Turf Sprint Stakes Winner Rewards Patience, Perseverance; Stakes Winner Bought Back for $8,000
BALTIMORE, Md. – He didn’t know it at the time, but when Dark Hollow Farm’s David Hayden purchased a bay filly with chipped knees and an uncertain future last year, he got more than just an eventual broodmare. He had found himself another stakes winner, and brought a family member back home.
Ellanation’s victory in the $75,000 Jameela July 4 at historic Pimlico Race Course was the latest step in a journey that saw the 5-year-old mare change hands three times, twice at auction, before returning to the place she was born and spending more than a year on the sidelines.
“It’s an unbelievable story. It’s like a dream come true story,” Hayden said. “One thing we all know, this is a tough game.”
By Alternation out of the Dixie Union mare Memories of Mystic, Ellanation became a stakes winner for the first time in the Jameela, a five-furlong turf sprint for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares, her 15thcareer start. It was the fourth lifetime win and first of any kind for the Mike Trombetta trainee since returning from a 14 ½-month gap between races following knee surgery.
David Hayden (Maryland Jockey Club)
“We were hoping to get some black type. It was a restricted race so we thought it was the right opportunity and time to take a shot,” Hayden said. “Now she owes us nothing. Not that she owed us anything before, but just to get the family back. We claimed her granddam 25 years ago.”
Dark Hollow, founded by Hayden and his wife, JoAnn, in the mid-1980s and located in Upperco, Md., bred and raced Memories of Mystic to one win from eight races in 2007 and 2008. Her dam, Mystic Dance, won the Sham Say Stakes at Pimlico before being claimed for $25,000 Oct. 7, 1995 and made her final three starts for Dark Hollow.
Before Ellanation, Memories of Mystic produced Bridget’s Big Luvy, winner of the 2015 Private Terms at Laurel Park who ran up against eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Arkansas Derby (G1), and 2012 Selima and Dania Beach winner Mystic Love. Both were also born at Dark Hollow.
“We love the family, we love [Ellanation], so we’re very, very excited and thrilled now, I can tell you,” Hayden said.
Foaled March 31, 2016 at Dark Hollow, Ellanation was sold as an eighth-month-old weanling for $32,000 that November at Keeneland. The Haydens kept tabs on her, and when she was offered at the Ocala Breeders’ April 2018 auction of 2-year-olds in training, they went down with the intention of reacquiring her.
“We saw that she’d been working well down at the OBS sale and we knew some people down there. We said, ‘This is a really nice filly, she’s a Maryland-bred,’ so we went down to try and buy her back,” Hayden said. “We thought we could get her for $100,000 and when she went for $160,000 we took a pass on it.”
Loudmouth Racing was the winning bidder, and Ellanation made her debut Aug. 19, 2018 running fifth in a waiver maiden claiming event at Laurel Park. She would run 11 times for Loudmouth and Joseph Bulger with three wins, four seconds, one third and $128,409 in purse earnings. She also ran fourth in the 2019 Blue Sparkler at Delaware Park, her only previous stakes attempt.
After posting back-to-back sprint wins in November 2019 on the grass at Aqueduct, running for a $30,000 tag, and the next month in an open allowance over Woodbine’s all-weather surface, Ellanation finished fourth in a in a six-furlong dirt allowance Jan. 31, 2020 to open her 4-year-old season.
That’s when fate stepped in. Hayden received a phone call from friend Nick Sallusto, Loudmouth’s racing manager who signed the ticket on Ellanation at the OBS sale.
“He said the guys that own her don’t have a farm, she needs chips taken out of both knees and they don’t want to go through the process,” Hayden said. “Let me tell you something. That’s totally understandable because when you take chips out of knees, most of the time they don’t come back.
“When Nick asked if we wanted her back, I said, ‘Man, they gave $160,000. What do they want for her?’ When he said, ‘How does $8,000 sound?’ I said, ‘Sold,’” he added. “We primarily bought her back because of the family. We wanted her back as a broodmare. We thought if we could get her to the races and get lucky, great. If we can’t, she’ll have another $25,000 or $30,000 in her, which is still a bargain for that family at the $8,000 purchase price.”
After buying Ellanation back, the Haydens trusted her surgery to Dr. Jim Juzwiak who performed the operation at Manor Equine Hospital in Monkton, Md. Ellanation spent “four or five months” at 155-acre Dark Hollow before continuing her recovery with three months of swimming under the watch of Brenda Godfrey at Nor-Mar Farm in Freeland, Md. and ultimately was turned over to Trombetta to join his Laurel string.
“Since we have a farm we had plenty of time, and we knew she was a grass filly. We had pretty good intel from the vets we know who said if we cleaned up the knees we think she could be a stakes filly,” Hayden said. “I know the guys pretty well and we have a phenomenal vet in Jim Juzwiak. We sent the pictures him, he took the chips out, and we gave her plenty of time off.”
Ellanation returned to the races April 10, running sixth in an optional claiming allowance at Laurel. She entered the Jameela after finishing fifth in successive starts, May 6 and Pimlico and June 14 at Delaware Park, and has earned $49,860 for Dark Hollow this year.
“We did all the things that we had to do,” Hayden said. “I totally understand [when] people don’t have a farm and are not passionate about breeding and don’t know the family. Our thing is, we have a passion for the horses. We love our family, we love our horses. We just took a shot and we got lucky.
“In this game, the most important thing you can get for a filly is black type. That’s what you want,” he added. “She already has the family, and the family is great, but to get her black type was going to mean a lot.”
Sent off at 10-1 in a field that scratched down to seven, Ellanation was kept in the clear by jockey Victor Carrasco while stalking the early pace, tipped further outside in the stretch to launch her bid and went on to a half-length triumph over fellow outsider Dendrobia, a familiar foe trained by Tim Keefe.
“Tim Keefe is a good friend of ours. I went up to him in the paddock and said, ‘Would we both sign a contract where we could dead-heat for third, just to get the black type?’ And we both said, ‘Hell yeah,’” Hayden said. “And the thing that’s funny is that we won and he ran second, so were both pretty happy.”
The next grass sprint for older fillies and mares on the Maryland stakes calendar is the open $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash going six furlongs July 24 at Pimlico. The $100,000 Alma North July 31 is contested at 6 ½ furlongs on dirt, while the $75,000 All Brandy Aug. 21 goes 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
“She came out of the race great. We’ll just be looking for spots for her. She’s definitely a grass filly,” Hayden said. “She’s only 5, so the question is do we run her again next year or do we bring her home and start breeding her, which is probably going to be what we end up doing, more likely than not.”
Live racing returns to Pimlico Friday. Post time for the first of eight races is 12:40 p.m.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Ellanation (MJC)