Here comes Trial by Tapeta. The most unique Kentucky Derby Prep race unfolds Saturday on the synthetic surface of Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. – also known as Tapeta – with the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks. Steaks? We see what they did there. Post time for the 1 1/8-mile showdown is about 6:25 p.m. EDT. The surface itself prompted shrewd entry decisions by connections of the 3-year-old thoroughbreds and decisions for those betting Jeff Ruby Steaks odds.
Handlers for race favorite Major Dude believe he can transfer victorious turf form onto synthetic, which has some give and tends to tire frontrunners. The leadership for second-favorite Two Phil’s hope synthetic plays into his late-running closing style on dirt.
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2023 Jeff Ruby Steaks Odds
If these horses get any of the 100-40-30-20-10 points awards for the top-five finishers, they are probably in the May 6 Kentucky Derby or on the bubble, at worst. In any case, this is most likely the last call to reach the Derby for this field.
|1||Major Dude||2-1||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz|
|2||Scoobie Quando||15-1||Ben Colebrook||Luan Machado|
|3||Event Detail||20-1||Paulo Lobo||Walter Rodriguez|
|4||Funtastic Again||6-1||Wesley Ward||Gerardo Corrales|
|5||Maker's Candy||12-1||Michael Maker||Umberto Rispoli|
|6||Baby Billy||30-1||Jack Sisterson||Joe Talamo|
|7||Bluebirds Over||12-1||Saffie Joseph Jr||Edgar Zayas|
|8||Congruent||5-1||Antonio Sano||Sonny Leon|
|9||Escapologist||30-1||Ken McPeek||Alex Achard|
|10||Two Phil's||7-2||Larry Rivelli||Jareth Loveberry|
|11||Wadsworth||8-1||Brad Cox||Chrris Landeros|
|12||Point Proven||15-1||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez|
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1. Major Dude (2-1)
Parlayed ideal conditions into victory in the $175,000 Kitten’s Joy on turf at Gulfstream. Hounded fractions of 23:09 for the quarter, 47:24 for the half-mile and 1:10.88 for three quarters. And the turf was listed as good. Check please. He stormed past the field at 7-5. If this surface proves to be similar, he’s in a good spot. Likes to stalk but may be forced to go early because of the rail. He is a class horse on turf and was involved all the way into the final 100 yards of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile turf in November. One still suspects his best days will be on turf. But here he is, the morning line favorite in Jeff Ruby Steaks odds on synthetic for the Triple Crown on dirt.
2. Scoobie Quando (15-1)
The embodiment of live dog. Loves Turfway and perhaps should be nicknamed Synthetic Scoobie Quando. Superb second in the $150,000 John Battaglia at 1 1/16. Moved from the back as the early speed faded first, then the stalking speed too. He was moving best of all in the end, including 16-1 race winner Congruent. All of his races have been here. That price would be a bargain if it stays.
3. Event Detail (20-1)
The Good: he broke his maiden at 1 mile at Turfway. The Bad and Ugly: he was then a routed 10th in the Rebel Stakes, facing the likes of Confidence Game and Red Route One. Back to the Good? He returns to Turfway; although, he’s moving up. Connections play the synthetic card.
4. Funtastic Again (6-1)
What’s this? Not every pattern is absolute. He wired the field convincingly in the $125,000 Leonatus Stakes in January. He bolted to the front and nursed fractions of 24:09 for the quarter and 48:12 for the half-mile. Was not disturbed. You’d have to think handlers will try to do this again. Showed an ability to bolt and then to rate. Even though top horses like Forte have buried him in the past, the last race makes him viable in this format. Question is whether he can stretch to 1 1/8 miles and whether the field will let him get away with 24:09 for the first quarter.
5. Maker’s Candy (12-1)
Was drifting at the end in a five-horse Gander Field and was taken down from first to second. Must face more than twice the amount of competitors and go two turns on a brand new track. Obstacles are significant enough. He should be forwardly placed, which hasn’t played well here.
