M Racing Group LLC's Like the King (Palace Malice) parlayed a farther back than normal trip into a breakout victory in Saturday's GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, earning 100 GI Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the process. Off at 7-1, the Wesley Ward pupil broke cleanly from the rail but was unhurried by Drayden Van Dyke and settled into a midpack spot while hugging the fence around the first turn. Dropping farther back down the backside behind a strong pace, he was switched out for clear sailing heading into the home bend and was one of five or six in with a chance at the top of the lane. He bumped with a pair foes in upper stretch, but kept on kicking to score by a length over Sainthood (Mshawish), whose rider launched an objection against the winner that was disallowed. California invader Hockey Dad (Nyquist) completed the trifecta.
“I got together with my agent (Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens) and [trainer] Wesley [Ward] and we decided to change up the tactics a bit today,” said Van Dyke, who hadn't ridden Like the King before and was previously based in California. “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.”
A well-beaten second on debut at Belterra last July, Like the King stretched out and switched to turf at that Ohio oval to graduate by 7 1/2 lengths in September. He was a distant third in a rained-off Keeneland allowance Oct. 24 before taking a local optional claimer over a flat mile Dec. 4. The chestnut most recently finished second in the prep for this, the John Battaglia Memorial S. Feb. 26. He endured some stretch traffic that day behind Hush of a Storm (Creative Cause), who was scratched from the Jeff Ruby.
“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 shown 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. 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. We were in the Derby once before but had post 20 and Mr. [Michael] Tabor wanted to scratch (Pablo Del Monte, 2014). Now that we're here again it's very exciting.”
Saturday, Turfway Park
JEFF RUBY STEAKS-GIII, $240,040, Turfway, 3-27, 3yo, 1 1/8m (AWT), 1:50.22, ft.
1–LIKE THE KING, 123, c, 3, by Palace Malice
1st Dam: Like a Queen (SP, $125,125), by Corinthian
2nd Dam: Arcanum, by Unbridled
3rd Dam: Twin Bet, by Bet Twice
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($28,000
Wlg '18 KEENOV; $170,000 Ylg '19 OBSOCT). O-M Racing
Group, LLC; B-Horseshoe Racing, LLC (KY); T-Wesley A. Ward;
J-Drayden Van Dyke. $145,700. Lifetime Record: 6-3-2-1,
$203,880. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Werk Nick Rating: A+.
2–Sainthood, 123, c, 3, Mshawish–Lemon Hero, by Lemon Drop
Kid. ($100,000 Ylg '19 KEEJAN; $90,000 RNA Ylg '19 KEESEP;
$62,000 Ylg '19 OBSOCT). O-WinStar Farm LLC and CHC INC.;
B-Edward Taylor & Springland Farm (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher.
3–Hockey Dad, 123, c, 3, Nyquist–Ann Summers Gold, by
Yankee Victor. O/B-Reddam Racing, LLC (CA); T-Doug F. O'Neill.
Margins: 1, HD, 2 3/4. Odds: 7.00, 10.90, 7.50.
Also Ran: Hard Rye Guy, Gretzky the Great, Moonlite Strike, Dyn O Mite, Awesome Gerry, King's Ovation, Smiley Sobotka, Tarantino. Scratched: Hush of a Storm. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
Like the King was the third topper at the 2019 OBS October yearling sale when selling for $170,000 (see Rainbows Find Pot of Gold at OBS). He becomes the fourth graded winner from second-crop sire Palace Malice, whose own sire Curlin was also well represented on the Derby trail Saturday by GI Curlin Florida Derby hero Known Agenda. He is the first graded winner out of a mare by Corinthian. Dam Like a Queen was stakes-placed at two on the turf before eventually moving down the class ladder. Like the King was her first foal. She has a Maclean's Music 2-year-old gelding and a Fast Anna yearling colt and was most recently bred back to Palace Malice.