No joke: Kelly’s Humor wins Ellis Park Debutante

HENDERSON, Ky. (Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017) — Trainer Brad Cox was hoping to finish third in Sunday’s tough edition of $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante with Kelly’s Humor, a 2-year-old filly whose only prior race was a front-running victory in a mile maiden race that came off the turf.

Kelly’s Humor winning the Ellis Park Debutante over favored Upset Brewing. Coady Photography photos

Cox did two better, as Shaun Bridgmohan guided Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Kelly’s Humor from ninth in the field of 11 to a length victory over favored Upset Brewing, who appeared home free with a two-length advantage in mid-stretch. Sunny Skies, Churchill Downs’ Debutante winner who was the program favorite but the post-time second choice, finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

“It was a very deep race,” said Cox, Ellis’ meet-leading trainer with a 15-for-40 record but who has won eight stakes nationally over the past three weekends, including Ellis’ Grade 3 Groupie Doll with Tiger Moth. “Kind of like the Groupie Doll, the 2-year-old version as opposed to last week. But a very tough race. These Ellis Park stakes races, maiden specials and allowance races top to bottom are really good races. This is solid racing, a good race quality-wise. Coming into it? Honestly, I was hoping to be third.”
It was Cox’s third stakes victory of the meet, having also won the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf with Inveniam Viam.
Bridgmohan had never been on Kelly’s Humor before, not even in a workout.
“Once she got rolling she really gave me a nice sustained finish,” said Bridgmohan, who rode Upset Brewing when she was a troubled second to Sunny Skies in Churchill’s Debutante. “At the eighth pole, I felt I had a real good chance. Because she was just getting warmed up. She just got into that big stride of hers and got comfortable. She’s a very talented filly and has a lot of ways to improve.”
Upset Brewing, from her No. 11 post, pushed the testing pace (21.76 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 44.24 for the half) set by eventual fourth-place finisher Waki Warrior, just cruising to the lead on the turn under meet-leading jockey Corey Lanerie. Having won a maiden race here by 9 3/4 lengths after her Churchill Debutante second, Upset Brewing looked like she was going to put on a real show before the hometown crowd for Madisonville owner Chester Thomas. But then came Kelly’s Humor, seven-wide on the turn and widest of all in the stretch to swoop by while covering seven-eighths of a mile in 1:24.63. She paid $24.40 to win.
“The last eighth of a mile I was empty,” Lanerie told Thomas and trainer Buff Bradley. “They went quick early. But I thought I was off them, just sitting. I didn’t want to take anything away from her, but not send her. I loved my spot. Just when I called on her, I was hoping to have a little more.”
Sunny Skies closed from eighth under Robby Albarado.
“She was a little flat early in the race,” Albarado told owner Nancy Polk. “I didn’t think she’d get anything. But she stayed down the lane. Just stayed and stayed, grinding, ground it out. I think it sets her up good for a two-turn race. She could have just conceded at the three-eighths pole and said she had enough. Don’t be discouraged because she got beat. You’ve got a really nice filly moving forward.”
“She ran great, ran down a nice filly for me,” Cox said. “Shaun did a good job. She broke, and they kind of out-footed her early. We thought that was going to happen. That was the whole reason behind running her a mile first time. She doesn’t have a ton of speed. He did a good job letting her get her feet underneath her and just kind of steady grinding, grinding. He did a good job keeping after her, keeping her out of trouble. It really set up for her.
“The filly that was second ran a heck of a race, chased some very hot fractions. So we’re pleased with this filly. I think she’ll get even better around two turns. That will be maybe a little more to her liking. And maybe grass. I keep saying that, because that was the intent: to get on grass from the start. But I do believe she could do either surface, dirt or turf. But two turns she’ll probably be a little better.”
Cox said that Kelly’s Humor, a daughter of champion sprinter Midnight Lute out of the Distorted Humor mare Cauy’s Humor, could possibly run next in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Pocahontas at 1 1/16 miles.