Triple Crown Hero Justify’s Mom Made the Last Start At Ellis Park
Trained by Helen Pitts-Blasi, Stage Magic ran 3rd in 2011 Gardenia; ‘It means the world to be able to say I was a part of her, a part of it’ Ellis Park has a tie to Triple Crown winner Justify through his mom, Stage Magic.
Owned by Justify breeder John Gunther and trained by Louisville-based Helen Pitts-Blasi, Stage Magic made her final start in the 2011 Gardenia Stakes. She finished third in the Grade 3 race won by eventual two-time female sprint champion Groupie Doll, for whom Ellis’ signature race is now named. Stage Magic was ridden in the Gardenia by Corey Lanerie, who last summer earned his fourth Ellis Park riding title. She retired with a record of three wins, two seconds and three thirds in 12 starts, earning $133,981 while placing in four stakes.
“It means the world to be able to say I was a part of her, a part of it. I was talking to Bob when he was here at Churchill Downs, and he was asking me about her,” Pitts-Blasi said Sunday by phone, referring to Bob Baffert, who won his second Triple Crown in three years with Justify following American Pharoah. “I said, ‘He looks like a lot like her. She was big, but she wasn’t stout like him. But just to be able to say I trained his mama is neat, it means a lot.
“She was neat to be around, but she wanted to train. She was not easy to gallop. Just very straightforward but was all about the game. Just a hard-knocker, just a notch below your really, really good fillies, your Groupie Dolls and stuff, but always right there. Very nice mare.”
Pitts-Blasi said she started following Justify after he won his first race by 9 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on Feb. 18, seeing his pedigree after the performance earned “TDN Rising Star” status by the Thoroughbred Daily News. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Stage Magic’s baby.’ He looks just like her, chestnut with a big white face.”
Also from Justify’s female family are Lily O’ Gold and Shah Jehan. Their dam, Voodoo Lily, is the great-grandmother of Justify, who on Saturday became American horse racing’s 13th horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes with his front-running 1 3/4-length victory over Gronkowski at Belmont Park.
Lily O’ Gold, trained by Ellis Park regular Vickie Foley for owners Kenneth English and Alan Braun of Evansville, won her racing debut at Ellis Park in 1997 and finish third in the Ellis Park Debutante in her next start.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Shah Jehan was second in the 2003 Don Bernhardt by a neck and sixth in the Governor’s Handicap.
“There are a lot of good horses that come out of Ellis Park,” Pitts-Blasi said.
It apparently is good to have bred Ellis Park-raced mares to the now-deceased Scat Daddy. In addition to producing Justify, that cross resulted in Mendelssohn, last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner and winner of the 2018 UAE Derby by 18 lengths before finishing last in the Kentucky Derby. The $1.9 million-earner is out of Leslie’s Lady, who ran three times in Ellis Park turf allowance races, with a second and two fourths for the late owner James T. Hines Jr. of Owensboro and trainer Bob Holthus. Leslie’s Lady also is the dam of four-time champion Beholder and Into Mischief, a multiple Grade 1 winner, and top stallion
Likewise putting on a big show Saturday in New York was Monomoy Girl, who trained at Ellis Park all last summer for Brad Cox, the track’s 2015 training champion who missed the title by one win last year while capturing three of Ellis’ six stakes. Monomoy Girl continued to stamp herself as America’s leading 3-year-old filly, making Belmont Park’s Acorn Stakes her third straight Grade 1 victory on top of the Kentucky Oaks and Keeneland’s Ashland.
After spending the summer preparing for her racing career at Ellis, Monomoy Girl made her first start at Indiana Grand on Sept. 5, the day after Ellis’ meet ended.
“A lot of our good 2-year-olds were there last year, and will be again this year,” Cox said of Ellis Park. “It’s a great track surface.”