HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Ellis Park made history on Sunday afternoon.
Park officials say the Ellis Park RunHappy Derby is the most important race in the track’s 98 years.
Watch interviews, race previews and our entire Ellis Park Derby coverage in the video below:
Ellis Park has always had a small town, county fair atmosphere. It’s what horse racing fans in the Tri-State love about coming to the track, but this Sunday, there will be a big-time atmosphere.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Kentucky Derby to September 5, Ellis Park was the beneficiary of a Kentucky Derby prep points race for the first time in track history.
“It’s a tremendous race to have here and it brings Ellis to the spotlight, and it’s a place it probably should be because it’s kind of been tucked away - hidden in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky,” track announcer Jimmy McNerney said. “But they deserve the recognition because they have quality racing each and every day here throughout every summer.”
After the “Run for the Roses” was pushed back, Churchill Downs decided to add more prep races leading up to it, naming the Ellis Park Derby as one of those preps. With that brings a host of big-name horses to the pea patch, like Indiana Derby winner “Shared Sense” and the current second-favorite for the Kentucky Derby “Art Collector.”
“They’re gonna have a really good lineup of horses coming for this race, so it’s going to be exciting,” jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., who’s riding “Art Collector” said. “We’re going to go out there and let our horse put his best effort forward and go from there. Going into the Bluegrass, we had a lot of confidence in him, and he showed it. He beat a really good filly in ‘Swiss Skydiver,’ so now we’re going to go into the Ellis Park Derby and look forward to the Kentucky Derby from there.”
While the track can only allow fans to sit inside with limited capacity at socially distanced tables, it doesn’t take away the buzz surrounding Ellis Park’s golden opportunity.
“Just a race like this with Kentucky Derby implications, everybody’s going to be watching this race, because there’s some very good horses coming here,” McNerney said. “It is a win and you’re in - there’s some horses that are on the bubble with points, and I mean it doesn’t get much better.”
You can also watch the Ellis Park Derby over the air on Me TV and streaming on the 14 News App, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV.