Wilbo, The Truth Or Else Headline Bernhardt Memorial

Ellis Park takes measures for heat: ‘Horses, trainers acclimate to what they need to do. We have access to a lot of water, and state vets take extra precautions.’

HENDERSON, Ky. (Thursday, July 20, 2017) — Wilbo and The Truth Or Else, who both chased Limousine Liberal throughout the spring, are the horses to beat in Saturday’s $50,000 Don Bernhardt Memorial at Ellis Park.

 The Truth Or Else kept whittling at his deficit with Limousine Liberal, who swept Churchill Downs’ trio of sprint stakes. A deep closer, the 5-year-old horse owned by Harold Lerner and Magdalena Racing went from fifth in the Grade 2, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes, third in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aristides and then second in the $70,000 Kelly’s Landing. But Jeff Hiles, who oversees trainer Kenny McPeek’s Louisville division, says he’d just as soon The Truth Or Else, the 5-2 second choice behind 2-1 Wilbo, get another crack at Limousine Liberal.
“I welcome the competition,” Hiles said. “If you watch the races, we’re gaining on him every time. We could just never nail him down. I think The Truth Or Else is just as good as him. It’s just catching him on the right day. That’s the thing about our horse; he is a deep closer. Seven furlongs is his preferred race. The jockey has to ride him exactly like he needs to ride him. He can’t be too far off the lead when they hit the quarter pole. He’s not an extremely fast closer, but he does make up a lot of ground.”
Channing Hill, aboard for the Aristides, has the mount in the 6 1/2-furlong stakes.
Chris Wilkins’ Wilbo, who will break on the rail in Saturday’s field of 10 older horses, was second in the Aristides after winning a Churchill allowance race. “We’re glad to be away from Limousine Liberal,” said trainer Chris Hartman, who will have meet-leading rider Corey Lanerie in the saddle. “He’s a very useful horse, tries hard every time.”
Richard Bahde’s Black Bear has beaten The Truth Or Else and been beaten by Wilbo. Black Bear narrowly lost last year’s Bernhardt to Gorgeous Bird in his first start for trainer Randy Morse after being claimed for $62,500.
“He sure should have won; he got shuffled back,” Morse said. “He’s been a good claim — could have been really good. Then we took him to Mountaineer, 4 1/2 furlongs, and he got wiped out leaving the gate. Another two jumps he wins that. We look him to Delta, and I’m not kidding, he was five in front at the sixteenth pole and got beat the last bob. So he could have won three stakes.”
Manhattan Mischief is a nose from winning three straight starter-allowance races. He has three wins and four seconds in his past seven races, a skein that started with the race in which he was claimed for $16,000 by trainer J.R. Caldwell. Manhattan Mischief and Polo Art figure to ensure a solid pace.
(Photo at bottom: Wilbo, #4 in center with orange, white and blue silks, could not hold off Limousine Liberal, on the far outside, in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Aristides. Coady Photography)
Ellis Park taking precautions for extreme heat
With temperatures into the upper 90s Friday and Saturday, Ellis Park will take its normal high-heat precautions. Racing secretary Dan Bork said there are hoses by the paddock, the winner’s circle and on the far turn with which horsemen and their crews can wet down horses as needed. The state veterinarians will have their utility vehicles stocked with ice and water and follow the horses. There will be water stations for the humans leading horses back and forth to the barn area.
Bork said post parades will be shortened to “six or seven minutes” so horses aren’t on the track as long between leaving the paddock and racing. “Very short, just in and out and right to the gate,” he said.
Ellis Park has many more horses stabled on the grounds this year, and those horses are largely acclimated to the heat, said steward Tyler Picklesimer. However, trainers who do not want to run their horses will be able to scratch without going on the veterinarian’s list.
There also is plenty of ice and water for jockeys and all the human participants. In extreme heat, every horse except for the winner will be unsaddled in front of the paddock. Usually the top four finishers unsaddle by the winner’s circle, with their riders weighing in there after the race.  Now the second- through fourth-place jockeys will weigh in back at the jocks’ room.
