Catching My Eye: Ellis Park June 22-25

June 27th, 2023

This week on Catching My Eye, we’ll look to polish off a few efforts that maybe don't look so impressive on the page, but considering the track bias at Ellis Park, they were really valiant efforts.

On Friday, the main track played fairly fair (still some formful off-the-pace runners unable to produce bids coming home), but that was the only day this week. The other three cards were dominated by front-running efforts.

Thursday, June 22

How about Roman Centurian? Once upon a time running on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail out west, this five-year-old is now in Sarah Hamilton’s barn, and he did all his running against the bias in Race 8 on Thursday, a salty allowance going one mile.

After breaking three paths in the wrong direction and winding up in the back of the pack, he was off the rail in the backstretch but was able to save a little bit of ground going 2-3 wide in the turn. Fanning out to the middle of the track, he came flying late in a way we just have not seen recently at Ellis.

Minnesota Ready was impressive pressing the speed and pulling away to win the allowance race by six lengths, and Roman Centurian was never catching Neil Pessin’s runner, but on a fair track…you never know.

Minnesota Ready earned a career-best 98 Brisnet Speed figure, and Roman Centurian received a 90, which matches the number in his win on June 4. In good hands and in good form, he is definitely a runner you want to pay close attention to next out.

Friday, June 23

Solidify impressed me on Friday. A seven-year-old making his fourth start for Juan Cano, he was able to let the speed develop in front of him, tip out and gamely run down Slam Dunk Sermon and Beverly Park.

In his last outing, Slam Dunk Sermon got the best of Solidify, overcoming the speed bias to win on June 10. Two back, the race flow hindered Solidify’s chances. On Friday, apprentice jock Yoel Navas gave a brilliant ride and his mount ran a 97 — his lifetime career-best Brisnet Speed figure. Solidify is one to note in the starter allowance ranks.

The most eye-catching move across the turf course this week goes to the maiden winner Frontal Attack, who beat the game Boltoro in Friday’s finale. Breaking from the outside post and settling to the rear, halfway through the backstretch she let the trailers know she was done socializing, shooting off to pass four fillies before the bend. Florent Geroux guided her back toward the rail for a quick breather and then coasted back wide to pass the front four with vigor, building a three-length lead by the stretch call.

Owned by Peter Brant and trained by Chad Brown, her April debut at Keeneland was foiled as she tried to come from off the pace across a course that sent frontrunners to the winner’s circle time and again. Matching her first effort with a Brisnet Speed figure of 84, she’s poised to return to New York and cause some damage at Saratoga second off the layoff.

Saturday, June 24

A nice field of sophomore fillies lined up in Race 7 on Saturday, and although the odds-on favorite Grand Love got the lead, she couldn’t keep it as Magical Lute took a huge step forward in her return to a sprint distance, winning the first-level allowance.

Magical Lute not only won from off the pace, but she did it in last-to-first fashion. After a slight stumble, the Ian Wilkes trainee was in the back but was able to save every inch under Brian Hernandez Jr. She skimmed the rail throughout and powered past a nice field of fillies to win by open lengths under mild-to-no urging by BJ, earning a 92 Brisnet Speed figure. After trying one mile twice, I’d say this Maclean’s Music filly is firmly established as a sprinter.

Sunday, June 25 

Bettors knew a horse exiting the May 21 Saudi Crown race would win the conditional first-level allowance this past Sunday, but they backed the wrong one, making Sweet Cherry Pie 1-2 and letting the winner Blue Light go at 9-1.

Bohemian Bo broke from the rail and got the lead as both Blue Light, Zambezi, and Sweet Cherry Pie applied plenty of pressure. The City of Light colt took the lead in the stretch and powered home to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Earning a 91 Brisnet Speed figure, here is yet another three-year-old from Steve Asmussen’s barn to be coming on later in the year.

Right behind him was stablemate Zambezi. Earning an 88 from Brisnet, this performance wasn’t as fast as the 90 he earned breaking his maiden, but in this race, he did it against the track bias. Bumping his inner foe out of the gate and rocketing to join Blue Light pressuring Bohemian Bo, Zambezi conceded position when Sweet Cherry Pie ranged up outside of him, dropping back more than one length. In fourth at the stretch call and with three lengths to make up, if he could have switched leads sooner, he might have gotten Blue Light at the wire. Either way, a game effort.