June 24, 2024

West Coast invader Endlessly headlines Jeff Ruby

Endlessly wins the last El Camino Real Derby held at Golden Gate Fields (Photo by Ronnie Wackerly/Vassar Photography)

Two Phil’s’ second-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) was the best by a winner of Turfway Park’s Jeff Ruby (G3) since Animal Kingdom swept both races in 2011. In Saturday’s $750,000 renewal of the Jeff Ruby, up to a dozen three-year-olds will hope to take a first step toward emulating that classy pair.

Contested over 1 1/8 miles on Tapeta, the Jeff Ruby has tended to attract a disproportionate number of synthetic and/or grass specialists. However, perhaps due to Two Phil’s’ success a year ago, this edition has attracted more with legitimate dirt form that will come in handy on the first Saturday in May.

Of those with synthetic form, Endlessly stands out going in. Winner in three of his first starts on the turf, Endlessly easily handled a switch in surfaces to land last month’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields as the odds-on favorite.

Another to watch for is the rail-drawn Freedom Principle, who captured the Armed Forces S. over Gulfstream’s Tapeta surface in November. His recent form has been clouded of late, though both unplaced efforts occurred in turf stakes.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Jeff Ruby twice when it was contested on dirt, with future Grade 1 winners Balto Star and Flower Alley. He has two legitimate contenders in the main body of the field, Agate Road and Noted.

Victorious in the Pilgrim (G2) on grass last fall, Agate Road displayed versatility finishing second in the Sam F. Davis (G3) on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs last time. He would probably fit best here, rather than in the Louisiana Derby (G2), for which he was cross-entered on Saturday. Noted is a dual-surface stakes winner, though has thrown clunkers in two of his last three.

Pletcher has a third candidate in Triple Espresso, who has raced exclusively on the grass. However, the Omaha Beach colt is the second also-eligible here while safely in the main body of the Louisiana Derby field.

Other Jeff Ruby entrants that have made some mark in recent Derby preps include Northern Flame and Woodcourt, the respective third- and fourth-place finishers in the Rebel (G2); Iroquois (G3) winner West Saratoga, most recently third in the Sam F. Davis; and Lucky Jeremy, third in the Sunland Derby (G3) last out.

Otello captured the Mucho Macho Man S. at Gulfstream two back, but made little impact in a slow-paced Holy Bull (G3) last out, while Seize the Gray returns to the stakes ranks after winning an Oaklawn allowance last month.

The Jeff Ruby will award Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-50-25-15-10 to the respective top five finishers.

The Bourbonette Oaks

The $300,000 Bourbonette Oaks, a Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifier, has attracted 10 three-year-old fillies to go 1 1/16 miles. Maxisuperfly will look to make it two straight after posting a 23-1 upset in the Cincinnati Trophy, but bettors are likely to gravitate toward several others.

Trainer Brad Cox has entered Untapable S. winner Alpine Princess. Kenny McPeek has Martha Washington S. winner Band of Gold and Turfway debut winner Winnable in the field, while Pink Polkadots is an intriguing contender for Joe Sharp after starting her career 2-for-2 over the Fair Grounds turf.

The Kentucky Oaks points distribution in the Bourbonette will be 50-25-15-10-5.