John Hancock, the dean of the Ellis Park-based trainers, said he even hooks up his truck to his trailer to have as a backup if a horse needs to a lift to its barn and the official horse ambulance is already in use.
“In case we do need the two rigs at any given moment,” he said. “Ellis Park is a place where you know what you’re getting when you come. Horses and trainers acclimate to what they need to do. We have access to a lot of water if we need it. And the state vets, they take extra precautions.”
Saturday AM fan-education program resumes
“Making of a Thoroughbred: Let’s Get Started,” the weekly fan-education program staged in conjunction with the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, resumes this Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Central. The free event begins by the starting gate, which for morning schooling is in the mile chute by the first turn, with the public able to park close by in the southern end of the parking lot (closest to the Ohio River bridges). After Churchill Downs starter Scott Jordan explains how horses learn how to break from the gate, the program this week will move on for a visit to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s stable. Jockey Didiel Osorio, Ellis’ 2015 champion rider, will participate as his schedule permits.
College students can win laptop or $1,000 after each race Sunday
Sunday is College Day, sponsored by the Kentucky HBPA and Henderson County businesses. The HBPA will give out a Dell Inspiron laptop and case via drawing to a full-time college student after each race, as well as teaming with local businesses to provide a $1,000 scholarship after each race. Students must be present to win and have a current college I.D. or a letter of admission at the fall term of a two- or four-year institution, technical school, beauty school or other institution qualifying for federal student financial aid.
The Henderson County and Ellis Park-affiliated businesses participating in the scholarships with the HBPA are (in order of race sponsorship) Sportech, Ellis’ tote-system provider; Ed Utley Jr. Inc. beer and beverage distributor; Sunrise Tool & Die; Morris Tool & Die; Randall H. Sellars CPA; Best-One Tire & Service; Bruce Woodring Auto Sales & Leasing; Ellis Park, and Hancock Racing Stables. The scholarship and laptop for the ninth race will be awarded to an Ellis Park or backside employee in college.
Aug. 20 handicapping contest provides four NHC seats
Ellis Park, in conjunction with AmWager, is staging a live-money handicapping tournament on Aug. 20 that will send its top four finishers to the National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas, Feb. 9-11, 2018. Entry fee for the tournament is $500: $200 going toward prize money, and $300 for each participant’s bankroll. Players bet a minimum of $20 (win, place, exacta or double) on each of 10 contest races, comprised of Ellis Park’s card and optionals to be announced, keeping their bankroll balance after the competition. Participants may have up to two entries, with the tournament capping at 150 entries. The top four finishers based on bankroll earn automatic berths to the NHC at Las Vegas’ renovated Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, with hotel room provided and airfare paid up to $500.
Registration is available in advance by calling Ellis Park group sales at 812-435-8905 to pay the entry fee with a credit card. Registration on the day of the contest begins at 10 a.m. Central, with cash and credit cards accepted. Entry fees can be paid by check (must be postmarked by Aug. 4) in the amount of $500, payable to Ellis Park, and sent to Amanda Phipps, 3300 U.S. Highway 41 N., Henderson, KY, 42420. Advance registration is strongly encouraged to avoid lines the morning of the contest.
Participants in the Bluegrass Tournament must be members of the NHC Tour in order to earn any of the qualifying spots for the NHC in Vegas. NHC Tour membership costs $50 per year and can be obtained through ntra.com/nhc.
Horsetourneys.com is conducting feeder tournaments, with the winners getting the $500 entry fee and bankroll paid to the Bluegrass tournament.


  1. I do not understand (other than money) why these horses are punished by forcing them to run races in this horrible heat. At some point horse racing will be illegal, just like dog racing, dog fighting etc and that will be a day to celebrate. Until then, just do not support horse racing by going to the track.
    Okay – I’ve said the unthinkable. Now here comes the uproar.


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