us. With moving my tack to Kentucky, this is a huge confidence booster going into the Keeneland meet.”
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Sainthood rallied for second, and afterward, his jockey Gerardo Corrales lodged an objection against Like the King, alleging interference in the stretch. That was ultimately dismissed and he remained in second, a head in front of Hockey Dad.
Hard Rye Guy, Gretzky the Great, Moonlite Strike, Dyn O Mite, Awesome Gerry, King’s Ovation, Smiley Sobotka, and Tarantino – the 5/2 favorite who was never in contention from the start – completed the order of finish. Hush of a Storm scratched from the race restricted to 3-year-olds.
“He broke so slow from the gate that it was over going into the first turn,” Tarantino’s jockey Florent Georux said. “I just took care of him after that.”
The Jeff Ruby is part of the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Like the King earned 100 points for the win, with Sainthood receiving 40 for second, Hockey Dad 20 for third, and Hard Rye guy 10 for fourth.
Like the King’s win followed a runner-up finish in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (the local prep for this) last time out. The Palace Malice colt’s record now stands at 6-3-2-1 with $200,680 earned.
“We spaced out some of his races and I think it’s helped, because he’s a big, rangy colt,” Ward said. “He’s always showed an affinity for grass and that’s why we kept him on the Tapeta surface this winter, with this race in mind. I’m glad this came through and worked out with Gary. Now that he became an agent for Drayden, it’s special to partner to win this race. Growing up, I always idolized Gary, and it was a good combination to get us to this win today. We were in the Derby once before but had post 20. Now that we’re here again, it’s very exciting.”
Like the King returned $16 to win, $7.60 to place, and $5.60 to show. Sainthood brought back $9.40 to place and $6.60 to show. Hockey Dad paid $6.20 to show.
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