(Ellis Park / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
From the KY HBPA / Jennie Rees:
Ellis Park’s increasingly prominent 2-year-old program will be well-represented in next week’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar racetrack just north of San Diego. Also, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic – North America’s richest race — features a pair of Ellis-connected contenders in possible favorite Knicks Go and Art Collector.
Korea Racing Authority’s Knicks Go, now trained by four-time Ellis Park meet-leader Brad Cox, won his 2018 debut at the track and returned in 2019 to finish second in the Ellis Park Derby for trainer Ben Colebrook. Knicks Go is 7 for 9 with Cox, including last year’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. The horse’s two defeats during that time have been a pair of back-to-back fourths in races staged around one turn: the $20 million Saudi Cup and New York’s Metropolitan Mile. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is at 1 1/4 miles around two turns, a configuration Cox believes best suits Knicks Go’s style of going out to the lead and staying there by running his rivals off their feet.
Art Collector, then trained by Tommy Drury, came to Ellis Park to great fanfare last year after capturing Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass. He won the RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby but was declared out of the COVID-delay Kentucky Derby with a minor foot issue. Owner Bruce Lunsford transferred Art Collector to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott this past summer to pursue an East Coast campaign with the goal of getting to the Breeders’ Cup. Art Collector is 3 for 3 for Mott, including winning Belmont Park’s Woodward in his last race for his first Grade 1 victory.
The Ellis Park 2-year-old contingent is headed by Albaugh Family Stable’s Juju’s Map in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ Tiz the Bomb in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Turnerloose in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. All three won maiden races at Ellis Park and proceeded to win a big-money stakes in their next start. That was Keeneland’s Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades in the case of Juju’s Map, who like Turnerloose is trained by Cox. Turnerloose won Kentucky Downs’ $500,000 Aristocrat Juvenile Fillies by five lengths before narrowly losing Keeneland’s Grade 2 Jessamine.
“Ellis is a great spot in regards to getting horses’ maiden broken and taking that next step, whether to the Alcibiades and Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland or Churchill Downs’ Pocahontas and Iroquois,” Cox said after Juju’s Map worked five-eighths of a mile in 59.60 seconds, the fastest of the morning, under jockey Florent Geroux. “We’ve had horses stabled at Ellis for years, and it’s worked out really well for our program with our young horses. “It’s a great place to train horses and also to get their career started.”
Cox also finds Ellis’ attributes extend to older horses. Knicks Go spent several weeks at the Henderson track training between his victories in Iowa’s Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap and Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney, while 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil was at Ellis Park the entire summer. The filly goes into the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the only horse to defeat Distaff favorite Letruska this year.
The Kenny McPeek-trained Tiz the Bomb captured an off-the-turf maiden race by 14 1/4 lengths at Ellis Park, then in his next two races won the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf and Keeneland’s Grade 2 Castle & Key Bourbon – a victory more notable because the colt had broken through the gate before the start.
The Cherie DeVaux-trained Tarabi impressively won her debut at Ellis Park before finishing second behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies favorite Echo Zulu in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Spinaway. Another Ellis Park maiden winner, Detroit City, will run in the Juvenile Turf if he can get in the field after finishing fourth in Keeneland’s Indian Summer in his last start.
The Ellis Park horses are among the 196 horses pre-entered this week for the 14 Breeders’ Cup championship races. The five 2-year-old races are Friday Nov. 5 and the remaining nine races are Saturday Nov. 6, culminating in the Classic. The fields will be set when entries are taken and post positions drawn for all 14 races on Monday.