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Thursday, March 15, 2018 4:30 PM
  • Spiral Stakes


March 15, 2018 (FLORENCE, Ky.) – Mike Battaglia’s morning line for the Jeff Ruby Steaks this Saturday shows a wide-open race with intriguing opportunity for bettors among the dozen contenders.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Hazit is co-favored with Ride a Comet at value odds of 5-1. After breaking his maiden on debut with a front-running score at Saratoga, Hazit jumped right into Grade 1 competition, finishing off the board in the Champagne Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Pletcher gave him more than three months off after those efforts, and he returned Feb. 18 to put in a good runner-up performance, beaten just a length in an optional allowance at Tampa Bay after setting the pace through the first four of seven furlongs.

Hazit is campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, was happy with the comeback race.

“He ran a really, really good second at Tampa going seven-eighths where he sort of took all the heat all the way around there and just got nailed on the wire, essentially. He ran hard and seems to have come out of it in good order. He’s breezed twice well since.

“We’ve always had in the back of our minds that he might ultimately be better on the turf. Seeing as though the Turfway surface is Polytrack and can be a bit of a ‘between’ surface for horses that handle the dirt but might be a little turfy, we thought this would be an appropriate spot to try him in one of these meaningful Derby prep races. We’re not sure he’s a Derby type, necessarily, but at this time of year it was the most prudent option to try to stretch him out and see if he can make some noise.

“Quite frankly, we’re not looking at this as a Derby prep race or to qualify him with points. If he happens to pop up and do something good and earn some points and come out of it well and train well, then maybe we’d put another opportunity for him to qualify for the Derby into play. But for now this is a stand-alone race that we felt was the best opportunity for [his development].”

At the other end of the odds spectrum are two runners at 15-1, Arawak, trained by Wesley Ward, and Dreamer’s Point, trained by Ian Wilkes. The Jeff Ruby Steaks will be the first all-weather start for Dreamer’s Point, who came from well off the pace on the Ellis Park dirt to win at first asking. He raced closer to the lead in his next start, finishing third at Keeneland, and followed with a third and a second at Churchill Downs, all on the dirt. Wilkes gave him some time off after the Churchill meet ended in November and brought him back Feb. 15 to a fourth-place finish at Tampa Bay, again on dirt. He has been training steadily at Palm Meadows, with his final three-furlong breeze for the Jeff Ruby clocked at 1:02.30 last Sunday.

"He's doing well, had a good, solid work [Sunday],” said Wilkes. “Last time he ran into a really nice horse [Magnum Moon, now two-for-two], but I think it was a tightener and he got a lot out of it. This is a three-year-old stake with some money involved and I think the horse fits for this."

Eleven to Contest the DRF Bets Bourbonette Oaks

While Mike Maker’s Go Noni Go is the DRF Bets Bourbonette Oaks (G3) morning line favorite at 5-2, Bet She Wins is right behind her at 3-1.

Trained by Chris Block, Bet She Wins broke her maiden on the grass in her second start and promptly won the Arlington Park Lassie (listed) on all-weather by more than nine lengths despite being difficult in the gate, colliding with it on exit, bumping into the filly next to her and then getting squeezed as the field settled into position. She was beaten by a similar margin in her fourth start, the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades on the Keeneland dirt.

"She was successful in her second start on grass, so I took a shot with her in the Arlington-Lassie,” said Block. “She had been training over the Polytrack. There was nothing remarkable about her works, but I can't take credit for that result [the 9 1/2-length Lassie win]. Off her turf racing, I just figured it was a good spot. You never know if they like a surface until you run them on it. [In the Alcibiades], I believe it was the dirt. She didn’t have the best trip around there, either.”

Bet She Wins has been off since the Keeneland race Oct. 6 but Block believes the layoff did her good. “She’s developed and filled out body-wise,” he said. “She needed to fill out to her frame, which was the reason for the rest. Her preparation for this has come up nicely. She's as good as she's going to get off a layoff, but she's a much bigger, stronger filly than when she was a two-year-old."

Trainer and co-owner Steve Sandy earned his first stakes win when In the Mood won Turfway’s prep for the Bourbonette Oaks, the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes Feb. 9. It was the third win in eight starts for the versatile filly and her second at Turfway. She broke her maiden at the claiming level on the dirt at Belmont in September in her fourth start after two in-the-money finishes, one at Churchill Downs and the other at Saratoga. John McKee, who was aboard for both Turfway wins, has the mount again Saturday.

"She came out of [the Cincinnati Trophy] and her workouts stronger,” said Sandy. “She's taken to this surface nicely. John fits her great. That combination has been exceptional. He fits her like a glove. This is her first time stretching out, so I'd like to see her mid-pack. She runs well on all surfaces."

Saturday’s card offers an all-stakes Pick 5 on the sixth race and an all-stakes Pick 4 on the seventh race. In addition to the Jeff Ruby Steaks and the Bourbonette Oaks, the card features the Kentucky Cup Classic for older horses, the Rushaway Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Latonia Stakes for older fillies and mares. The first of 12 races on Saturday’s card is set for 1:10 p.m. ET.


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