Ellis Park: ‘Economical Alternative’ To Saratoga For Juvenile Racing?

“We’re getting ready to head to Two-Year-Old Town.”

That’s what trainer Dale Romans calls Ellis Park, which begins its race meet July 1 and where for years he has run most of his 2-year-olds in the summer. The track’s “baby races” no longer rank among racing’s best-kept secrets. The parade of stakes horses coming out of Ellis races has caught the attention of trainers, owners and horseplayers.

Purses in maiden races are a record $42,000 for Kentucky-breds, which account for the vast majority of horses at the track. Ellis again will stage a pair of $75,000 2-year-old stakes onAug. 19: the Ellis Park Juvenile and Debutante at seven furlongs.

“It’s time for the Baby Invasion to start, and I’ve got a bunch to unleash at Ellis Park,” Romans said. “I won’t take a maiden 2-year-old to Saratoga. If they’re any good, nobody is going to care where they broke their maiden. If they aren’t any good, they’re not going to win at Saratoga anyway.”

Ellis Park’s reputation is growing as the economical alternative to the expense of shipping to upstate New York, with the higher costs of living expenses and running horses at Saratoga’s elite summer meet.

“We have taken in the Dale Romans Kool-Aid,” said Jeff Lifson, head of West Point Thoroughbreds’ Midwest division. “We have a horse that is almost at $200,000 in purses, stakes-placed, just won a (second-level) allowance race at Churchill in powerful fashion and is going on to another stakes — and was an Ellis Park starter last summer.”

That’s Seven Trumpets. He finished fifth in his debut at Ellis Park and in his next start gave Romans a tie with Bill Mott for Churchill Downs’ all-time win lead at 701, a title Romans now holds outright.

“You’ve got to be disciplined to not take your 2-year-olds to Saratoga and puff your chest out,” Lifson said. “But how would you like to puff your chest out at Breeders’ Cup time? Derby time? We love Ellis. The purses have gotten better. And I went up there last year for a $10,000 claimer. I could not believe the transformation of the place from the last time I was there, about nine or 10 years ago. It’s really fan-friendly up there. It’s the best of a summer, county fair-type feel.”

The Romans-trained Brody’s Cause finished eighth in his 2015 racing debut at Ellis Park but went on to win Keeneland‘s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Toyota Blue Grass. Also from the Romans barn, Keen Ice lost his 2-year-old debut at Ellis but the next year defeated Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes. Not This Time won at Ellis by 10 lengths in his second race in 2016, then captured Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Iroquois before losing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by only a neck.

Storied Claiborne Farm plans to run some of its impeccably-bred 2-year-olds at Ellis.

“You don’t have to go to Saratoga to run a 2-year-old anymore,” said Claiborne president Walker Hancock. “You can stay home and hopefully make some money at Ellis…. The purses are good and the track is safe. We’re looking forward to running there. We like running in Kentucky. We’re Kentucky people, and it definitely saves on costs. It’s a great place to start a horse, get a race in them and see what they can do at Keeneland or Churchill after a good start at Ellis. The boost in purses certainly helps. Training bills are expensive, and it’s hard enough just to break even. It helps make things work.”

The post Ellis Park: ‘Economical Alternative’ To Saratoga For Juvenile Racing? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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