Ellis Park: Debutante Returns To 2017 Schedule; Groupie Doll Stakes Moves To Sunday

Ellis Park is restoring a 2-year-old filly stakes for its 2017 summer meet that runs July 1 through Sept. 4. The $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante is the sister race to the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, which was brought back last year after being on hiatus since 2008.

The 2-year-old stakes, both at seven-eighths of a mile, will be run Sunday, Aug. 20. Also moving from a Saturday to Sunday, Aug. 13, is the $100,000, Grade 3 Groupie Doll for fillies and mares, the meet's marquee race. The $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Handicap on turf has been moved up from Labor Day to the Groupie Doll card.

“With Kentucky's strong 2-year-old program, it's important to have a logical place for maiden winners to run before the fall,” said Ellis Park racing secretary Dan Bork. “Because of our big meet last year and expectations of building on that success, we were able to bring back the Debutante. We believe it will be a popular spot with horsemen as one of the very few open stakes for 2-year-old fillies in the Midwest during the summer and offering the biggest purse among those held in July and August.”

The Debutante and Juvenile are four weeks before Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Iroquois and Grade 2 Pocahontas, positioning them as launching pads to those Breeders' Cup qualifying races.

Lookin At Lee won last year's revived Ellis Park Juvenile over the promising filly Caroline Test. Lookin At Lee, from the stable of 2016 Ellis meet-leading trainer Steve Asmussen, subsequently was second in the Iroquois to the highly-regarded Not This Time and second to champion Classic Empire in Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity before finishing fourth as Classic Empire and Not This Time came in 1-2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Lookin At Lee is looking to punch his Kentucky Derby ticket when expected to race next in Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass or Oaklawn Park's Arkansas Derby.

The $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes for fillies and mares will be run July 8 and the $50,000 Don Bernhardt for sprinters on July 22, both Saturdays.

Moving four stakes to a pair of Sundays provides maximum exposure for the meet's most-anticipated races.

“Running on the same day as the West Virginia Derby or Arlington Million stakes-jammed cards meant that a number of our riders were going to be out of town,” Bork said. “This allows our leading jockeys, who support our entire meet, to participate in our biggest races and lets us put on the best show for the fans and betting public. In that same regard, we always have large and festive Sunday crowds, and it makes sense to let them enjoy the Groupie Doll and our 2-year-old stakes.

“There once was great tradition for Sunday stakes. Now there are very few, but we like the idea of being among them and bringing more attention to Ellis Park.”

Ellis Park's 2017 stakes schedule

Saturday, July 8 — $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Saturday, July 22 — $50,000 Don Bernhardt, 3-year-olds & up, 6 1/2 furlongs. Sunday, Aug. 13 — $100,000 Groupie Doll (G3), fillies & mares 3 years old & up, mile; $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Handicap, 3 years old & up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Aug. 20 — $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs; $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante, 2-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs.

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