How to bet the 2022 Ellis Park Derby

August 13th, 2022

The finale on a stakes-laden Ellis Park card on Sunday is the $200,000 Ellis Park Derby, a one-mile event for three-year-olds. There are only two prior stakes winners among the field of nine, and one of them is the top selection.

Although we don't normally gravitate toward stakes entrants with any sort of claiming background, an exception can be made for #8 Steal Sunshine (8-1). Two starts after breaking his maiden for a $50,000 tag, Steal Sunshine was a clear second in a first-level allowance behind Skippylongstocking, who placed in the Belmont S. (G1) and recently won the West Virginia Derby (G3). Steal Sunshine then split the field of 11 in the Florida Derby (G1), a better run than might have been expected from a 75-1 outsider.

Steal Sunshine has won two of three since the Florida Derby, most recently taking the seven-furlong Carry Back S. Granted, he got an absolute dream trip, closing into an eye-popping pace of :21 3/5 and :43 4/5, but the good news is there appears a proper amount of speed in the Ellis Park Derby, too. They won't go that fast, of course, but it might be advantageous enough for a colt whose record over a mile is a likeable 4-2-0-1.

The main concern is this race marks Steal Sunshine's first outside Gulfstream. At the potential price, though, he's worth taking a shot with.

#2 Strava (7-2) was a six-length allowance winner at Churchill when last seen in early June, and he, too, was the beneficiary of a very hot pace in that one. He has a strong form line from February when a distant third to Cyberknife in an allowance at Fair Grounds, and is eminently logical.

Stakes debuter #3 Top of the Charts (4-1) lacks the experience the other two have, but impressively won the first two outings of his career going shorter during the Churchill spring meet. Given his grass work on July 30, he might have been intended for the subsequently canceled Secretariat (G1) at Churchill, but instead will stretch out in this spot. We'll see how well he responds to the added distance while under pressure.

#1 Friar Laurence (8-1) was drubbed in his only prior stakes try, at Turfway, but is 2-for-2 on dirt and enters off a bullet five-furlong work at Keeneland earlier this month for Ben Colebrook, whose stable was hitting at a 33% clip during the Ellis meet through last week.

Ellis Park Derby wagers

  • $20 win #8 Steal Sunshine ($20)
  • $10 exactas 8 with 1,2,3 ($30)