Horse Racing

2024 Jeff Ruby Steaks Betting Odds and Contenders Preview

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2024 Jeff Ruby Steaks Betting Odds and Contenders Preview

The biggest race of the Turfway meet, the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), happens on Saturday, March 23.

The name is not a typo, but rather the result of a cheeky sponsorship deal with Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment. The $700,000 race (counting $200,000 exclusively for Kentucky-breds) is open to three-year-olds and covers 1 ⅛ miles on the Tapeta, Turfway’s synthetic surface. Part of the final phase of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, it will award points numbering 100-50-25-15-10 to the top five finishers. This basically guarantees the top two finishers a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

The 2024 edition of the Jeff Ruby drew an overflow field: 12 horses in the main gate, plus another pair on the also-eligible list. Top contenders include El Camino Real Derby winner Endlessly, Sam F. Davis (G3) second-place finisher Agate Road, and Pulpit Stakes winner Noted. With a big field that features a mix of dirt, turf and Tapeta runners, however, the Jeff Ruby is often a good place to look for a big payout.

Despite the surface difference, this race has shown some good form in the last two editions of the Kentucky Derby: Rich Strike (2022) came in off of a third-place run in this race, and Two Phil’s (2023) parlayed a win into a second-place finish in the Derby. A pair of horses have parlayed a victory in this race (formerly known as the Spiral Stakes or the Jim Beam Stakes) into a victory on the first Saturday in May: Lil E. Tee (1992) won when it was still a dirt race, while Animal Kingdom (2011) won on synthetic before taking the roses in his dirt-track debut.

Prairie Bayou (1993) was second in the Kentucky Derby, but went on to win the Preakness and still has a race named after him at Turfway Park. Summer Squall (1991) did the same thing: win this race, finish second in the Derby, and win in Baltimore.

Jeff Ruby Steaks 2024 Information

  • Race Date: Saturday, March 23, 2024
  • Track: Turfway Park in Florence, KY
  • Post Time: 6:25 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time
  • Distance: 1 1/8 miles
  • Age/Sex: three-year-olds
  • Where to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Where to Bet: and FanDuel Racing

Jeff Ruby Steaks Odds

This is the complete field for the Jeff Ruby. The listing includes post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning-line odds for each runner.

ML Odds
1Freedom PrincipleJose GaraffaloAdam Beschizza30-1
2Dancing GroomAntonio SanoFrankie Dettori15-1
3Lucky JeremyBill MoreyGerardo Corrales10-1
4NotedTodd PletcherLuis Saez10-1
5Agate RoadTodd PletcherJose Ortiz4-1
6Northern FlameKenny McPeekJulien Leparoux5-1
7WoodcourtCipriano ContrerasLuan Machado6-1
View Full Table

Jeff Ruby Steaks Prep Results

Three different races were the last-out spots for more than one entrant in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Interestingly enough, the John Battaglia Memorial is not one of them: in fact, not a single runner from that race even entered the Jeff Ruby.

The Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs has perhaps the best representation, as both second-place Agate Road and third-place West Saratoga turn up in this spot. The third- and fourth-place runners in the Rebel at Oaklawn also switch to Tapeta for this, Northern Flame and Woodcourt. One turf race, the Colonel Liam at Gulfstream, also produces two entrants: ninth-place Freedom Principle is in the main field, while fourth-place Triple Espresso is two-deep on the also-eligible list.

Three other runners in this race come from different Road to the Kentucky Derby points races. Lucky Jeremy was third in the Sunland Park Derby (G3), Dancing Groom was fifth in the Fountain of Youth (G2), and Otello hopes to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the Holy Bull (G3).

Another three entrants were last seen in stakes company. Endlessly won the El Camino Real Derby over the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta; the race is no longer a Kentucky Derby points race, though it does award an automatic bid to the Preakness. Noted was most recently seventh in the Kitten’s Joy (G3) over the Gulfstream lawn. And, on the also-eligible list, Circle P comes out of a third-place finish in the Miracle Wood on the Laurel dirt.

Just two runners come out of non-stakes engagements, though both have previous graded-stakes experience as juveniles. Seize the Grey won a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance race at Oaklawn in his last start. Baytown Chatterbox stretches out after finishing second in a 4 ½-furlong dash, a third-level allowance, at Charles Town.

