Catching My Eye: Greg Foley and Declan Cannon at Ellis Park

July 11th, 2023

Analyst Kevin Kilroy discusses the successful summers of trainer Greg Foley and jockey Declan Cannon.

Greg Foley wins third stakes in a row

Going 3-for-3 in stakes races this month, it’s been a big July for trainer Greg Foley. On July 1, career wins number 1,499 and 1,500 came with Bango’s score in the Kelly’s Landing and Stitched’s upset in the Wise Dan (G2). How sweet it is when the big milestones come in graded stakes, and at 46-1, the public was sorely wrong about Stitched’s chances.

Foley’s latest big check winner was Chiseler in the $100,000 Dade Park Dash, a turf sprint for three-year-olds on Saturday at Ellis Park. With two game seconds in four starts since joining the Foley barn, this was the first go on the grass with this outfit, and Corey Lanerie did everything right to get the son of Speightstown in the winner’s circle.

His one score coming gate-to-wire, Chiseler flashed early speed from the gate, but instead of aggressively clearing the field from the far outside draw, Lanerie finessed him behind the leaders and to the rail coming into the turn. When the leader left the inside open, Lanerie took advantage and Chsielr responded in a big way to win by over two lengths and earn an 84 Brisnet Speed figure, though other metrics have his win in the Dade as his top effort of his ten-race career.

Bravo Foleys. No doubt you’ll be celebrating win 2,000 soon enough.

Declan Cannon is in a zone

I’ve been touting jockey Declan Cannon this summer, and over the opening weekend at Ellis Park, he showed yet again that he is riding as well as anyone in the local colony, winning with three of his seven mounts. Including the two races he rode last week at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Cannon went four for nine. In 2023, he has racked up 13 wins on the turf in 56 tries, none bigger than piloting Verstappen to victory in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland in April.

Not only is he getting the wins, but Cannon is also showing how well he is able to tap into a horse’s energy and command it to get the most out of his mounts in the homestretch. Take Highway Robber, winner of Race 5 on Sunday, an allowance for non-winners of two. Going 1 1/6 miles on the turf, Highway Robber got pinched out of early position ahead of the first turn, but Cannon made the best of it by settling back, saving ground, and biding time to make his move.

In the second turn, Cannon let it all hang out, prompting Highway Robber wide around the forward group before opening him up in the stretch. This is where Cannon put his talents on display, riding fully in tune with his mount, working his hands, and sending back windmills with his crop, which kept Highway Robber grinding forward.

The Hard Spun colt trained by Brian Lynch was making just his fourth start, the second of his sophomore campaign, and his first go on the sod. He improved four points for a 91 Brisnet Speed figure.

After a tough trip to finish four lengths behind Scotland and Cagliostro in June at Churchill Downs, Loyal Company returned to face a decent field of non-winners of two on Saturday. This time he brought Declan Cannon, who guided the Brendan Walsh trainee successfully for the win.

Content to settle several lengths back from the forward group of three-year-olds, the Godolphin homebred brought his run in the turn, sweeping four wide past the contenders and fighting off all bids down the homestretch. Fully extended through the wire, he continued to pull away in the gallop-out and posted a very nice 99 Brisnet Speed figure.

Trained by Brendan Walsh, the son of Frosted beat the field by nearly three lengths going six and a half furlongs. With a win going seven panels at Keenland and a game one-turn mile at Churchill, it looks like six-to-eight furlongs is his sweet spot.

After a reversal of form this spring, sophomore filly Mischievous Gal found herself drawn to the far outside in a field of 10 $16,000 maiden claimers on Saturday. Trained by Andrew McKeever, Cannon was reunited with the daughter of Practical Joke, and after breaking well along with many others, Mischievous Gal was in danger of losing an insurmountable amount of ground in the opening turn of the 1 1/16 miles turf contest.

Instead of vying for a leading position, Cannon held tight and settled behind the field. Not even halfway through the second turn, Mischievous Gal had gone from last to first and never looked back to win by over six lengths at 5-2 off the 6-1 morning line odds.

Cannon has 19 mounts across the country coming up this week. The way he’s been riding, he’ll surely bag a few more wins, and we’ll see if he can maintain a spot at the top of the Ellis Park colony this meet.