Michael Ryan’s Bluegrass Parkway had a career best when he won Ellis Park‘s featured $125,000 Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Turf Cup Stakes Aug. 8. The 5-year-old Quality Road gelding finished a half-length in front of Spooky Channel in the 1 1/4-mile grass test for 3-year-olds and up. The Kentucky track hosted four stakes Sunday, the second day of its Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Weekend.
The victory gives trainer Mike Maker a free roll in the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup (G2T) Sept. 11 at Kentucky Downs, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that he’s won four times in the last six years.
In eighth and last early on under jockey Julien Leparoux, Bluegrass Parkway had only two horses beaten in the stretch, but kicked into high gear to run down Spooky Channel and leader Family Way . Spooky Channel, who himself was rallying, got up for second in the final stages as Bluegrass Parkway ran by to complete the distance in track record time of 1:57.94, obliterating the previous record of 1:59.12 set by Factor This in 2019.
Bluegrass Parkway was sent to Maker after the gelding’s 4-year-old campaign, when his record was 1-for-13. He won a 1 3/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his first start for Maker, then was fifth before being sidelined for four months. He returned to take fourth in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance July 24 at Ellis.
“(He’s) a horse we felt would appreciate the added distance the first time we ran him,” Maker said. “His last out, he needed the race. And he showed up today. … The horse seemed to be doing better than any time we’ve had him, so we thought we’d take a chance.”
Maker also had the Preview Turf Cup favorite in Tide of the Sea , who set a swift pace before tiring to fourth, losing by 1 3/4 lengths. Finishing third was the filly Family Way, who had her head in front with an eighth-mile to go, when most of the field of eight remained in contention.
“Honestly, I thought Tide of the Sea would have an easier time getting the lead,” Maker said.
Bred in Kentucky by County Farm Farm, Bluegrass Parkway is out of the unraced Candy Ride mare Candy Swap. He paid $28.20 to win as he upped his earnings to $215,875 from a 3-1-6 record in 17 starts.
Yes It’s Ginger Keeps Ellis Record Perfect
Mike Utley, who runs his family’s Edward Utley Jr. Inc. beer (including Budweiser) distributorship in Henderson, Ky., got his biggest thrill in horse racing as favored Yes It’s Ginger wore down the speedy Elle Z for a 1 1/4-length triumph in the $99,179 Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Ladies Sprint.
Yes It’s Ginger wins the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint Stakes at Ellis Park
Ellis Park is where the 59-year-old Utley has been going to the races since he was 12, as well as the hometown track for his eight partners who collectively own 25% of the 5-year-old mare with majority owner Brilliant Racing and Tagg Team Racing.
“It’s great, in front of everybody,” Utley said. “I don’t know how you can describe it … There will be a lot of Bud. I was crossing my fingers, trust me.”
He said the victory ranks No. 1 in his racing career as owner and fan “and it doesn’t get any better.”
Marcelino Pedroza rode the Greg Foley-trained Yes It’s Ginger for the first time, pressing Elle Z through a stiff pace before edging clear late. The Foley-trained Skinny Dip finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third in the full field of 12 fillies and mares.
“I watched the replays on her and she’s quick out of the gate,” said Pedroza. “She was quick out of the gate when she ran (second June 3 at Churchill Downs) against Elle Z. We didn’t want to be on the lead. We just wanted to sit there and make sure Elle Z felt the pressure. Turning for home, I asked her to go and she responded like a Quarter Horse. She was running in the end and was very impressive.”
Yes It’s Ginger was the only one of the four Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Weekend stakes winners Sunday who didn’t set a course record over the very firm turf. But she came close, powering 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:00.71, just off Totally Boss ‘ mark of 1:00.26 set in 2019. The daughter of Yes It’s True paid $7 to win.
The mare now is 3-for-3 at Ellis Park.
It was no sure thing that Yes It’s Ginger would run at Ellis Park. She also was entered for a turf stakes Wednesday at Indiana Grand. While Foley thought the Indiana race’s five-furlong distance would be even better, and the competition softer, the forecast for rain this coming week helped make the decision to stay put at Ellis.
“When we decided to run here, there were a lot of happy people, the boys from Henderson,” Foley said. “She’s just a gutsy little filly. She gives you all every time you run her. From this time last year, when she broke her maiden over here at Ellis, she’s just done nothing but gotten better all the time. She ran very impressive in Texas last time (winning the June 27 Chicken Fried Stakes) and again today. She’s just a nice filly.”
Yes It’s Ginger now is 6-5-0 in 18 starts, with earnings of $295,511. The $40,000 purchase out of the Mayberry Farm consignment to the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training—the first horse bought by Brilliant Racing—was picked out by Brilliant founding members Natalie Gils and Brandon Stauble. She was bred in Kentucky by Angel Lopez, Penny Lopez, and Kathie Maybee out of the Colony Light mare Ginger Light.
