FLORENCE, Ky. (WKYT) -- The $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park Saturday came down to a battle between the bettors’ top two choices trained by the meet’s top two trainers, with 7-2 Field Pass getting up in the final jump to defeat 6-5 favorite Invader by a neck and give trainer Mike Maker his sixth victory in the race.
Invader is trained by Wesley Ward, who currently leads the trainer standings with 17 wins to Maker’s 16.
Fancy Liquor, who was entered off his debut maiden special weight win at Gulfstream and is also trained by Maker, was another two lengths back in third.
Fancy Liquor led the way, setting the first quarter-mile in :23.76, the half-mile in :47.78 and the six-furlong mark in 1:11.72. Invader raced just behind in second, while Field Pass was third to Invader’s outside.
Invader was keen to go, with jockey Albin Jimenez taking hold while feeling pressure from Field Pass and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Invader challenged Fancy Liquor approaching the final turn and edged ahead at the top of the stretch, but he couldn’t hold off a determined final surge from Field Pass. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds was 1:49.34.
“I was worried right down to the wire,” said Maker. “I try to bring some of my better turf horses for the Ruby. It’s paid off over the years. He ran a great race off the bench in the Dania Beach in a very competitive field and I thought he would run very well here. He’s a good-sized horse. His conformation’s great. Great mind on him.”
“He broke sharp coming out of there,” said Ortiz. “He put me in a good spot in third, outside the favorite, and I tried to wait. I was close; I wasn’t too far back. When I asked him, it took some time to get going. It wasn’t easy to catch him (Invader), but he got the job done. They went a little slow. My horse wanted to go really bad and I didn’t want to struggle with him, so I let him go.”
Halo Again was fourth, followed by Victory Boulevard (also a Maker trainee), The Stiff, Myamanoi, Dack Janiel’s, Austrian, Toma Todo and Unthrottled. Finnick the Fierce was scratched by his trainer.
The Jeff Ruby Steaks awards points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), with 20 going to Field Pass, eight to Invader, four to Fancy Liquor and two to Halo Again. Invader, Fancy Liquor and Halo Again are Triple Crown-nominated. Field Pass is not. Should owner Kirk Wycoff of Three Diamonds Farm wish to pursue the Kentucky Derby, he would have to pay the late nomination fee of $6,000 by the March 30 deadline. While Maker said he would discuss the idea with the Wycoffs, he expects Field Pass will aim for the American Turf (G2) on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
Field Pass paid $9.60, $4.20 and $3.40. Invader paid $3.40 and $2.60, while Fancy Liquor paid $4.60 to show.