An Unusual Betting Strategy for the Jeff Ruby Steaks

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 6th, 2019

Because it is held over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Turfway Park, the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steakes (gr. III) tends to attract an unusual blend of horses.

Synthetic specialists stepping up in class, proven dirt and turf runners trying a different surface, clear-cut Kentucky Derby contenders, and horses who weren’t even nominated to the Triple Crown are all annually found in this 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race. But there have been some common threads linking recent winners of this race. For one, talented turf horses tend to have more success than their dirt counterparts. And secondly, trainer Mike Maker has been a consistent presence in the winner’s circle, with three victories since 2010.

The good news is, Maker’s #10 Somelikeithotbrown fits this profile exactly. The classy son of Big Brown showed a high level of form on grass last year, placing in the With Anticipation Stakes (gr. III), Pilgrim Stakes (gr. III), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I). Even better, Somelikeithotbrown proved he can handle the Turfway Polytrack while utilizing his tactical speed to score a pace-tracking 3 ½-length victory in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes over this track last month. On that occasion, he had to wait behind horses on the far turn and even steadied a bit, but unleashed an eye-catching turn-of-foot once in the clear to win convincingly.
The bad news is, Somelikeithotbrown towers over this field on paper, and he won’t offer much value in the wagering. He’s the only horse in the Jeff Ruby Steaks to have cracked 90 on the BRIS speed figure scale, doing so three times, and his tactical speed should help him work out a clean trip (though his wide post draw could be problematic).

The other runners are less inspiring. #5 Baytown Jimbo at least has a victory on grass to his name, but that came sprinting 6 ½ furlongs over the unique course at Kentucky Downs. #6 Skywire is 2-for-2 and won over the Tapeta track at Woodbine, but Polytrack can be a different ballgame. #7 Counter Offer finished fourth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) on dirt and did break his maiden over the Churchill Downs turf course, but his overall talent level remains unclear. #9 Curlin Grey has kept good company on dirt, but his lone start on turf (admittedly his debut) resulted in a distant ninth-place finish at Ellis Park.

So what should we do if Somelikeithotbrown looks like a short-priced standout, but literally anyone else could hit the board? I’m going to recommend a strategy I almost never consider—keying Somelikeithotbrown in an exacta with “all others.” The Jeff Ruby Steaks has produced many longshot winners and runners-up in recent years (24-1, 35-1, 23-1, 15-1, 15-1, and 25-1 shots have finished in the exacta since 2012), and if we can catch a big price with Somelikeithotbrown, the payoff should be worthwhile.

$2 exacta: 10 with ALL ($20) $1 exacta: ALL with 10 ($10)

Good luck!