LIKE THE KING, the Wesley Ward trainee, takes center stage in our Derby Profile spotlight. He has 104 points to his name, and sits third on the Derby Leaderboard. In this discussion, we're going to look at what this big chestnut colt has done, how he's doing, and what are his chances next month in Louisville to grace the winner circle wearing the blanket of roses.
First of all, LIKE THE KING debuted at Belterra Park in Ohio in July 2020. He broke his maiden on his second try and it was over the turf. He followed that with a third place finish in an allowance dirt race at Keeneland, followed by three consecutive races at Turfway Park. It's at Turfway Park where he began his serious development, as we'll soon see. His record is 2 wins and 1 second in just 3 starts over Turfway Park's all-weather track.
Interesting to note that LIKE THE KING was purchased for $170K while his sire PALACE MALICE's stud fee is only $20K. It's a familiar case of speculative insight driving the price up. They saw something quite special while he was a youngin', and they've been rewarded by his game efforts, plus a trip to Kentucky Derby into the bargain. Perhaps LIKE THE KING is gradually developing into the colt they expected him to be all along.
LIKE THE KING hopped on the Derby Trail back in February when he ran in John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park. He finished second and earned 4 qualifying points. He recorded his fastest mid-race speed, which actually fits the demands of a would-be Kentucky Derby winner, according to credible paper.
Then Wesley Ward sent him to the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes (G3), where he rallied impressively for the win under jockey Drayden Van Dyke. LIKE THE KING proved his routing mettle and earned 100 qualifying points. He is now currently training up for the Kentucky Derby. Is he ready?
LIKE THE KING has been training at Keeneland as far back as February. He hasn't posted a workout since his last win, but he indeed "shows out" on his training. He's earned several bullet works leading up to his previous starts. In fact, he worked a bullet at Keeneland prior to winning his last stakes race, going 5F in a sharp :59.80, the fastest of 23 workouts at that distance. He set a precedent with his training patterns and we'll hopefully see more sharp works before Derby day to indicate his readiness.
How does LIKE THE KING stack up against his fellow Derby rivals? Well, based on his effort in the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes, he's in the mix. He earned a competitive rating equivalent to that of: HOT ROD CHARLIE, MEDINA SPIRIT, SOUP AND SANDWICH, RISK TAKING and DREAM SHAKE. Out of the horses just mentioned, HOT ROD CHARLIE and MEDINA SPIRIT are among the top 10 in the Derby Leaderboard ranking. The caveat is that LIKE THE KING ran very well but against much weaker competition. He'll be entering a new universe in terms of class when he races in Kentucky. He'll need to take a big step forward to be competitive, which is not out of the question considering some historical facts in his favor.
We mentioned he was a big purchase while he was a youngin', so there's a possible breakout-performance waiting for him in the near future. It's just a matter of when. And let's not forget that Turfway Park isn't without their own Kentucky Derby winner who emerged from their local races. ANIMAL KINGDOM won the Kentucky Derby back in 2011, and his prep race was the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes, only it wasn't called that back then; it was the Spiral Stakes.
LIKE THE KING is currently 20-1 to win the Kentucky Derby and is not on the Kentucky Derby Future Pool 5. Yes, he's a longshot. Yet in such a wide open race, if he finds himself in good position under Drayden Van Dyke turning for home, he could get a piece of the prize or outright steal it. On two occasions, LIKE THE KING has won going gate to wire. The first time, he flashed :22.8 speed going one mile on the turf, and still won in the end. On the second occasion, he ran wire to wire and did it without Lasix. Versatility is certainly in this colt's tool box, and with the patient hands of Drayden Van Dyke, he could come rolling late at a generous price.