She’sonthewarpath Sets Course Record
Coming off a win in the July 4 Ellis Park Turf Stakes, She’sonthewarpath chalked up her second stakes win of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Ellis Park with a half-length victory over 8-5 favorite Dominga in the $99,875 Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Ladies Mile. Dominga was second beaten a neck in the Ellis Park Turf.
She’sonthewarpath, a 5-year-old daughter of Declaration of War , set a track record for a mile on the turf in 1:31.98, breaking the short-lived mark set two races prior by Betwithbothhands in the Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Mint Million.
“She’s really confident in herself,” said winning trainer Steve Margolis. “She’s a cool mare, and she always gives it her all. She always has that swagger about her anyway. She’s confident, she knows how to win and she fights when you ask her to go.”
She’sonthewarpath captures the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Mile Stakes at Ellis Park
Jockey Adam Beschizza knew what his mount could do.
“She’s pretty universal,” he said. “I can pretty much ask her whether she wants to be forward or days she asks for closing races, but she’s fully capable. I felt like they went super fast up front and I was actually struggling around the home turn. But luckily, she has plenty of heart and dug deep. Thanks to Steve, who’s done a fantastic job with this filly. Kentucky Downs might be in the future. She has a good change of pace. She can sustain a gallop and quicken off it, which is usually a good sign of a nice one.”
Margolis shared Beschizza’s optimism about Kentucky Downs’ miles stakes for fillies and mares.
“That’s a little quirky track, but the grade 3 for $750,000 (the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf) is really exciting,” he said. “We’re stabled here. Ellis has really done well for us, the filly has really trained great over the track, handled everything great. So, I’m excited. She’s an easy horse to train, gets a lot of her training. Just thanks to Robert and Lawana Low for keeping her in training.”
Behind Dominga, Princess Causeway was another neck back in third. She’sonthewarpath paid $5.40 to win as the second choice and now has a record of 8-2-3 in 19 starts, earning $492,460. The mare is a Kentucky homebred for the Lows out of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Ha Ha Tonka.
Betwithbothhands Earns First Stakes Win
After sharing the lead with Tut’s Revenge throughout the race, Chicago-based Betwithbothhands ($13.20 to win) prevailed in the end to take the $98,250 Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Mint Million. The 5-year-old Uncle Mo gelding gave trainer Armando Hernandez his first stakes win.
Betwithbothhands wins the Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Million Stakes at Ellis Park
Hernandez was quick to credit jockey Rocco Bowen’s ride.
“Rocco has been doing a tremendous job for us back at Arlington,” he said. “We’ve won the last four with him. We had this race in mind. Thankfully it all came into place and it all worked out for Betwithbothhands.”
With the late scratch of favorite Hieronymus , a field of five remained to compete for the automatic entry into the $1 million WinStar Mint Million (G3T) Sept. 6 at Kentucky Downs.
“That was my next race, depending on how well he ran here,” Hernandez said. “By the looks of it, I think that’s our next spot.”
Hernandez was confident in his horse’s chances, especially with a short field.
“That was one of my main things when I nominated and entered the horse,” he said. “I said if it was a short field, I could be interested in racing here. I was pretty confident when I got here and saw the way the horse was acting. I felt really good about it.”
Bowen was quick to give full credit to Hernandez and his brother, owner Eder Hernandez.
“Armando has a two-man operation, and he brought the horse here today by himself, which shows what kind of a horseman he is,” said Bowen, who rode Saturday at Ellis for the first time for trainer Anna Meah. “It’s a 6 1/2-hour drive (from Chicago) to come and take a shot. He begged me to stay one more day to ride and he twisted my arm enough that I stayed and I’m happy I did. But I want to give all the credit to Armand and his brother. They are hard-working guys that are trying to get their name out there. I can take very little credit.”
“We have eight horses back at home, and it’s a family-owned business,” said Armando Hernandez. “I just started training a couple of years ago, and I’m trying to get my name out there by doing well and showing my results. I worked for a veterinarian back in Chicago, Dr. James Gilman. I worked for him for 13 years. He retired and he put me in a place where I wanted to train horses, and I’ve been training my own ever since.”
Tut’s Revenge finished second another half-length ahead of Necker Island in third. Final time for the mile was 1:32.05.
This is the first stakes win for Betwithbothhands, whose record improved to 8-1-1 in 21 starts and increases his lifetime earnings to $156,446. The gelding was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Bet On Kitten. He was claimed by Hernandez Racing Stable for $12,500 in July of 2019 at Arlington International Racecourse.