Catching My Eye: Closing Weekend at Ellis Park

August 29th, 2023

Cox, Catalano—these are names we know and it’s no surprise to see them saddle a big maiden-winner over closing weekend at Ellis Park. But the pilots who steered them—Chuan, Michel—are fresh names on the circuit who might have found their ticket to more live mounts and bigger races with the excellent rides they gave these trainers’ young stars over the weekend.

Maiden Breakers

Anyone can be impressed by a speed figure, but knowing a freshman’s potential comes from watching the race. How did they break from the gates? Were they able to relax? Can they pass foes? Do they have a strong finish?

The two-year-old Regal Rumor checked all the boxes on Saturday at Ellis Park. Trained by Wayne Catalano, this Kantharos filly out of the Put It Back mare Back Off backed up her second-place debut with a dominant victory. Like a bolt of lightning she shot out from the gates under Mickaelle Michel, the French-born apprentice jockey in her second year riding in the U.S. This is speed-favoring Ellis Park, so we know the rest of the story, right? Regal Rumor had every chance to go on with it and wire the field, but instead Michel got her to relax as the Asmussen first-timer Makeup bid for the lead on her inside. Regal Rumor pressed that foe through the far turn, and at the top of the stretch, unleashed a furious kick which soon put the field in her rearview mirror.

Winning by six lengths, she earned an 89 Brisnet Speed figure, improving 16 points from her debut. Yeah, that’s quite nice in and of itself, but check out her pace line, from early to late: 90, 87, 96. An early jump and a late kick like that can take you places, and knowing Catalano, it’s very likely we’ll see Regal Rumor take a swing against stakes company at Churchill or Keeneland this fall.

The public gravitated towards Rivalry, with the unexpected combination of Brian Hernandez Jr. named on one of two Brad Cox’s entries in Race 7 on Saturday. But it was the other Cox horse, Godolphin’s Highland Falls ridden by Martin Chuan, who got the win at 9-1, as Rivalry finished in third.

After an awkward break knocking into the gate and winding up in the back of the pack, the debut colt under Chuan was able to save ground while steadily advancing ahead of the first turn. There he tipped out, splitting the forward horses before mounting a four-wide move and running down the impressive Mo Fight.

A 93 Brisnet Speed figure goes to the 3-year-old son of Curlin. Highland Falls is a half sibling to graded stakes winner Long River, who could get the classic distance, as well as stakes winner Lake Lucerne who had her success on the lawn.

Rivalry had a tough journey, as he also did on debut in July, and will no doubt be a short price next outing. My guess is blinkers will go on in his next race.

Depiction Roars

After a troubled-trip 67 Brisnet Speed figure on debut, Depiction sat pretty in his second-asking to receive an 85 traveling one mile over Ellis’ firm turf course on Sunday in Race 7.

It was a picture perfect journey for the son of More Than Ready who broke flashing his natural speed, tending to the pace through the first turn only to concede the lead in the backstretch. Opening up in the far turn, the Cherie DeVaux traineeroared” past to “punch home a dominant winner.” (Dynamic descriptors courtesy of track announcer Jimmy Mcnerney. Good stuff.) 

The Ellis Park Turf Stakes

But still the weekend belonged to Mouffy. Caught behind a wall of foes turning for home in the Ellis Park Turf Stakes, it seemed impossible for her to win. But a lane opened up and Mouffy split the divide sharply outrallying Bipartisanship and beating the bold favorite Lovely Princess, who dug in to hold place honors.

After a strong three-year-old campaign going 3: 2-1-0 for trainer Jonathan Thomas, the daughter of Uncle Mo moved from sprinting on the dirt to going long on the turf and now has won her only two grass tries. Blinkers went on ahead of the stakes score and she improved from an 84 Brisnet Speed figure to a 90. Her stretch showed me a lot, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her knocking on 100 in her next race.