Johnny Unleashed carrying banner for local horsemen

| 2-year-old racing, Churchill Downs, Coady Photography photos, Ellis Park, horse racing, horse trainers, Keeneland

Johnny Unleashed winning a 2-year-old maiden race last year at Ellis Park. Coady Photography

It surely will be the most popular victory in Henderson and definitely Owensboro if the 3-year-old gelding Johnny Unleashed beats older horses to take Sunday's $100,000 RUNHAPPY Preview Turf Sprint. That’s because the $10,000 Keeneland yearling purchase is trained by Ellis Park-based Eric Foster of Owensboro and owned by wife Brooklyn's Foster Family Racing and their pals Lonnie Reynolds, Chris Phelps’ H & H Horses and Joseph Mills. 

Johnny Unleashed earned his first victory in an Ellis Park maiden race by 7 3/4 lengths last summer after a second at Keeneland. He now has two wins (including an Indiana Grand allowance race two starts back) and three thirds in nine starts, earning $107,127. In his last start, Johnny Unleashed was second at 40-1 odds in a Keeneland open allowance race.

Foster said he started running the speedy Johnny Unleashed on grass just to take advantage of the opportunity to run distances shorter than three-quarters of a mile. The Preview Turf Sprint is 5 1/2 furlongs.

“He’s healthy and doing good,” said Foster, who has his horses on his training track on the family's farm in Utica near Owensboro when Ellis Park isn’t opened for stabling. “We want to run while we’re here. Once you get where he’s at, every race is going to be tough. I thought about going back to Indiana for an allowance race, but this is one of the only places that Johnny gets to run right out of his stall. That’s pretty good, maybe a little advantage to him.”

James Graham will ride Johnny Unleashed for the first time. Johnny Unleashed, a son of Colonel John out of the More Than Ready mare Ready to Unleash, has been a rocket out of the gate, setting the pace but more recently settled a bit behind horses.

“I like it when he breaks hard and goes to the front,” Foster said. “Especially here.”

Winning at the hometown track would be a thrill, Foster said, adding with a laugh, “I hope that wouldn’t be the peak of the whole deal, but it would be a good step.”