What’s up at Ellis Park this weekend, Aug. 25-27

FRIDAY
Gentlemen’s Day. Gentlemen can enjoy free cigars (courtesy Cigar Cigar) and Four Roses bourbon tasting and register to win prizes after each race (sign up in the north end of the grandstand tunnel, closest to the grassy picnic area). Sponsored by Four Roses bourbon. All afternoon before and during the races.
Live racing: First post 12:50 p.m. CT.

Jimmy McNerney/Coady Photography

Meet the Announcer: One lucky fan (or small group) goes to the announcer’s booth to meet race caller Jimmy McNerney, who will discuss how he remembers all those names and race preparation, with the guests watching Jimmy put that into action during a race.

SATURDAY
Making of a Racehorse, 7:30 a.m. CT. The last of Ellis’ weekly free, family-friendly fan education event to give the public an up-close view of what goes on in the mornings to prepare horses for the afternoon races. The public can meet in the southern end of the parking lot by the starting gate. This week, we’ll leave by 8 a.m. to go the paddock – lots of parking right there — where John Hancock will discuss more about timing morning workouts and fans can practice with their smart phones stopwatches. We’ll also learn how a race card is put together, from the “condition book” to entries to the post-position draw and what what goes into determining the races that will be used. Pony rides for the kids on John’s pony in the paddock toward the end of the two-hour session.
Inside Track with Joey K and Jimmy Mac: Our weekly Saturday morning handicapping show where paddock analyst Joe Kristufek and announcer Jimmy McNerney analyze Saturday’s races. 10:30-11:30 a.m. Central in the second-floor Gardenia Room, with live streaming via Ellis Park’s Facebook page.
Live racing: First post 12:50 p.m. CT. Please note: This is the last Saturday of the meet for live racing. Ellis Park will not race live, though it will be open for simulcasting, on Sept. 2 to accommodate Kentucky Downs’ opening date.
Wiener Dog Derby: This is it! After four preliminary races, the eight qualifiers square off to determine who is the Top Dog at Ellis Park. This cute li’l critters are always a huge favorite with kids. Schedule post is after fifth race, about 2:50 p.m. Central.
Junior Jockey: One lucky kid is selected to be the Junior Jockey, serving as the honorary paddock judge to call our “Rider’s up” before a race, watching the race on the rail from the winner’s circle and getting his or her photo taken with the winners. Sign up at the group sales table inside the clubhouse entrance.
SUNDAY
PDJF Day. Ellis Park collaborates with its riders to raise money for and awareness about the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund, which provides assistance to more than 60 jockeys who have been permanently disabled while riding racehorses.
Dunk tanks (jockeys between their scheduled mounts and others. Autograph sessions with jockeys all afternoon and fans can get signed jockey goggles with PDJF donation. Raffles for racing and jockey memorabilia. And more. Dunking booth, autograph sessions and raffles at table set up across from paddock by paddock pavilion.
Live racing: First post 12:50 p.m. CT.
Kids on the track: After the last race goes off (around 5 p.m.) kids 12 and under square off in foot races (grouped by ages) on the track, with the winner’s getting pair of jockey goggles and all the fame they can stand.
Story angles to watch: With six days left of live racing, three-time Ellis riding champion (including last year) Corey Lanerie holds a 26-23 lead over 56-year-old Jon Court, the six-time leading rider at the track and only jockey to win the title five straight years.
Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg is solidly in third at the meet, with nine wins out of 26 starts, plus six seconds. Only Brad Cox (15 for 40) and Steve Asmussen (14 for 88) have more wins. Van Berg, 81, is enjoying a resurgence in a career that started when he was 8 years old working for his dad, Marion Van Berg, also in the Hall of Fame. He has passed $1 million in purse earnings for the first time since 2000. His 6,515 victories rank No. 4 all time. Best known for training 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alysheba.
Remaining live race days: Aug. 25, 26, 27; Sept. 1, 3 and 4 (Labor Day). No live racing on Saturday Sept. 2, in order to accommodate Kentucky Downs’ opener. There will be simulcasting at Ellis Park, as always, Saturday, Sept. 2.