Sunday’s $200,000 Ellis Park Derby anchors a banner card, as well as the two-day Bluegrass Pick 6 that begins at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Ellis Park Derby – Race 9 (5:40 p.m. ET)
Nine sophomores are entered in a competitive renewal over a mile. Trademark takes a class drop in the wake of five losses at the graded level, and the Vicki Oliver trainee recorded his best stakes result so far when fourth in the July 9 Indiana Derby (G3). Pegged as the 5-2 choice on the morning line, Trademark has drawn the outside post 9 with Gerardo Corrales.
The 4-1 Top of the Charts signaled his readiness for stakes by extending his record to 2-for-2 at Churchill, pairing up 98 Brisnet Speed ratings. The son of Maclean’s Music is also stretching out from sprints, but the Ellis configuration at this trip makes for a gentler introduction to routing. Strava took a leap forward for Dallas Stewart in his latest, dominating We All See It in a one-mile Churchill allowance. The well-bred Into Mischief colt is listed at 7-2.
Steal Sunshine, fifth in the Florida Derby (G1), recently scored a stakes breakthrough in the Carry Back S. at Gulfstream Park. Friar Laurence and Chasing Time ran one-two in a local allowance, and Knocker Down tries stakes company again after winning two straight at Prairie Meadows.
Groupie Doll S. – Race 8 (5:10 p.m. ET)
Super Quick enters the $125,000 Groupie Doll S. in top form for Norm Casse. The 5-2 morning-line favorite, the Marylou Whitney Stables homebred crushed the Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3) two back, and placed second in the Fleur de Lis (G2) last out.
Multiple Grade 3 veteran Four Graces is toiling in a prolonged losing streak, but the step up to a mile could help the Ian Wilkes mare. The half-sister to Grade 2 hero McCraken showed that she retains her ability when runner-up in the Derby City Distaff (G1) two starts ago. Grade 2-placed Li’l Tootsie appreciated the stretch-out to earn her first stakes win in the Anchorage S. around Churchill’s one-turn mile.
Salute the Flag might prefer more ground, as an allowance winner going 1 1/16 miles, but the Curlin blueblood is on an upward curve for Larry Jones. Graysonsmacho Gal, just denied by Jilted Bride in the Iowa Distaff, has the horse-for-the-course angle with a 4-2-0-1 mark at Ellis.
Audubon Oaks – Race 7 (4:40 p.m. ET)
The Audubon Oaks kicks off the Ellis half of the Bluegrass Pick 6, running through the Groupie Doll and Ellis Park Derby. The Churchill half of the special two-day wager comprises Saturday’s Beverly D. (G1), Lady Tak S., and Arlington Million (G1).
Last Leaf, winner of the Game Face S. and Azalea S. at Gulfstream Park in her past two, has been installed as the 2-1 favorite in the $100,000 Audubon Oaks. The other multiple stakes victress in the field, the 7-2 Optionality, hopes that a freshening revives her former spark. Juddmonte homebred Patna, whose progress was interrupted by a fifth in the Indiana Oaks (G3), could find this a rebound spot.
Yet the seven-furlong event features several intriguing stakes debutantes. Gunning looked potentially smart in her Churchill maiden triumph for Ken McPeek, comebacker Dame Joviale had useful maiden form at two, Take a Stand scored an entry-level allowance win here, and Valentina Day goes turf-to-dirt second off the layoff.
Ellis Park Debutante – Race 6 (4:10 p.m. ET)
An overflow field of 16 juvenile fillies crammed the entry box for the $125,000 Ellis Park Debutante S. Among the 12 in the main body of the field are the Steve Asmussen duo of Empire of My Own (3-1), fourth as the favorite Churchill’s Debutante S., and Lone Star first-out romper Mor Lively (8-1); Churchill maiden winners Shoplifter (12-1), Holiday Decision (9-2) and Kiss Me on Oconee (12-1), the latter pair from the Tom Amoss barn; local debut rompers Justa Warrior (by Justify) (5-1) and Zapple (8-1); and C C Cruise Control (12-1), successful over the Ellis turf. Course-and-distance winner Chicquita Mosca (30-1) has something to find on Speed ratings, but she was best of the rest behind Adirondack (G3) star Naughty Gal two back.
Ellis Park Juvenile – Race 5 (3:42 p.m. ET)
Only six signed up for the $125,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, like the Debutante a seven-furlong test. The Amoss-trained Curly Jack brings the significant formline as the fifth-placer in the Sanford (G3), and accordingly merits 2-1 favoritism.
His rivals include Sanford seventh Roman Giant (4-1); fellow Churchill maiden-breakers Zaici (10-1)and Top Recruit (5-2), a distant third in the Prairie Gold Juvenile; and Ellis winners Frosted Departure (5-1) and Eli’s Promise (6-1). Frosted Departure is the lone entrant proven at the distance.