HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018) — Owner Susan Moulton, trainer Wayne Catalano and jockey Channing Hill team for both of Ellis Park’s $75,000 2-year-old stakes Sunday, with Spice It Up in the Debutante for fillies and Manny Wah in the Juvenile.
Manny Wah has shown enough in two races — a second to a nice horse at Churchill Downs, followed by neck win after battling for the lead through fast fractions at Arlington Park — that Catalano isn’t afraid to mention hopes of making the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 2 at his main base of Churchill Downs. Spice It Up, however, is more of an unknown.
Moulton bought the filly July 9 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s horses of racing age sale for $140,000. In her only start, when trained by Ohio-based Tim Hamm and co-owned by breeder Three Chimneys, Spice It Up came from a stalking position to win by 8 3/4 lengths at Thistledown.
“Definitely,” Catalano said of having the Breeders’ Cup at home on his mind. “Definitely with Manny Wah. The filly, we’ve got to see. Manny Wah is going to get better. He’s got everything it takes. His daddy was a runner. His mama could run. He looks like he can run on anything. He’s run a couple good races; his second race was a pretty darn game race.”
Spice It Up’s team is hoping for the immediate success that they enjoyed with another horse bought out of the same sale: the 3-year-old filly Altamura, who in her first start after Moulton bought her for $205,000 won Laurel’s Camptown Stakes for Virginia-breds on Aug. 4.
“We like everything about her,” Catalano said of Spice It Up, a daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. “The filly has been in the program five, six weeks and is really coming around very nice. Obviously she ran well her first out. We’ll see when she runs back, we’ll get a better feel of how she is.”
Manny Wah comes by his distinctive blaze and white markings below his jaw honestly, being a son of Will Take Charge, the 3-year-old champion of 2013 who had his own distinctive “chrome.”
Hill says Manny Wah was impressive in his initial defeat. “He was ready, but he wasn’t like top-notch ready,” he said. “He ran really well. He really moved forward from being a little green and showed he had a lot of promise. When he won at Arlington, that was just as impressive. He ended up making the lead and was a little green down on the inside. But I was never worried that the other horse was going to outrun him. And they just sold that horse who ran second to him for $200,000.
“Wayne has stated from the beginning that this is his Breeders’ Cup horse. Obviously I think that’s the goal. If he comes with a big effort Sunday, you’d have to think he’d be competitive in the Breeders’ Cup. It looks like a pretty good little race Sunday. If we can beat Whiskey Echo (third in Saratoga’s Sanford), then we belong with the horses at Saratoga. Hopefully that horse-racing math adds up. I’m really looking forward to it. Not only does he have the talent but the right frame of mind, too.”
Hill is married to Wayne and Renee Catalano’s daughter, Shelbi. It could be a big week for the family as Hill will ride the Catalano-trained Farrell in Saratoga’s Grade I Personal Ensign on next Saturday’s Travers Stakes card. Hill guided the 4-year-old Farrell to victory in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Shuvee in her last start.
Winchell Thoroughbreds going for sweep as well
Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds also could pull off a parlay with Kristizar in the Debutante and favored Whiskey Echo in the Juvenile. Both are trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, winner of Ellis Park’s last two training titles.
Kristizar won her debut on opening day at Ellis Park by 5 1/2 lengths but faded badly to fourth after engaging in a speed duel in an Ellis allowance race won by Debutante contender Profound Legacy.
“Was less impressive? Is that the phrase you’re looking for?” David Fiske said, speaking with the humor and candor that comes with being the Winchell racing and bloodstock manager for decades. “I don’t know if there was anything definite that happened to her that day. Kind of mystery, I guess. We figured we’d give her another chance. She’s out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, so hopefully the distance isn’t a problem. Tapizar (her sire) won the Breeders’ Cup Mile so you’d think she could handle seven-eighths.”
Whiskey Echo — a $225,000 yearling purchase by Winchell and Willis Horton who is the Ellis Park Juvenile’s 9-5 favorite — was the front-running winner of his debut at Belmont Park, then a closing third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Sanford, a race in which the rider dropped the whip about the sixteenth pole.
“Whiskey Echo is a different kind of horse than some of the others we’ve already started, just by his breeding (by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow) and his size,” Fiske said. “He looks more like a distance horse, a two-turn horse. So running against sprinters at Saratoga might not have been his cup of tea. And I don’t think Steve liked the way he was training at Saratoga, so he sent him back to Churchill. But I think the farther he goes, the better he’ll be.”