Jeff Ruby Steaks Contenders

These are the contenders in the 2024 Jeff Ruby Steaks, organized by post position:

Freedom Principle: The return to a synthetic surface should be good for him, as his form at Gulfstream on Tapeta is solid and form over Tapeta does tend to transfer track-to-track. However, he has to handle the rail in a big field and will have to take a significant step up on speed compared to even his Armed Forces Stakes win.

Dancing Groom: He has been a cut below in his Kentucky Derby prep tries at Gulfstream this year. Trying softer company is a good thing, and he does not need a huge step forward to be competitive in this kind of spot. However, he has never tried Tapeta before; though his 1 ⅛-mile pedigree is immaculate, it is dirt-oriented as well.

Lucky Jeremy: He has been solid in four starts, and shown good tactical speed. He flattened a bit late in the Sunland Park Derby to finish third, which is a bit of a concern over this longer trip, though he is only making his fifth career start and comes third off the layoff. That does give him some upside to find better here.

Noted: Turf form tends to transfer well to Tapeta, giving him a serious shot in this. He will have to bounce back in his second start of the year, though: after such strong turf form in his first four starts over the footing, he came up completely empty in the Kitten’s Joy last out. His versatility is a plus, though, and aggressive jockey Luis Saez may be a good fit.

Agate Road: He has never run a bad race in six starts; even his lone off-the-board finish was a fifth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where he was making up ground late. He may be best suited if he can get a pace battle in front of him, but if he does? His class and surface versatility should have him in a good place third off the lay.

Northern Flame: He does his best work when he makes the lead, which raises a concern with the quick likes of Lucky Jeremy and West Saratoga to tussle with. However, he is on the way up from a speed perspective, and Flameaway is an interesting young synthetic-track sire.

Woodcourt: With 10 outings, he is the most experienced horse in the field, and those include a pair of good outings on the Turfway track last year. They came in allowance-optional claiming company, but he then went on to win an allowance at Oaklawn before finishing fourth in the Rebel. That shows class and upside, though the 1 ⅛-mile trip may be too much.

Otello: This lightly-raced Christophe Clement trainee was defeated for the first time in the Holy Bull, and took a break since then. His form in his first two races suggests he should be able to fit with horses like this, and his pedigree (by the surface-versatile Curlin out of turf star Isabella Sings) suggests that both the 1 ⅛-mile trip and the synthetic footing can suit.

Seize the Grey: This D. Wayne Lukas trainee is coming into the race off an allowance win in his 3-year-old debut. He has yet to win in stakes company, but has run credibly in both stakes tries, including a fourth beaten only 2 ¼ lengths in the Iroquois (G3) last year. Surface is a question since he has only tried dirt, but he can pass horses and is bred well for nine furlongs.

Endlessly: He has put together a fairly consistent record in five starts; his only loss came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and even though he finished eighth, he was only 3 ½ lengths beaten. He comes out of a win in the El Camino Real Derby, proving his Tapeta ability and 1 ⅛-mile stamina. With pace versatility for a trainer who shines with shippers, he is the horse to beat.

Baytown Chatterbox: He prepared for this nine-furlong race in a Charles Town allowance at half that distance. His one two-turn try showed him forward early, but he faded badly. He won a minor sprint stakes at Ellis but was well beaten in two graded tries. And, his trainer Paul McEntee is 0-for-17 on the Turfway meet, coming into the race week. In short, he would be a surprise.

West Saratoga: With nine career starts he has plenty of experience, and those races include a victory in the Iroquois (G3) and placings in a pair of stakes races at Tampa this year. Class isn’t the concern, but the distance is. He was weakening late in a 1 1/16-mile race last out, and his best outings have come at one-turn trips.

Circle P: He needs one scratch to get into the race. If he does, he will be a long shot. He finished a gaining third in the Miracle Wood last out, his first one-mile try, but this will be his first attempt at a two-turn trip. His pedigree is a mixed bag for that. However, his trainer tends to pop at a price second off the lay, suggesting upside.

Triple Espresso: All five of his starts have come on the lawn, and most of them have been decent. His only win has come in maiden company, though he hit the board in a stakes at two turns on grass on debut last year, and was most recently a chasing fourth in a two-turn grass stakes at Gulfstream. However, all of his races have come back on the slow side compared to the better runners in this.

Jeff Ruby Steaks Past Winners Past Performances

Winners of the Jeff Ruby come from a wide range of places, but every winner from the last ten years has come from stakes company.

