Foster day at Ellis Park speaks for the sport

Jul 02, 2023 at 02:15 pm by Danny Brewer

West Will Power ( photo by Coady)

  For those familiar with the wonderful world of Thoroughbred horse racing the following assortation has long been understood. If you are not quite as familiar, this statement summarizes another wonderful aspect of this game. Thoroughbred racing…predictable unpredictability. Stephen Foster day at Ellis Park on July 1 provided a microcosm.

  The greatest single race card in this historic track’s life was made possible by the temporary closing of Churchill Downs. An in-depth investigation in Louisville following a higher number of horse fatalities saw Ellis Park become the recipient of a day that featured six stakes races including the first ever grade 1 event (Stephen Foster) ran in Henderson, Kentucky.

  To prove our point we travel to race 9, the grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes. Run at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf, this race formerly known as The Firecracker has seen some explosive finishes in the past including two wins by the event’s new namesake. Set Piece looked like the logical choice as the defending champ and his even money backing said likewise. The appropriately named Get Smokin and his front-running speed was another getting lots of looks as he was entering the starting gates at 4-1. Rolling immediately to the front, Get Smokin got away with a slower opening quarter mile (24.44) but picked up the pace as he maintained the lead heading into the stretch. Set Piece began a rally from the back of this ten-horse field as expected and was set down for a duel with the front-runner.

  Here is where the race got really interesting. Somebody forgot to tell 46-1 shot Stitched that this was not supposed to be his party. Moving up from mid-pack under jockey Flavien Prat, this Greg Foley-trained four-year-old gained with every stride. Finding the wire a neck in front of a hard running Get Smokin and a length ahead of a fast-closing Set Piece, the unimaginable was now a reality. Picking up his first win at this distance and first win of the year, Stitched triggered a $94.60 payout on a $2 win wager,  $609.18  on a $2 exacta, and a $913.07 return on a 10-cent superfecta.

  The race directly following was of course the headlining Stephen Foster. With a Breeders’ Cup Classic berth and $1 million on the line, a top field of accomplished older males had assembled. West Will Power was drawing favoritism and deservedly so. He looked every bit the class of the eight-horse field, but there were four other grade 1 winners lining up and he was yet to check that box. The preceding upset cast a bit of doubt about how this one would play out and understandably so. But a really hard look at the race told us he was the Power in the race.

  Breaking from the gates as the 2-1 favorite, this Brad Cox-trained runner stalked the early pace and pressured the front-running Speed Bias through a solid opening half-mile (46.97). Turning for home, West Will Power took command and exuded confidence down the stretch. A fast closing Rattle N Roll ran out of real estate and the ever-maturing son of Bernardini won by a geared-down half-length.

  So what’s the takeaway from all this?... Predictable unpredictability…



Sections: Sports Brew