Ellis Park: Spot plays for Kentucky Downs Preview Day

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

August 1st, 2020

Ellis Park in Kentucky has quite a slate of stakes races scheduled for Sunday.

"Kentucky Downs Preview Day" includes a quintet of $100,000 grass events serving as steppingstones toward the rich Kentucky Downs meet in September.

Let’s follow the action with a trio of spot plays on a $75 budget:

Race 6: Runhappy Preview Turf Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs on turf 4:10 p.m. ET)

#2 Tiger Blood (5-2) got burned up dueling for the lead through blazing fractions in the Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland last month, but despite forcing the pace through a :21.16 opening quarter, Tiger Blood was ultimately beaten just 1 3/4 lengths while facing a deep and competitive field.

A pure speedster, Tiger Blood had previously won a quartet of turf sprints in 2020 with solid Brisnet Speed ratings, including a memorable 5-furlong dash at Gulfstream Park in which he pressed splits of :21.18 and :42.98. Runhappy Preview Turf Sprint is an easier spot than the Shakertown and speed is dominant in 5 1/2-furlong grass sprints at Ellis Park, so let’s bet this 7-year-old gelding to win and play him in the exacta with #1 High Crime (5-1).

$25 to Win on #2 Tiger Blood
$5 Exacta: 2 with 1
Total: $30

Race 8: Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs on turf, 5:10 p.m. ET)

#2 Into Mystic (7-2) has spent most of her career sprinting on dirt, but she nevertheless ran a big race in her turf debut at Santa Anita last month. Disregarded at 32-1 in the 5 1/2-furlong Monrovia (G2), Into Mystic ran gallantly to finish fourth by two lengths against a tough field. The victorious Jolie Olimpica returned to finish second by less than a length in the Jenny Wiley (G1), while runner-up Oleksandra came back to beat males in the Jaipur (G1).

Into Mystic has tactical speed and will face an easier field on Sunday while making her first start for trainer Brendan Walsh, who wins at a 26% rate with new acquisitions. #7 Lead Guitar (12-1), never out of the money in five starts sprinting on turf, can round out the exacta.

$25 to Win on #2 Into Mystic
$5 Exacta: 2 with 7
Total: $30

Race 10: Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup (6:10 p.m. ET)

Trainer Mike Maker excels at conditioning long-distance turf runners, so let’s take a chance with #5 Empire of War (10-1). A stoutly-bred son of Declaration of War out of an Empire Maker mare, Empire of War has proven to be a stakes-caliber miler, but his pedigree suggests stretching out over 1 1/4 miles could be right up his alley.

Empire of War recently returned from a freshening to win a 1-mile allowance race at Keeneland with a sharp rally from off the pace. Call it a hunch, but I think he’ll take a meaningful step forward while stepping up in trip for his second start back.

I’ll bet Empire of War to win, then play him for second place under defending Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup winner #11 Factor This (6-5), who enters off three consecutive graded stakes wins.

$10 to Win on #5 Empire of War
$5 Exacta: 11 with 5
Total: $15

Good luck!