HENDERSON, Ky.— Ellis Park picked up some quality entrants for its four-stakes turf-fest Sunday with Churchill Downs’ announcement Thursday that it was canceling its two grass stakes for 3-year-olds that had been scheduled for the Louisville track’s special Aug. 13 Arlington Million card.
The two-time stakes-winning filly Turnerloose was supplemented into Sunday’s $100,000 Centennial Distaff Turf Mile after Churchill called off the Grade 3 Pucker Up for 3-year-old fillies. Similarly, Ellis Park-based trainer Eric Foster supplemented Kitodan, who won Churchill Downs’ $200,000 Audubon Stakes the race after being claimed for $80,000, because the Grade 2 Secretariat was also put on hiatus.
Both Turnerloose and Kitodan had to be made supplemental entries for $1,500 because they weren’t nominated for the turf stakes against older horses at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Ellis Park.
When the dust settled Thursday, three of the Ellis Park stakes drew fields of 10, with the Evan Williams Turf Mile attracting a capacity 12 plus two also-eligibles.
Sunday’s assembly of $100,000 grass stakes, which has developed into one of the Midwest’s best days of summer racing, was scaled back from seven stakes last year to accommodate Churchill Downs’ special program originally scheduled to feature four turf stakes. But Churchill announced Thursday morning that only the Grade 1 Arlington Million and Beverly D will be run over the Louisville track’s new turf course.
Even with fewer stakes, Ellis’ turf stakes fulfill its mission as being a stepping stone to Kentucky Downs’ big-money stakes in early September. Turnerloose and Kitodan are prime examples. Here’s a look at the fields:
Centennial Distaff Turf Mile
Turnerloose won her debut at Ellis Park last summer and followed it up with a five-length victory in Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies. This year she won the Fair Grounds’ Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on dirt but is going back to the grass after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks, her last start.
Trainer Brad Cox is using the Centennial Distaff as a launching pad to the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City Stakes at Kentucky Downs.
“She’s doing very well,” said assistant trainer Jorje Abrego, who oversees Turnerloose’s training at Churchill Downs. “I’ll ship her Saturday to Ellis Park.”
There’s a fair amount of speed in the Distaff Turf, including Ellis Park Turf runner-up Undisturbed. The horses who will be trying to reel her in include Ellis Park Turf third-place finisher Demodog, Grade 3-placed Take Charge Ro and Lady Frosted.
Evan Williams Turf Mile
Foster, whose Foster Family Racing is co-owner of Kitodan, had to scramble when he heard late Wednesday that the Secretariat was going to be scrapped. With an eye on the Big Ass Fans Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs, he said he just wanted to get in a prep. Hence the supplement into the $100,000 Evan Williams Turf Mile.
“I want to run in the $750,000 at Kentucky Downs for straight 3-year-olds,” Foster said. “But I don’t want to go into without having a race. This horse likes to race. I don’t want to wait and wait and then not be ready. I need to run him.”
With Gerardo Corrales named to ride Tut’s Revenge in the Evan Williams, Jose Lopez picks up the mount on Kitodan.
The field includes another 3-year-old who had to detour from the Secretariat in Mount Rundle, a late-closing maiden winner for trainer Michelle Nihei.
Mr Dumas, trained by meet-leader John Ortiz, has not been worse than third in his last seven starts, capped by an authoritative victory in Canterbury Park’s $100,000 Mystic Lake in his last start. Mr Dumas provided Ortiz with one of his first graded-stakes victories, coming in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf in 2019.
Tut’s Revenge, second by a head in Ellis Park’s Jeff Hall Memorial, also is entered in Saturday’s $70,000 R.A. “Cowboy” Jones Overnight Stakes at a mile on dirt.
Chris Hartman entered two-time Oaklawn Park allowance winner Santos Dumont, who would be making his turf debut, and stakes-winning Tejano Twist, who in first start after being claimed for $80,000 was fourth in Churchill Downs’ Maxfield Stakes.
An interesting horse is the Paulo Lobo-trained Kittansett, who is 2 for 2 this year against allowance company and will make his stakes debut.
Trainer Bill Mott supplemented Penalty, most recently fifth in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Poker in only his second start of the year, into the race. Brian Lynch is sending out Churchill Downs’ Opening Verse winner Gray’s Fable.
Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint
Don’t blink! The 5 1/2-furlong Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint is speed, speed, speed. Multiple stakes-winner Elle Z, who led all but the final strides last year before finishing second behind Yes It’s Ginger, takes on the 3-year-old filly Speedometer, who seeks to transfer her fleetness to the turf. In her last start, Speedometer won the off-the-turf Pea Patch by five lengths for her second straight stakes victory.
Elle Z is 9 for 20 in her career, with four seconds.
Creative Credit, winner of Indiana’s Clarksville Stakes over Elle Z in her last start, also is very fast. All that speed could set it up for Tobys Heart, who last year won Kentucky Downs’ Music City and took Churchill Downs’ Unbridled Sidney in May.
Brooke Marie won Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Monrovia on April 9 and ended her 3-for-4 2021 season with victory in the Fair Grounds’ Pan Zareta. In her only start since the Monrovia, Castleton Lyons’ 6-year-old mare weakened late to be sixth in the Unbridled Sidney.
“She’s doing really well,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally. “I’m happy with her. She’s fresh and ready for a fall campaign. She’s a Grade 2 winner. This is her final year. She’s going to be bred in the spring, so hopefully we’re going to add to her value between now and the end of the year. (Kentucky Downs’ $600,000, Grade 3 The Mint Ladies Sprint) would be one of the races on the schedule if everything works out well.”
Twin Spires Turf Sprint
Totally Boss, bred by Mike Pressley of Henderson, earned his first stakes victory in Ellis’ Turf Sprint in 2019 and then went on to win Kentucky Downs’ corresponding stakes (then a Grade 3 and now Grade 2). His career has not gone so smoothly since.
The gelding, now 7, ran three times in 2020, the last being a seventh place at Kentucky Downs. He was off almost nine months, returned to race once, was retired and then was looking so good running around on the farm that he was unretired. Totally Boss resumed racing after a year’s hiatus with a victory in a Churchill Downs allowance race on May 28.
In his continued comeback, Totally Boss faces Mr. Eidson, who in his last two races won on the lead and then rallied to prevail in Indiana’s William Garrett Stakes after being bumped at the start. William Garrett runner-up Charcoal and third place
Necker Island comes back in two weeks after winning Ellis Park’s Jeff Hall Memorial on dirt.
All in Sync and Call Me Midnight, the 1-2 finishers in the off-the-turf Dade Park Dash for 3-year-olds, take on older horses in order to get in a prep before Kentucky Downs’ Grade 2, $600,000 Franklin-Simpson.
Into the Sunrise returns to the site of his greatest success, attempting to win for the first time since he went 2 for 2 at Ellis Park last year, including the Dade Park Dash.
Brittany Vanden Berg, 6 for 13 in her first Ellis Park meet, runs the consistent Bad Beat Brian for the first time after claiming him for $40,000 on July 23.
Ellis Park Press Release
Main photo: Turnerloose winning last year’s Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs off of an Ellis Park maiden win (Coady Photography)