Trainer Rodolphe Brisset won his first race at Ellis Park as the 6-year-old mare Now Power led all the way in the $44,000 featured second-level turf allowance, holding the late-running Blasted Boss at bay by a half-length.
Brisset, formerly an assistant to Hall of Famer Bill Mott, only began training last fall, and Now Power was his fourth horse to run at Ellis. But it didn’t take long for Brisset to nab a second victory here, completing the late double as the 3-year-old Nicodemus ran down pacesetting St. Augustine for a three-quarters of a length score in a $42,000 maiden race.
Now Power, a daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, was making her 18th start but her third with Brisset, the first horse he trained for owners Susan and Jim Hill.
“She’s not an easy mare to be around in the morning,” Brisset said. “It took her a little while to adapt to our system and our program, but it looks like it’s paying off now. When they sent her to me, they thought the Kentucky circuit could be a benefit for her to get some black type (stakes placings). Now that we’ve got the allowance out of the way, we may look around to see if we can get a little black type. She’s a good mare.”
Now Power now is 3-2-6 in 18 starts for earnings of $169,516. Brisset said she could run back in Ellis Park’s $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies on Aug. 5. That’s also at a mile, which Now Power toured in 1:34.87 Saturday, the last eighth-mile in 11.20 seconds and last quarter-mile in a strong 22.46 after getting away with a tepid early pace. She paid $13.40 to win as the fourth choice in the field of nine.
“She broke alertly,” said jockey James Graham, aboard for both of Brisset’s wins and whose six victories tie apprentice Edgar Morales for the meet lead. “I got her over to the fence. She sat real quiet, got a little bit of pressure, traveled really sweet. Picked her up about the half-mile pole and she dived in the bridle, I took her right back off it and she finished up real well. I don’t know what the fractions were, but it didn’t feel like we were going really fast. I don’t know if we’d gotten more pressure if we’d have been forced to go quicker. But I think we could have and not had any issue.”
The 3-year-old Nicodemus was making his second start while winning the mile nightcap in 1:36.02, having finished second at Churchill Downs. He ran as an owners’ entry with Locomotion, who clipped heels in the stretch, fell while tossing jockey Joe Rocco to the ground, but got up and appeared to be OK. Rocco said that he was OK as well after hitting the ground hard and rolling under the rail. Third-place finisher Delinquent, ridden by Gregory Romero, was disqualified after being determined to be the cause of the spill. Nicodemus and Locomotion have the same owners as Triple Crown winner Justify in WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, with SF Racing also a partner in the Ellis horses.
Brisset ran four horses Saturday at Ellis after making his Pea Patch debut on opening day. In the past, he would have been in New York, but now he is stabled at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, and soon will take eight of his 40 horses to Saratoga for the summer.
“It’s not where I’m used to racing,” he said of Ellis. “But it’s a family environment, like a fair. You can see everybody enjoying racing and all the activities around. It’s a great place to spend the summer, and I think to get the next rans, it’s a really good place for kids to learn about racing and enjoy it.”
Meanwhile Graham didn’t even know how many wins he had reached this meet. “I’m not even counting,” he said. “I”m just enjoying what’s happening. It’s good. It’s fun. Ellis has always been a good spot for the summer. I’ve been here the last three years and we’ve done well every year.”
Quast wins camel race, takes second on ostrich
Families and kids packed the track Saturday for the popular camel and ostrich races, played out in sunshine, comfortable temperature and low humidity. Jockey Caroline Quast, who rode here last summer but now rides mainly at Cincinnati’s Belterra Park, took the title as Exotic Animal champ, finishing second in a photo finish behind Gabriel Saez in the ostrich race and then winning the camel race over Cory Orm in another tight finish.
“It was awesome,” Quast said after riding a camel for the first time. “It’s a lot slower than a horse. It’s a horse in slow motion. I didn’t know what to expect. When they broke the gate, I said, ‘OK, we’re tied on.’ And it was like oh, shoot, they’re moving! No, it was great.”
The difference between riding a camel and an ostrich is “the gate,” said the German-born Quast, who said she once rode an ostrich in South Africa. “Since a camel has four legs and ostrich only has two, the motion is a lot different. Ostrich is a lot flatter, but you have no way to steer. You just hope and pray they go straight. I think you have a little more control with a camel.”
Of the races, she said, “It’s been on my bucket list for a while. I think it’s a great way to get the public interested in racing in general.”
Saez was called into service as a last-minute replacement for Carlos Villasana, who didn’t ride (a thoroughbred) until the last race.
“That was the first time I rode one of those things,” Saez said. “You go from riding thoroughbreds at 35 miles an hour, it was kind of fun. I had a good time doing it. I think the main thing is to stay balanced, to stay as steady as you can on top of it, and just try to stay on. I’d do it again, for sure.”