With the final night of the Churchill Downs spring meet being held Saturday, the Kentucky thoroughbred racing industry moves its attention to Henderson with Saturday afternoon’s start of the Ellis Park meet.
The meet, which lasts 30 days (July 2-September 5), returns 10-time Churchill Downs leading rider Corey Lanerie.
Riding the past two summers at historic Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York, Lanerie returns to the Western Kentucky-track as he inches closer to his 4,000th career victory. Lanerie captured the 2010 Ellis riding title and tied for top honors in 2013.
“You get to stay home. The purses are going to be even better. I like Ellis. I like to win, too, and it’s a little easier than Saratoga, going against the heavy-heads. We’re going to stay home and try to win some races here,” said Lanerie, who captured the 2010 Ellis riding title and tied for top honors in 2013. “The cost of living at Saratoga is just so much. I can stay here and go up for a couple of stakes there and come out cheaper. Unbridled Outlaw started there. A lot of good 2-year-olds come out of Ellis Park. And it could be because they don’t hook the heavy-heads quicker, early in their career, so they maybe last a little longer, without the pressure on them. It’s a good meet, three days a week. It’s good for your mind, like a working vacation. It does my body good. Ellis will have a deep riding colony this year because of the purses.”
Ellis Park’s jockey colony includes Robby Albarado, Brian Hernandez, Jr., six-time Ellis champ Jon Court (also could hit 4,000 career victories while at Ellis) and 2015 champ Didiel Osorio. Others to ride include: Francisco Torres, Jesus Castanon, Miguel Mena, Marcelino Pedroza, Joe Rocco, Jr., Channing Hill, Chris Landeros, and James Graham amongst others.
“It’s an extension of the Churchill Downs jockey colony. The purses are going to be better and you’ll see a stronger, deeper level of talent this season. You’re going to have a whole list of Grade I-proven riders. That’s going to bring a better product to the public,” Court said, who is the only jockey to win the Ellis riding title five straight years (1998-2002) and another in 2009.
“People are looking for a good place to develop their 2-year-olds, horses who can compete back here at Churchill Downs in the spring. And I think a lot will go through Ellis Park. I was on horses here last year that I thought could compete at Saratoga, and now you’ve got the purses rising up,” Albarado said, who has won four Keeneland riding titles and another at Churchill Downs. “I enjoy it.”
By Lou Monaco (@loumonaco)