Owners hoping Tobacco Road another ‘Lee’ – but 3 lengths faster
Steve Asmussen also trains Juvenile contender Tobacco Road, whose parallels so far to stablemate Lookin At Lee are not lost on Lee Levinson, who with sons Mike and Andy and partner Don Nelson own both horses.
Both horses were fifth at Churchill Downs in their first start at 2, then won their second start at Ellis Park. Tobacco Road now will try to join Lookin At Lee as winner of the Ellis Park Juvenile. As Asmussen points out, Tobacco Road still has to become a millionaire to keep up the comparisons, with Lookin at Lee grinding out seven figures honestly through seconds, thirds and fourth in America’s biggest races.
That most famously includes second in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, when he closed from far back to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind victorious Always Dreaming after getting a rail-skipping ride from Corey Lanerie, who rode Tobacco Road in his victory and will be back on Sunday.
“We hope,” Lee Levinson said via speaker phone in a conversation that included Mike. “Tobacco Road has really responded well. The last race at Ellis, the way he came at the end of that race, boy, it looked similar to me. Just hope he improves. It looks like he wants to go longer, so that is a good thing. Let’s put it this way: I hope Tobacco Road can run two lengths faster than Looking At Lee, and we’ll be in good shape. That’s all we’re asking for: Tobacco Road to be three lengths faster than Lookin At Lee.”
Both horses also were inexpensive as far as buying classic horses go. Lookin At Lee cost $70,000, while Tobacco Road was purchased privately for $30,000 after the son of Quality Road failed to reach the predetermined minimum sales price in the ring.
“It’s like you want to replay it again: One of the greatest times ever,” Lee said of the equine Lee going to the Breeders’ Cup, Triple Crown and all the preps to get him there. “You want to replay it so bad, and you just hope he’s got a whole lot more to give. But it’s something really exciting. Because once you have that experience, you want to relive it again. Reliving another fantastic moment, that’s all. Especially going to the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup, just the thrill, excitement, the people you’re around. It’s an out-of-the-world experience.”
Said Mike: “In 2016 to 2017, we literally got to do all the big horse-racing events.” Still, they said, Ellis Park is their favorite track.
“We love Ellis Park,” Lee said. “I like the time of the year it runs. The horses there are highly competitive. And if you compare the maidens at Ellis Park, they can compete with anybody. You’ve got good horses at Ellis Park, and it’s a good way to find out what you have. It’s an excellent test ground for your horses. We love racing there.”
Ellis Park Debutante
Purse: $75,000. Distance: 7 furlongs. Division: 2-year-old fillies
Post time: Sunday at 4:10 p.m. CT (eighth race) odds
PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer
- Lucky Girasol (118) Esquilin/Gorostieta 30-1
- Spice It Up (120) Hill/Catalano 12-1
- Kristizar (120) McMahon/Asmussen 12-1
- Profound Legacy (122) Hernandez/Wilkes 5-1
- Wakeeta (120) Perez/Gorham 20-1
- Somewhere (120) Albarado/Bradley 9-2
- Bivian B (120) Morales/Hancock 8-1
- La Coyota (120) Camacho/Gonzalez 30-1
- Serengeti Empress (120) Lanerie/Amoss 3-1
- Include Edition (120) Graham/V. Foley 10-1
- Shanghai Rain (120) Saez/Calhoun 4-1
Ellis Park Juvenile
Purse: $75,000. Distance: 7 furlongs. Division: 2-year-olds
Post time: Sunday at 4:40 p.m. CT (ninth race)
PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds
- Pradar (120) Gilligan/Yanakov 20-1
- Lady’s Weekend (120) Rocco/Demeritte 15-1
- SS Trooper (120) Castanon/Johnson 20-1
- Manny Wah (120) Hill/Catalano 5-1
- Giant Act (120) Camacho/Helmbrecht 30-1
- Veritas (120) Pedroza/Wohlers 15-1
- Shanghaied Roo (120) Saez/Calhoun 8-1
8. Overanalyzer (120) Ulloa/Elliott 8-1
9. Tobacco Road (120) Lanerie/Asmussen 9-2
10. Mine Inspector (120) Graham/V. Foley 8-1
11. Whiskey Echo (120) Bridgmohan/Asmussen 9-5