Mitchell Road headlines the first stakes of the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park, with Sunday’s $50,000 Ellis Park Turf attracting a very competitive field of 10 fillies and mares.
The 5-year-old Mitchell Road is a Grade 3 winner, having taken last year’s Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. But her fame really comes from being a half-sister to Country House, who won the Kentucky Derby upon Maximum Security’s disqualification two weeks before Mitchell Road’s victory in Maryland. Both horses are out of the War Chant mare Quake Lake. Like the now-retired Country House, Mitchell Road is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
Mitchell Road, the 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes, brings in six wins and five seconds in 14 starts while earning $470,370.
“She’s the favorite, and rightfully so,” said jockey Joe Talamo. “But there are some decent fillies and mares in there. At the same time, she’s a really nice mare and has run some really good races, too. So I’m looking forward to riding her. But it definitely doesn’t look like a $50,000 stakes. It looks like a $200,000, Grade 3.”
Mitchell Road started 2020 with a pair of seconds before checking in seventh in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Mint Julep. However, she lost by only a total of two lengths, making the lead from post 14 before being run down late.
“From that post, we didn’t really have a choice but to try to get over as much as we could,” Talamo said. “But when she got to the lead, she relaxed really well. The last little part, they just kind of out-quickened her, but I thought she ran a pretty good race.
“She looks like she could be the lone speed in here. I know Makealitlemischief and Harmless have been in front in prior races…. If they go crazy, I’d be content to sit right off of them. But if not, we’ll take advantage of her natural speed.”
Among those trying to catch Mitchell Road will be 7-2 second choice Our Bay B Ruth, who won the Tropical Park Oaks in her last start on Dec. 28 for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Declan Cannon has the mount.
The late-running Sister Hanan, the 9-2 third choice, was a snappy allowance winner at Churchill Downs after finishing third in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Honey Fox.
“We just thought this would be a good spot for her to try stakes company again,” said trainer Ben Colebrook. “This came up a little tougher than you’d think for $50,000, but that’s kind of the way it is this year. But she’s doing well, and we expect a good effort from her.”
Five-time Ellis Park riding champion Corey Lanerie will ride Sister Hanan.
“She kind of puts you where you want to be in a race, and she’s got a great turn of foot,” Lanerie said. “I’m excited to ride her, and I look forward to her running big.”
Irish import Mintd returned from a 20-month layoff in making her first start for trainer Brendan Walsh, winning a Tampa Bay Downs allowance race before a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs.
The Ellis Park Turf is the eighth race (4:10 p.m. Central approximate post) on Sunday’s nine-race card. Ellis Park will not race this coming weekend, allowing for Keeneland to conduct a July 8-12 make-up session. Ellis Park will resume racing Friday July 17 and continue its Friday through Sunday format through Aug. 30. Starting Monday, Ellis Park will require guests to wear masks except when they’re eating, drinking, smoking or sitting at their reserved table.
The Ellis Park Turf field in post-position order with jockey, trainer and odds: Timeless Curls (Julien Leparoux, Norm Casse, 12-1); Mintd (James Graham, Brendan Walsh, 8-1); Makealitlemischief (Mitchell Murrill, Bernie Flint, 15-1); Our Bay B Ruth (Declan Cannon, Eddie Kenneally, 7-2); Strike My Fancy (Colby Hernandez, Matt Shirer, 20-1); Mighty Scarlett (Florent Geroux, Ignacio Correas, 8-1); Harmless (Alex Achard, Michelle Lovell, 20-1); Mitchell Road (Joe Talamo, Bill Mott, 9-5); Complicit (Adam Beschizza, Eric Reed, 20-1).
Lanerie wants his title back!
Corey Lanerie will try to regain the riding title he lost to James Graham by a single win (26-25) last summer. Lanerie comes into the Ellis Park meet off a second behind Tyler Gaffalione in the Churchill Downs standings. Gaffalione, along with Ricardo Santana Jr. and David Cohen, are pretty much the only Kentucky riders going to Saratoga. It’s a move Lanerie made for several years before deciding it was more economical to stay home and ride at Ellis Park, with maybe even a better chance to ride some good young horses.
Lanerie missed the closing day of last year’s meet to ride at Philadelphia’s Parx Racing, while Graham won two races to capture his first riding title in Kentucky. Tyler Baze finished in a tie for second with the absent Lanerie.
“When I come here, into every meet, my goal is to be leading rider and do the best that I can,” said Lanerie, who has won 19 titles at Churchill Downs. “Of course I want to be leading rider. If I can’t, I hope I’m second. But my goal is to be on top, and I’m going to give it everything I have. You’re not thinking about the end result too much right now; it’s a goal. But as it gets closer, gets tight — some guys say they don’t think about it, but you’re watching. You’re watching every move everybody else makes and hoping to stay on top of them.
“This is probably the toughest meet now we’ve ever had at Ellis, jockey-wise. We only lost maybe three guys to Saratoga. Most of us just rolled everything over here from Churchill, so it’s basically the same riding colony.”