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Morse wraps weekend with pair of 2-year-old winners in single day at Ellis Park

Published: Jul. 11, 2021 at 7:42 PM CDT
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HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Trainer Randy Morse showcased a pair of promising 2-year-olds Sunday at Ellis Park, starting with Randy Patterson’s Verylittlecents winning the second race by 2 1/4 lengths and Donna Clark’s colt Texas Red Hot following two races later with a head victory. Both horses were making their second career starts.

Morse said he hadn’t planned to run in Ellis’ seven-eighths of a mile maiden race Sunday, which is why Corey Lanerie replaced Joe Talamo on Texas Red Hot, a son of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red who stands at Lexington’s Crestwood Farm. In his debut with Talamo, the colt rallied to be second by a length June 20 at Churchill Downs at 17-1 odds.

“This colt here has showed a lot of promise from Day One,” the Louisville-based Morse, who has most of his horses at Ellis Park this summer, said of the $120,000 Ocala spring 2-year-old purchase. “Luckily Donna Clark gave me the opportunity to buy him. (His last race) was five-eighths. I really didn’t want to run him that short, but I didn’t think I’d get in the three-quarters race the last day at Churchill. We needed a start.

“He’s as good a horse as I’ve had in a while. I hope he proves it.”

Texas Red is likely to take a next step toward that proof in the $125,000 RUNHAPPY Juvenile on Aug. 15 at Ellis Park.

“Truthfully, Joe Talamo would have been on him (today), but I wasn’t really planning on running him in this race,” Morse said. “I told his agent we probably weren’t going to run here. But he came out of his last breeze just tearing the barn down. I thought, ‘If we run here, that’s a month before the stakes.’ So that’s why Joe wasn’t on him, but it worked out.”

With Talamo committed to another horse, Lanerie was the beneficiary.

“That was my first time on him,” he said. “I’d heard a lot of good things about him. He’s for real. He settled inside. I kind of had to wait, had to stop and start once or twice but he didn’t seem to mind. He still had something left. Still a little green, too. If I could have really gotten after him, he’d have opened up some lengths. He did just enough to win.”

Texas Red Hot covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.92 over a track that was drying out after rain earlier in the day and overnight. He paid $5.60 to win as the 9-5 favorite.

Verylittlecents cashes in to kick off Morse’s big day

Randy Patterson’s 2-year-old filly Verylittlecents finished fourth in her June 18 debut at Churchill Downs after a slow start. In Ellis Park’s second race Saturday, she didn’t break in front, but broke well enough and soon was head-and-head for the lead with Chicago shipper One Step Ahead. The pair raced side by side into the turn, clear of their closest rival, before Verylittlecents edged away in the final sixteenth-mile to a 2 1/4-length score under Joe Talamo.

Time for the five-eighths of a mile over a track listed as “good” in the Equibase chart was 57.31 seconds. The track record is 56.46, set by Hoho Tow in 2006. Verylittlecents paid $8 to win as the second choice behind the first-time starter Blamethechampagne, who broke slowly and was forced to come wide, closing to finish fifth while racing greenly.

Trainer Randy Morse called having that one start under Verylittlecents “a huge advantage.”

“In her first start, she didn’t break very good out of the 1 hole, like a lot of them do,” he said. “But she’s got a lot of quality to her. She showed quite a bit of run from Day One, actually. She usually shows a lot of speed in the mornings. That’s why the first time I was surprised when she was behind.”

Verylittlecents is a daughter of the promising Spendthrift Farm stallion Goldencents, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner who in his first crop sired millionaires By My Standards and Mr. Money and other graded stakes-winners in Phantom Currency and Wildman Jack.

“If she could be half as good as any of those, it would be good,” said Morse, who called it “a good possibility” that Verylittlecents would run back in the $125,000 RUNHAPPY Debutante at Ellis on Aug. 15.

Nineties Country plays right tune for streaking Cox, Geroux

The seven-eighths race for 2-year-old colts drew so many entries for Sunday’s Ellis Park card that it was split into divisions. Nineties Country, an even-money favorite from the barn of meet-leading trainer Brad Cox, ran down pacesetting Moon Dial to win by 1 1/4 lengths under Florent Geroux in the sixth race.