6. Baby Billy (30-1)
An example of how the synthetic appeals to dirt and turf runners. Buried badly in the Mucho Macho Stakes. Returned on turf at maiden special weight and scored 9-1 upset when the rail opened like the Red Sea around the final turn. And that became a sea of green for bettors who backed him. Goes back up in class again, tough spot.
7. Bluebirds Over (12-1)
Raised expectations of an upset in the $200,000 Colonel Liam at Gulfstream. Led into the stretch at 14-1 but was completely overrun, finishing fifth on the grass. Broke his maiden on synthetic at Gulfstream Park. Best chance is avoiding a duel with Funtastic Again.
8. Congruent (5-1)
May be the acid test of synthetic in this matchup. Finished a distant sixth behind Major Dude on the grass in the Kitten’s Joy and then prevailed on synthetic in the John Battaglia. Odds convey high respect. Will look to close.
9. Escapologist (30-1)
Finally broke maiden on sixth attempt, prevailing on turf. Not terrible, as a third to Louisiana Derby participant Tapit’s Conquest several months ago indicates. Just hasn’t progressed with the rest. Remote.
10. Two Phil’s (7-2)
Interesting choice for final prep. Enters with 23 points, good for 13th in the Road to Kentucky Derby standings now. Even a third-place finish here would probably wrap up a spot. Did trainer Larry Rivelli think this was a soft spot? He steered Two Phil’s away from Instant Coffee and Sun Thunder, who beat him in earlier prep races and now face off in the Louisiana Derby. Rivelli thought this one out and he’ll take his chances with a late-running horse on a surface that encourages it. Live.
11. Wadsworth (8-1)
Connections will try to strike while the iron is hot. A maiden victory at Turfway. An allowance victory at Turfway. The Tapeta Two Step. Why not go big? Price is a little short for not having won any kind of stakes race, but that’s the synthetic angle.
12. Point Proven (15-1)
Failed twice at allowance after breaking maiden on third try. Doesn’t fit the profile to win here.
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Jeff Ruby Steaks Handicapping Tips
Funtastic Again and Bluebirds Over want the front. Maker’s Candy is a question mark because he goes two turns in a bigger field.
Two Phil’s and Major Dude should obtain excellent striking position. It’s then just a matter of whether Funtastic Again was bothered before the stretch if he faces off against these down the lane. Tiz The Bomb and Like the King proved the ability to win as fairly-deep closers in the last two Jeff Ruby Steaks races.
Watch earlier races. As of Friday morning, winds between 25-35 mph have been forecast on Saturday. If that unfolds, it’s even more of a problem for frontrunners. Weather forecasts do evolve, however, so that’s one you want to monitor.
The class of Major Dude, Two Phil’s and Congruent are significant. I will give an edge to the dirt form of Two Phil’s and play him to win at 3-1 or higher. Will also put in him a small 1-10 exacta box with Major Dude.
Congruent (8), Bluebirds Over (7) Funtastic Again (4), Wadsworth (11) and Scoobie Quando (2) all have a strong chance of hitting the board. If I can trust Major Dude and Two Phil’s enough, I will put all of them in an exotics ticket underneath those two.
Race-time decision. Good luck betting Jeff Ruby Steaks odds!
Remainder of Road To The Kentucky Derby Schedule
The Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule began in September. However, the win-and-in races began Feb. 18 with the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. That was the first race that awards 50 points to the winner. Below is the race schedule for the remaining 50 and 100-point prep races, enough for the race winners to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, if entered.
|Race||Track||Date||Points For Top Finishers|
|Wood Memorial||Aqueduct||Apr 8, 2023||100-40-30-20-10|
|Blue Grass||Keeneland||Apr 8, 2023||100-40-30-20-10|
|Santa Anita Derby||Santa Anita Park||Apr 8, 2023||100-40-30-20-10|