Ellis Park To Feature Record Purses, High-Def Broadcast, Full Fan Capacity

Ellis Park’s 99th season will feature record purses, horse races shown in high-definition and arguably its deepest jockey roster ever. But what is Ellis Park General Manager Jeff Inman most fervently awaiting?

Crowds. Having people back at the 31-date RUNHAPPY Meet at Ellis Park session that begins Sunday June 27 and ends Saturday Sept. 5.

Because of the pandemic, Ellis last year was limited to socially-distanced reserved seating and no general admission. The 2021 meet will return to full capacity, with free general admission. Tickets for Clubhouse and Sky Theatre dining and grandstand boxes can be purchased at ellisparkracing.com/admissions or by calling 812-435-8918. Ellis runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays along with Thursday July 1. Post time for the first race each day is 12:50 p.m. CDT.

“We’re looking forward to the roar of the crowd and getting back to what has made Ellis Park so popular for so many generations in the Tri-State region,” Inman said. “This is going to be the first year that we’re broadcasting in high-def. We’ll get our race signal out to more people. More people will see Ellis than ever. That’s fantastic and can’t be underestimated. Even so, what we’re really excited about is getting fans back in the stands.”

Starting open day, those crowds again will be able to enjoy Sunday Funday Dollar Days, the weekly $2 16-ounce domestic draft beer and $1 hotdogs, peanuts and popcorn. That was among the promotions revealed at Thursday’s annual Media Day at Ellis Park. Other promotions include Military and First Responders Weekend July 1-4, Teachers Appreciation Weekend July 9-11, Ladies Weekend (Fillies and Fun) July 16-18, Men’s Weekend (Studs and Buds) Aug. 20-22 and Healthcare Workers Weekend Aug. 27-29. There will be live music every Saturday and a “Talk Derby to Me” Ellis Park Derby Party on Sunday Aug. 15.

Racing enthusiasts on-track and off-site will appreciate Ellis Park broadcasting its races in high definition for the entire meet. For the second year in a row, Ellis Park’s stakes-laden programs on Aug. 7, 8 and 15 are expected to be shown on the racing network TVG’s main channel. LTN Global, the media-technology company that last year worked with TVG to broadcast Ellis’ big days, will oversee the entire meet’s production.

Henderson’s Bill Latta is among the racing fans with great anticipation for a gangbuster meet. Latta, the retired president of Field & Main Insurance, has attended the Ellis Park races every year for the past 65 seasons, since he was a tyke going to the track with his parents.

“I think they’re going to have nice crowds,” Latta, one of the featured Media Day speakers, said before the event. “People are wanting to get out. There’s a base of racing fans around this Tri-State area — southern Illinois, southern Indiana, Kentucky – who are starved for local racing.”

Ellis Park will open its gates at 8 a.m. CT on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the Gardenia Room on the Clubhouse second floor serving breakfast. Henderson’s J & B Bar-B-Cue will return with a stand underneath the grandstand on race days. Inman said that Ellis is working to get local food trucks to provide a variety of fare in the beer garden area near the paddock.

For the second year in a row, the meet will be sponsored by the Claiborne Farm stallion Runhappy, whose 2015 season as champion sprinter was kicked off by an allowance victory at Ellis. RUNHAPPY, whose name is capitalized when used in racing sponsorships, will also be the title sponsor of four stakes on Aug. 15: the the $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby (which last year was captured by Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass winner Art Collector), $125,000 RUNHAPPY Groupie Doll, $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Juvenile and $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Debutante. All the meet’s 2-year-old races will be presented by RUNHAPPY.

Purses are scheduled to average an Ellis-record $350,000 a day, with maiden races going for $51,000 for Kentucky-bred horses. The 16-stakes schedule includes two new races for the highly successful Kentucky Downs Preview program, which has expanded from five to seven grass stakes while morphing from one day into a weekend, Aug. 7-8. Winners of Kentucky Downs Preview stakes, which carry purses of at least $100,000, receive a fees-paid berth in the corresponding stakes at Kentucky Downs’ all-turf meet in early September.

Five dirt stakes take center stage on Aug. 15, the RUNHAPPY quartet and the $100,000 Audubon Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at seven-eighths of a mile.

The Ellis Park jockey colony will feature the bulk of Churchill Downs’ elite roster. Among those returning will be 2020 Ellis champion rider Joe Talamo and past meet leaders Corey Lanerie, Rafael Bejarano, James Graham, Brian Hernandez Jr. and Jon Court, along with two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux. Leading riders from Indiana Grand such as Marcelino Pedroza, DeShawn Parker and Fernando De La Cruz also plan to ride regularly at Ellis. Notable newcomers include David Cabrera, Drayden Van Dyke and Francisco Arrieta.

“I didn’t think we could top last year’s jockey lineup, but we are adding even more depth,” said Jeff Hall, Ellis Park’s Director of Racing Operations. “Our racing just keeps getting better, too, with current standouts such as Sconsin, Midnight Bourbon and Crazy Beautiful — and of course, Art Collector — running here last summer. I can’t wait to see what comes out of our 2021 ‘baby’ races and stakes. It will be fun for our fans to be able to say, ‘I saw them race at Ellis Park!’”

Ellis Park 2021 stakes schedule
Each includes $25,000 KTDF*

Sunday July 4 — $75,000 Ellis Park Turf, fillies & mares, 3 years old & up; 1 1/16 miles (turf); $60,000 Dada Park Dash Overnight Stakes, 3-year-olds, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf).

Saturday July 17 — $75,000 Good Lord, 3-year-olds & up, 6 1/2 furlongs.

Sunday July 18 — $60,000 Pea Patch Overnight Stakes, 3-year-old fillies, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf).

Saturday Aug. 7 — $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles (turf); Kentucky Downs Preview Dueling Grounds Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles (turf); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint, 3-year-olds & up, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf).

Sunday Aug. 8 — $125,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup, 3-year-olds & up, 1 1/4 miles (turf); Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint, fillies & mares 3 years olds & up, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf, fillies & mares 3 years old & up, one mile (turf); $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Mint Million Mile, 3-year-olds & up, mile (turf).

Sunday Aug. 15 — $200,000 Ellis Park Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles; $125,000 Groupie Doll, fillies & mares, 3 years old and up, mile; $125,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs; $125,000 Ellis Park Debutante, 2-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs; $100,000 Audubon Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 7 furlongs.

*Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund

Ellis Park condition book
EP condition book index

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