M Racing Group's Like the King surged in deep stretch under jockey Drayden Van Dyke to win Saturday's 50th running of the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park.
Trained by Wesley Ward, Like the King received 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby for his victory in the 1 1/8-mile race over the synthetic Tapeta surface.
Like the King was relegated to seventh in the early stages of the race as Moonlite Strike opened up a two-length advantage on the field into the first turn through fractions of :22.93 and :46.81. On the backstretch, Moonlite Strike continued to lead but received pace pressure from Gretzky the Great through a six-furlong time of 1:11.65. Meanwhile, Like the King began his rally to the front. By the quarter pole, the colt made his charge to the lead and took clear advantage in the last sixteenth to win by one length.
"I got together with my agent (Gary Stevens) 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."
"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 (Stevens). 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."
The top four finishers received points on a 100-40-20-10 scale for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 1. Like the King was the 7-1 fourth-choice in the betting and paid $16. Sainthood finished second and Hockey Dad was third. Hard Rye Guy, Gretzky the Great, Moonlite Strike, Dyn O Mite, Awesome Gerry, King's Ovation, Smiley Sobotka, and Tarantino completed the running order.
Like the King earned $145,700 for his victory in the Jeff Ruby. This was his second win in five lifetime starts and sports earnings of $195,420.
One race prior to the Jeff Ruby Steaks, Godolphin's Adventuring earned 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series with a two-length win in the $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks.
Ridden by Florent Geroux and trained by Brad Cox, Adventuring covered one mile in 1:37.31.
"She showed a lot of class today getting black type," Geroux said. "She seems to be moving in the right direction with this level of competition. She's won on the dirt at Fair Grounds and now on the Tapeta. I think she could run well on the turf, probably, too."
Adventuring was the 5-2 favorite and returned $7.20.
The top four finishers in the Bourbonette Oaks received 50-20-10-5 points toward the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on April 30. Spritz, Candace O, Oliviaofthedesert, Wait for Nairobi, Forever Boss, Roll Up Mo Money, Into Vanishing, Speeding and California Lily completed the order of finish.