Catching My Eye: Brad Cox takes early lead at Ellis Park

July 19th, 2023

The Summer meet at Ellis Park, as scheduled, is now in its second week. It appears the track crews have made adjustments to correct the speed bias, as all running styles are working out across the main oval. The hot hand has changed from Steve Asmussen to the Brad Cox barn, which is no surprise given one of those two has won the trainer’s title at Ellis every year since 2016.

Five jockeys are en fuego as Declan Cannon, Francisco Arrieta, and Corey Lanerie all have six wins while Gerardo Corrales and Rafael Bejarano each have five. Between 2016 - 2018, Lanerie won three riding titles in a row here, but Corrales won it last year. I have the feeling we’ll hear from all five of these jocks again and again throughout this meet.

Brad Cox leads the trainer standings at Ellis Park with an impressive five wins from 13 starts. How has he been getting it done? Last week, it was two-year-olds as the Liam’s Map filly Here U Come Again won at first asking and the daughter of Munnings Deboisblanc made her second start a winning one. This past week, two three-year-olds and one four-year-old got it done in a big way, winning by a combined 22 lengths. The most impressive was Dai Vernon, who broke his maiden in Race 8 on Sunday at Ellis Park.

Purchased for $500,000, this Good Magic colt just made his first start in June going long on the turf. He finished a flat tenth, but was never really asked. Since then, he’d outworked stablemate Everso Mischievous, according to Bruno With the Works. Blinkers added and with a move to the dirt--voila--going one mile, he put five lengths on top of the stout field of 12 at 6.13-1. The second-time starter settled in last through the first half mile, and when asked by Gerardo Corrales, he scorched past eleven others, traveling seven-wide and carrying his run as much the best through the wire to earn a 91 Brinset Speed figure.

On Saturday’s one-mile Maiden Special Weight for three-year-old fillies (Race 7), Coppa Girl took it to a field of seven. In her first two races, she had tough starts, spotting the field lengths she couldn’t make up. Making it worse, last out she was running against the well-known speed bias at Ellis. With Corrales up for the first time, she broke cleanly and sat off a longshot leader before taking over the front in the far turn. From there, she cruised, extending her advantage through each call from two lengths to four lengths to over seven lengths at the wire.

The $200,000 daughter of Constitution equaled her debut Brisnet Speed figure with an 84. She did not get to the bottom of her tank. The question is, who did she beat? Her main foe and odds-on favorite Excellent Question from Brendan Walsh’s barn did not show up, and the rest were cupcakes.

The third win this week for the Cox barn came on Friday in Race 7. The lightly-raced Insignia made her first start as a four-year-old and, figure-wise, basically ran the same race as she has now in each of her four outings. She beat a soft field by nine lengths, saving ground every inch of the way, but she did it effortlessly and Corrales had her wrapped up across the wire.

Her career Brisnet Speed figures range from 89 to 92 with the lowest coming in the latest. But there’s more here than a number from this Gary and Mary West homebred. She was a buzz-horse last year when breaking her maiden going 1 3/16 miles but then finished third at Saratoga before being put on the shelf for a year. I think this was a solid race to build from, and this daughter of Curlin will be back in the winner’s circle again this summer going longer.