Having won 11 of 29 starts and $652,020, Keith Plaisance’s 6-year-old mare Pacific Pink moves into the deeper water of a graded stakes in Sunday’s $100,000, Grade 3 Groupie Doll at Ellis Park.
Born in Louisiana, Pacific Pink heretofore has raced exclusively in her home state. The mare has won Delta Downs’ LA Bred Premier Night Distaff Stakes, Evangeline Downs’ Louisiana Legends Distaff and Louisiana Legends Soiree, the Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Stakes and Crescent City Oaks and Louisiana Downs’ Elge Rasberry Stakes. All those races were restricted to Louisiana-bred horses.
However, Pacific Pink also has won against open company, including Evangeline Downs’ 2017 Spotted Horse. That’s a race she was second in this year to Adore, one of her new stablemates in the sprawling Steve Asmussen barn. Pacific Pink had been trained by Eddie Johnston, who stays in Louisiana year-round, being sent to Asmussen after her last race with the Groupie Doll in mind.
“She’s obviously a very accomplished race mare,” Asmussen said by phone Friday. “It’s just an opportunity for her in a graded stakes that Mr. Plaisance would like to take, and I’m glad to get the chance to run her.”
Pacific Pink, whose number of wins and earnings easily tops the field, is the 7-2 second choice in the field of 11 fillies and mares, with Pinch Hit the 2-1 favorite and graded stakes-placed Torrent 9-2.
The late-running Pacific Pink doesn’t always win — she also has seven seconds and seven thirds — but she’s always making up ground in the final eighth-mile while racing on dirt, turf or in the mud.
Pacific Pink has been ridden most of her career by Colby Hernandez, whose older brother, Brian, lands the mount for the Groupie Doll.
“She’s a cool mare,” Asmussen said. “I’m sure she’ll keep coming. She’s just a nice, big, strong, good-looking mare. There’s plenty of pace in there for her. Colby rode her last time. Brian rides her this time. I’m sure they’ll communicate what’s best for her.”
Asmussen also has Ellis Park allowance winner Limation in the new $75,000 Ellis Park Derby. “He’s a nice 3-year-old and I think the mile suits him really well right now,” the trainer said. “The horse has trained consistently and always worked impressively, so it’s a nice little chance in a stakes for him.”
The first 500 in attendance Sunday will receive a commemorative Groupie Doll Stakes glass. The mile stakes is named for the two-time champion female sprinter and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner who ran twice in the Ellis Park stakes when it was called the Gardenia, winning as a 3-year-old filly in 2011 and finishing third in 2013.
Caton Bredar, the popular racing broadcast analyst, will be analyzing the races with Li’l Rocco this Sunday and Aug. 19.
Bivian B works for Ellis Park Debutante
Bivian B did a lot right in winning her racing debut July 27 at Ellis Park. But in preparation for the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante on Aug. 19, trainer John Hancock structured a five-eighths of a mile work in company Friday to get the filly used to dirt hitting her in the face.
The work, involving four horses from three barns, didn’t go exactly to plan. But with exercise rider Savannah Goebel coming back covered in dirt suggested that part played out. Bivian B started farther behind her workmates — Hancock estimated eight lengths — than was intended. But she quickly caught up to them on the turn and sprinted away from her competition in the final sixteenth-mile. Ellis Park clocker Billy Pettingill caught her going in 1:02, while Hancock timed her in 1:01 1/5 and galloping out three-quarters of a mile in just over 1:13.
“Can’t do any better,” Hancock said. “I just wanted to give her something to run at, because I intend to bring her from off of it. It looks like there is going to be a lot of speed in it, and I just want to teach her to relax and come running late like she did this morning. It really didn’t matter what was up in front of her, as long as they gave her a target to run at.
“There’s nothing else I can do but keep her happy, keep her in the feed tub, jog her a little bit, graze her around the barn and hope everything is fine in the morning. Then, if we’re good enough, we’re good enough. But she acts like she is. She’s got speed if she needs it, but she’ll sit and wait, too.”
Said Goebel: “She felt really good. She wasn’t even tired at the end.”
Bivian B is owned by Hancock’s wife, Donna, and Gatewood Bell’s Hat Creek Racing. She is named for Hancock’s mother, who died last year, leading for an emotional winner’s circle after she won under apprentice jockey Edgar Morales by a neck over Nana’s Girl.
Healing Reins bringing miniature horses to Ellis Saturday
Kids of all ages will enjoy seeing the miniature horses brought to Ellis Park for Saturday’s card by the non-profit Healing Reins, whose mission is “to assist individuals with special needs in meeting their full potential through interaction with horses.” Healing Reins, which offers individual and group therapy sessions, is supported through its partner locations in Henderson: Chad and Stacy Denton’s Blue Moon Stables and William and Peggy Fidler’s Rolling Hills Equestrian Center. The “minis” will be at Ellis from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Central.
Also Saturday is the second day of wiener-dog trials, with dachshunds squaring off after the third and fifth races, or approximately 2 and 3 p.m. Central. The top four in each race advance to the Wiener Dog Derby semifinals Aug. 25.
The Inside Track free weekly handicapping seminar with announcer Jimmy McNerney and paddock analyst Li’l Rocco is Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Central in the clubhouse’s second-floor Gardenia Room. McNerney and Li’l Rocco will handicap Saturday’s card as well as Sunday’s stakes.
Groupie Doll Stakes (G3)
Post time: Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Central (ninth race)
Purse: $100,000. Distance: mile. Division: Fillies & mares 3 years old & up
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer
1. Sense of Bravery (116) De La Cruz/Cox
2. Jenda’s Agenda (120) G. Saez/Jones
3. Champagne Problems (120) Borel/Wilkes
4. Misleading Lady (120) Rocco/Tomlinson
5. Honey Bunny (120) Lanerie/Ortiz
6. Pacific Pink (120) Hernandez/Asmussen
7. Mines and Magic (120) Camacho/V. Oliver
8. Dutch Parrot (120) Canchari/VanMeter
9. Torrent (120) Gilligan/Moquett
10. Pinch Hit (120) Bridgmohan/Cox
11. Dorodansa (120) Hill/Gorder
Ellis Park Derby
Post time: Sunday at 4:10 p.m. Central (eighth race)
Purse: $75,000. Distance. mile. Division: 3-year-olds
pp horse (weight) jockey/trainer
1. Travelling Midas (120) Gilligan/Arnold
2. Front Door (120) Bridgmohan/LoPresti
3. Ebben (120) Borel/Margolis
4. Jacktastic (120) Landeros/Wilkes
5. Hoonani Road (122) Hill/Catalano
6. Battle At Sea (122) Albarado/Maker
7. Kowboy Karma (120) Hernandez/Jones
8. Limation (120) McMahon/Asmussen
9. Believe In Royalty (120) G. Saez/Jones
10. Art Collection (120) Rocco/Dickey
11. Cutler (120) Zajac/Jackson
12. Turner Time (120) Lanerie/Cox