“He dug in,” said co-owner Staton Flurry. “I think the last race under his belt helped him. See how he comes out of it and what Brad wants to do next. He ran big.”

The son of Lane’s End’s first-crop Curlin stallion Connect is a $90,000 Ocala March 2-year-old sale purchase owned by Flurry Racing Stables, Starsky Weast and David Flannagan. He also had the benefit of a prior race, finishing third at Churchill Downs May 29 at 5 1/2 furlongs.

“I’d ridden him one time before,” Geroux said. “With 2-year-old races, sometimes it’s an advantage to have a race under their belt, especially when they’re racing seven-eighths. He put me in a great spot right away. He was courageous down the lane to run down the one horse. It was exciting, and hopefully he can move up for his next time.”

Nineties Country had two excellent works at Ellis Park under the care of Cox assistant Jorje Abrego. In his second start, he covered seven-eighths of a mile in 1:22.88, paying $4 to win.

“He was very professional,” Abrego said. “Today, he ran to those works.”

The victory made Cox 7-for-14 at the meet, with four more wins than Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. Geroux, at 7 for 15, remained tied for the jockey lead with Brian Hernandez Jr.

Pedroza making most of limited opportunities at Ellis Park

Marcelino Pedroza’s hope still is to ride seven days a week this summer: Mondays-Thursdays at Indiana Grand, where he has a 12-win lead in the jockey standings with 42 victories and a meet-leading $1.12 million in purse earnings, and then Fridays-Sundays at Ellis Park. While he’s found the Ellis opportunities limited so far, the jockey is making the most of them.

With only five mounts spread over four days, Pedroza has two wins and a second. His victories include Saturday’s fourth race for locally-based trainer Billy Stinson Jr. in Pedroza’s only mount of the afternoon. Stinson also trains Ziggy’s Storm, who won with Pedroza on July 3 at 11-1 odds.

“It’s been pretty good,” Pedroza said. “I haven’t had the opportunities I’m waiting for. But at the same time, I understand that the other guys are working (horses in the mornings) here every week, and I don’t work any horses. But I’m glad Billy gave me the opportunity on both of us horses, and we’re 2 for 2. Thanks to him and thanks to everybody who have given me the opportunity. Hopefully I’ll get more opportunities.”

Stinson said he rode Pedroza when he first came to Kentucky and now uses him when racing at Indiana Grand.

“He’s a really good kid, and he tries hard - and he’s a good rider,” Stinson said.

Pedroza lives in Louisville, two hours from Indiana Grand. What makes riding at Ellis possible is that with school out, his family — wife Rocio, daughter Rosie and son Jeremy — can come with him to Henderson.

“When they’re in school, it’s a little bit tougher because I want to spend time with them,” he said. “I ride only one (Sunday), but they came with me and we’ll spend the night here.”

Pedroza got to Ellis Park very early Saturday to work Bango, upon whom he won Churchill Downs’ Aristides Stakes for trainer Greg Foley. But torrential rain and thunderstorm forced the track to be closed for training.

“Even all seven days, I don’t care. I like to be on a horse,” Pedroza said. “Just like this morning. I came to work horses, and they canceled the works. I told Greg, ‘I want to get on a horse.’ He said, ‘Well, tack shedrow Bango’ and another one I ride for him.”

So Pedroza got on the horses and walked them around the barn shedrow, an unusual use of time for a jockey. As he said, “I’m here for work. I’m not here to play.”

Help us spread the word about Kentucky HBPA College Day!

The Kentucky HBPA and Ellis Park are teaming to sponsor a $1,000 scholarship to be given out via drawing after each of nine races to a full-time college student on Sunday, July 25. The Kentucky HBPA also will be giving away an iPad mini to a separate student after each race. The last-race drawing is limited to students working in the horse-racing industry or whose parents work in the industry, including at Ellis Park or on the backstretch.

Who’s eligible: Full-time students registered at any accredited 2- or 4-year college/university (including online); grad and professional schools; technical, vocational, barber programs, etc. Incoming freshmen eligible. Must show valid college I.D., acceptance letter or verifiable course schedule, along with photo I.D.

Courtesy: Ellis Park

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