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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
The Kentucky Derby Post

Ellis Park Opens with a Bang on July 4th

Ellis Park 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


Less than two weeks before Ellis Park was ready to open its doors for the summer racing season, the concern for many horsemen began to swell. Last fall tons of soil was excavated from the Ohio River before being set down on the track to build it up before the season. Unfortunately, what came with it was not welcome.


In June it was noticeable that the dirt track in Henderson, KY contained unsafe amounts of limestone gravel and other foreign materials. As the safety of the horses began to increase many horsemen began to withdraw. Most notably it was local Henderson resident and longtime Ellis Park trainer, Larry Jones.


Jones’ decision to stable his horses on the other side of the state at Churchill Downs Training Center was a setback for Ellis Park. When Jones decided not to enter his horses at Ellis this summer and head for Indiana Downs or Arlington Park instead, EP was in jeopardy of losing more horsemen that they needed.


But, Ellis Park has been faced with the challenge of removing debris from their track before. In November of 2005, Ellis Park was directly hit by a devastating tornado. The aftermath of the damage put Ellis Park to the test and much work had to be done in order to recover. One key element of repairs was removing all of the debris that had settled into the racing surfaces. To clean it up as best they could, special machinery was brought in from Maryland to remove all of the wreckage that sunk into the dirt.


Once the gravel and rocks were identified this summer, Ellis Park made the call. The same machinery that helped them clean things up in 2005 was sent back in. According to reports from many exercise riders, horsemen and trainers the method has again proved to be successful. Concerns over the track conditions have decreased over the last two weeks and the 2013 racing season is scheduled to begin over a dirt track that is tight, watered and ready for racing.


Ready to Go


Despite the early concerns about the rocks in the dirt, the entries for this weekend filled up nicely. Last Saturday morning the racing office began taking entries for the July 4 opener. As of this morning, a total of 85 horses are scheduled to run on the nine race card with an additional 10 on the AE list. A similar number of entries are scheduled over the next two days of live racing and that is a strong sign for Ellis Park.


Who to Expect


A few of Kentucky’s top riders are probable to be in this summer. Due to the live racing schedule at Ellis Park (see below) many will travel in for a day or two over the weekend while also riding elsewhere regularly. Among them may be last year’s leading rider and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Brian Hernandez, Jr. Prior to his break out ride aboard Fort Larned and stellar 2013 season, Hernandez got the momentum going at Ellis Park last summer. His record at the end of the meet was 131-25-30-17 with a total earnings of $462,642; Nice work.


Likely on board as well will be the jockeys that finished 2nd and 3rd in the 2012 standings, Corey Lanerie (25) and Jon Court (24). Others that you can expect on a regular basis: Jesus Castanon, Ricardo Santana Jr., Norberto Arroyo Jr., Leandro Goncalves, and Victor Lebron.


Finally, there will probably be two legends riding on occasion, one probably more than the other. The first is three time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel. A regular rider here throughout much of the 1990’s, Borel always seems to return for a solid 50 – 75 mounts each summer. Another familiar face that you can always count on is none other than R.A. “Cowboy” Jones. Riding horses since 1959, the Cowboy rides again on opening day. At age 70, Jones is primarily an exercise rider but he is always up for a mount or two every summer. It wouldn’t be a true opening day without him, so keep an eye out for the Cowboy aboard Morato Cat in the 3rd race.


As for the top trainers that you will see most often expect Michael Maker, Dale Romans and Kenny McPeek to enter a few. Maker tied for the meet lead in 2012 with 8 wins alongside Tim Glyshaw while McPeek walked away as the earnings leader with $178,968.


Stakes Races


There are a few stakes races scheduled in 2013 but there is only one big day of racing. The G3 Gardenia Stakes is the only graded stakes race on the calendar this summer. But, it is still a very fine race that has attracted many strong contenders since it became a graded in 1988. The most recognizable winner was Groupie Doll in 2011. Before capping off a 5 race win streak in the 2012 G1 BC Filly & Mare Sprint, this is where Groupie Doll scored her very first graded stakes victory.


Ellis Park Summer Meet


Ellis Park opens on the 4th of July and races through Labor Day every summer. However, the amount of live racing days is limited. With the exception of July 4th and Labor Day 2013, they are scheduled to run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the past, there have been some cases of simultaneous racing on the 4th of July but Ellis Park has always steered clear of scheduling live racing at the same time as Churchill Downs. And, that was also the case before Churchill Downs acquired Ellis Park in 1998. Although, CDI later sold the track in 2006, a common respect for separate racing seasons has remained ever since.


For me, Ellis Park was a great place to be introduced to the sport. So, as always, good luck Ellis Park on a successful racing season.  To all fans, riders, trainers, owners and connections, enjoy the 2013 heat index, humidity and oh…………the live racing season as well. Cheers. 


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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer – Chicago, IL


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park, Henderson, KY. 


In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance and the tradition continues because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, KY on Derby Day. 


Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champions trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. The coverage begins when Juvenile season starts and continues until the field is set, the picks are in and the roses are awarded. 



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