The only repeat, unsurprisingly, is the Battaglia. Somelikeithotbrown (2019) won that local prep before winning the Jeff Ruby, while Like the King (2021) was second in that prep.

However, Gulfstream Park has been the best place to look for winners of this race. The aforementioned Black Onyx captured his allowance win there. Turf stakes at Gulfstream have been a live source of Jeff Ruby winners in recent years: Dubai Sky (2015) won the Kitten’s Joy, Field Pass won the Dania Beach (G3), and Fast And Accurate (2017) won the Sage of Monticello, a $35,000 starter stakes on the Gulfstream grass. Two other winners came from Gulfstream, as well, out of off-the-board finishes in Kentucky Derby points races on the dirt. We Miss Artie was eighth in the Fountain of Youth (G2), while Tiz the Bomb (2022) was seventh in the Holy Bull (G3).

Rounding out the last ten winners, Oscar Nominated (2016) won the Black Gold at Fair Grounds, Two Phil’s (2023) was third in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, and Blended Citizen (2018) was third in the El Camino Real (G3) at Golden Gate.

Jeff Ruby Steaks Undercard

The Jeff Ruby Steaks is the 12th of 13 races on Saturday’s flagship card at Turfway Park. In addition to the feature, the card includes five other stakes races. The $300,000 Bourbonette Oaks offers its winner 50 Kentucky Oaks points, meaning the winner is guaranteed a spot, and other horses who run well may also make the field. Other stakes races include the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (G3) for other route horses, the $250,000 Latonia for older fillies and mares at two turns, the $250,000 Rushaway for two-turn sophomores who are not quite ready for the Derby trail, and the $250,000 Animal Kingdom for three-year-old sprinters.

With huge fields all day—12 of the 13 races drew more than ten runners!—make sure to tune in all day on FanDuel TV and place your bets through FanDuel or TVG!

Turfway Park History

The track we know today as Turfway Park began its life as Latonia Race Course in 1959. It took that name from another track, also called Latonia, that had existed from 1883 until 1939, just ten miles away. When the race was sold to a new ownership group led by Jerry Carroll, the track’s name changed to its current one, Turfway Park.

The race now called the Jeff Ruby Steaks dates back to 1972, when the track was still called Latonia. General manager John Battaglia, now the namesake of the other Kentucky Derby points race at Turfway, created a race called the Spiral Stakes. It was intended as a prep where promising three-year-olds could then “spiral” up to the Blue Grass and then the Kentucky Derby.

Since that beginning, the race has been known by several names: the Spiral, the Jim Beam Stakes, the Stakes, and the Lane’s End Stakes. In 2018, it took its current cheeky name: the Jeff Ruby Steaks, named for its current sponsor, a midwestern steakhouse chain named after its flamboyant founder. Despite this litany of names, one thing has remained the same: this race is the centerpiece of the Turfway Park meet!

Jeff Ruby Steaks FAQ

Q: When and where is the Jeff Ruby Steaks?

A: The 2024 Jeff Ruby takes place Saturday, March 25 at 6:25 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. It is the 12th of 13 scheduled races on the card.

Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Jeff Ruby?

A: Dating back to its time as the Spiral Stakes, William E. Adams has seven wins in the race. Amazingly, all of them came between 1977 and 1980, as he won both divisions of the race in 1977, 1978, and 1980. Among trainers in the 2024 edition, Todd Pletcher leads with three wins. His winners include Balto Star (2001), Flower Alley (2005), and We Miss Artie (2014). Pletcher has Noted and Agate Road in the main field as well as Triple Espresso on the also-eligible list.

Q: Who is the favorite for the 2024 Jeff Ruby Steaks?

A: Endlessly, coming off a win in the El Camino Real Derby, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for trainer Michael McCarthy and jockey Umberto Rispoli.

Q: Who is the best Jeff Ruby jockey?

A: With five wins between 1984 and 1992, the now-retired Pat Day leads all jockeys. Every jockey in the 2024 edition is seeking their first victory in this race, though people who are riding regularly and winning at a high percentage this Turfway meet include Luan Machado (21%), Adam Beschizza (19%), and Gerardo Corrales (17%).

Q: Who won the 2022 Jeff Ruby Steaks?

A: Two Phil’s won the 2023 edition of this race for trainer Larry Rivelli and jockey Jareth Loveberry, neither of whom return for this year’s edition.

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