HENDERSON, KY. (WFIE) - The $50,000 Ellis Park Turf proved Mitchell Road’s path back into the winner’s circle as she held off upset-minded Strike My Fancy to triumph by a neck.
The class of the field, Mitchell Road was a Grade 3 winner last year but came into the Ellis Park Turf 0 for 3 in 2020, finishing seventh in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Mint Julep following a pair of seconds.
”I think we were just looking around for a good spot for her,” said Kenny McCarthy, who oversees the Churchill Downs operation for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “I mean, she tries hard every time we run her. I think sometimes mentally it’s nice for them to win one, when they put forth so much effort. She’s been pretty consistent, so it was good to get the win today.”
Mitchell Road was unprepared at the start and broke last but was content to briefly settle behind Harmless, who at 33-1 was the longest shot in the field of six older fillies and mares, before lapping on alongside her rival. Harmless actually stuck her head back in front in mid-stretch, but Mitchell Road shook her off and then held Strike My Fancy at bay.
”It worked out pretty well,” said Joe Talamo, winning his first stakes at Ellis Park in his first year making Kentucky his base. “The pace was really slow. I just let her gather up her stride and slowly get up there. She got into a really good rhythm down the backside, the whole way around there. Then turning for home, I had a lot of horse. When that other filly came to me, she fought her off pretty nicely. When she got to the lead, I felt like she might have been waiting a little bit, so I was actually happy to see that other filly come to her. I think it made her pay attention a little bit more. Because even galloping out, she was still full of run. I was just thankful for the opportunity. She’s a very nice filly.”
Mitchell Road toured 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:43.12, quickening to cover the final sixteenth-mile in 6.10 seconds. The daughter of turf champion English Channel paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favorite.
”She’s a filly - if you watch her races, she loves a dogfight,” McCarthy said. “It’s like she kind of gets there and then is waiting there for that next one to come. I saw the 6 (Strike My Fancy) coming, but I felt she was still going to hold. That’s the kind of filly she is.”
The Matt Shirer-trained Strike My Fancy closed with a rush under Colby Hernandez to make a close race out of it.
”My horse ran a big race. She tries every time,” said Hernandez, the younger brother of Kentucky mainstay Brian Hernandez Jr. “She’s a very easy horse to ride. She puts you where you need to be in a race. At the sixteenth pole, I thought I had a chance at the winner.”
Harmless — claimed for $62,500 in her prior start, and finishing eighth that day — came in another 1 1/4 lengths back in third under Alex Achard, thrilling new trainer Michelle Lovell. “That was good,” she said. “I thought she may hang in for second. She hung in there for a long time.”
Mintd, who hit the gate at the start, came in fourth. Timeless Curls, who pushed the early pace in her first start in 13 1/2 months, and Our Bay B Ruth founded out the field. Sister Hanan, Makealitlemischief, Mighty Scarlett and Complicit were scratched.
Mitchell Road now has won races at ages 3, 4 and 5, with three stakes victories last year — including Pimlico’s Grade 3 Gallorette two weeks after her younger half-brother Country House gave Mott his first victory in the Kentucky Derby. Both horses are out of the War Chant mare Quake Lake. Mitchell Road now is 7-5-0 in 15 starts, earning $501,060 for Mrs. J.V. Shields Jr. and E.J.M. McFadden Jr.
”Any year you can win a stakes is a great year for it,” McCarthy said. “Obviously this is probably her last year of running, so let’s look around for her and try to find her some good spots and let her pad her resume.”
A good spot easily could be Ellis Park’s $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf on Aug. 2. The winner of that race gets a fees-paid spot in the $500,000, Grade 3 Three Chimneys Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on Sept. 12, a race Mitchell Road ran second in last year.
Newcomer Corrales off to fast start
The hottest jockey of the young meet might be one of the least known, with Geraldo Corrales winning three of his first seven starts his first time riding at Ellis Park. That included taking Sunday’s third race on the $16,000 claimer for trainer Wayne Catalano.
Corrales had never ridden at Ellis Park before Saturday, when he won two races for trainer Mike Maker. The day before he won two stakes at Belterra Park. On July 1, Corrales won two of three starts at Indiana Grand.
Corrales is no secret to Jimmy McNerney, the announcer at Ellis Park and Turfway Park, however. McNerney said in his handicapping preview before Corrales won his first race of the Ellis meet that the jockey finished second in the Turfway standings and had a sneaky-good meet at Churchill Downs. Corrales won 38 of 149 mounts at Turfway, his 26-percent win clip the highest among those riding regularly at the Northern Kentucky track. Even more impressive might have been his eight wins out of only 36 starts (with six seconds and three thirds) during Churchill Downs’ spring meet, which brought together most of the top jockeys in America and lots of full fields.
James Graham, last year’s leading rider, and two-time Ellis riding champ Rafael Bejarano are tied for the lead at five wins apiece. Miguel Mena, who on Friday earned his 2,000th career win, joins Corrales in a tie for third at three wins.
A reminder that Ellis Park will not race this coming week, having relinquished the dates so Keeneland could run a July 8-12 make-up meet. Ellis Park resumes racing July 17 with its Friday through Sunday schedule running through Aug. 30.
Ellis Park remains open daily for Historical Horse Racing and simulcasting. Starting Monday, guests will be required to wear masks except when eating, drinking, smoking or sitting at their reserved table.
Ellis Park requiring masks starting Monday
Important announcement: In the interest of safety and the well-being of all guests amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellis Park is requiring everyone to wear masks or facial coverings starting Monday, July 6. The masks must be worn except when eating, drinking, smoking or at guests’ reserved tables. Masks already are mandatory for Ellis Park employees and horsemen.