Gardenia Handicap Tops Ellis Park's 2006 Stakes Schedule

The $150,000 Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) tops the 2006 Ellis Park stakes schedule for the track's 36-day 2006 meet that includes 10 stakes races with total purses of $650,000.
The schedule's highlight is the second renewal of "Big Four Stakes Saturday" Aug. 5, which features four stakes races headlined by the 25th running of Gardenia, the only graded stakes event on the Ellis Park schedule.

"Big Four Stakes Saturday," which includes $300,000 in total purses in its four stakes races, is scheduled two weeks earlier than the day's inaugural outing one year ago. Along with the Gardenia, a one-mile race for fillies and mares ages 3 & up, the day also includes: the $50,000-guaranteed Regaey Island, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds; the $50,000 -guaranteed Anna M. Fisher Debutante, a seven-furlong race 2-year-old fillies; and the $50,000-guaranteed James C. Ellis Juvenile, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

Another highlight of the 2006 stakes schedule at Ellis Park is the $100,000-guarante Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf. The purse for that 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares ages three & up includes a supplement of $50,000 from the Breeders' Cup Stakes program. The 2005 renewal of the Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf was included as part of "Big Four Stakes Saturday," but the race will be the featured event Aug. 19 in the 2006 meet.

Aside from the Gardenia and the Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf, all stakes races on the 2006 Ellis Park stakes schedule will carry purse money of $50,000-guaranteed. The meet's first stakes event, the HBPA Handicap for fillies and mares ages 3 & up at a mile on the turf, is scheduled for July 22. The stakes schedule will conclude with the Tri-State Handicap, a race for 3-year-olds & up at 1 1/16-miles on the turf course Sept. 2.

The July 19-Sept. 4 racing meet at Ellis Park will be the first at the track since a torna inflicted significant damage when it slammed into the Henderson, Ky. facility Nov. 6 Repair work continues in the aftermath of that storm, but Churchill Downs and Ellis Park President Steve Sexton announced in late December that the track would conduct its scheduled meet in 2006.

"Although 2006 looms as a challenging year for Ellis Park, we are looking forward presenting our fans and horsemen with an exciting Ellis Park meet and our stakes schedule will provide many of the meet's most exciting moments," said Doug Bredar, racing secretary at Ellis Park. "Our overall stakes purses and the value of several individual races are lower than last year's schedule, but given our recent business levels, we shifted some money from our stakes program to overnight purses to assure a strong foundation for our daily racing program. The 10 stakes races we'll present during our 2006 meet will again offer good opportunities for horses in nearly every division."