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Stephen Foster Day Stakes Recaps: West Will Power Wins First Grade I in History of Ellis Park

West Will Power

Contact: Kevin Kerstein
Kentucky Racing Communications
Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Turfway Park
(610) 420-6971 (mobile)
(502) 635-4712 (office)

HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, July 1, 2023) – Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power notched the first Grade I in the history of Ellis Park when he defeated seven rivals by a half-length in Saturday’s $1 million Stephen Foster, a “Win and You’re In” Classic division race for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

    Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Flavien Prat, West Will Power completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.93, just .39 seconds off the track record set by Seize the Night earlier this meet.

    Speed Bias set the early tempo in the Stephen Foster and took command of the field through the first quarter-mile fraction of :23.74. Around the first turn, Prat moved West Will Power to second and tracked just off Speed Bias’ hip. Up the backstretch, their positions remained unchanged after a half-mile time of :46.97. Speed Bias completed three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.83 but began to get tired on the lead. West Will Power inherited the front just inside the quarter-mile pole but had to hold off several closers including Rattle N Roll, who was closing to his outside and the stretch-running Happy American, who was dodging through tiring horses on the inside. In the final stages of the Stephen Foster, West Will Power continued to fight on the front end and held Rattle N Roll at bay by a half-length.

    “He was cruising all the way around there,” Prat said. “He just carried me home to the wire down the stretch. I was really impressed by the way he won this winter at Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Classic (GII). It was a different setup last time out in the Alysheba (GII). He came back here to Ellis and the race shape was much more to his style.”

    “I think he can handle a mile-and-a-quarter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI),” Cox said. “I was much more confident with him getting a target to track off in this race. We’ll see how the figures come back but I’m very proud of the way this horse has developed. It’s a credit to the Wests and this horse to have the patience to improve with age. It’s taken him awhile to get to this level. It’s really cool to go down in the history books by winning the first Grade I in the history of Ellis Park.”

    For his victory in the Stephen Foster, West Will Power will receive an all-entries fee paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. 

    West Will Power’s overall record now stands at 17-7-7-1 with purse earnings of $1,745,770.

    West Will Power is a 6-year-old son of Bernardini out of the Wild Event mare Wild Promises. He was bred in Kentucky by his owners. 

    Here is the complete order of finish (with $2 mutuel payouts):

    1. West Will Power ($6.14, $3.96, $3.16)
    2. Rattle N Roll (X, $6.74, $5,22)
    3. Happy American (X, X, $12.22)
    4. Last Samurai
    5. Smile Happy
    6. Stilleto Boy
    7. Speed Bias
    8. Proxy

    Racing will resume Sunday at Ellis Park with a first post of 11:45 a.m. (CDT). There will be a mandatory payout in all wagers including the 20-cent Jackpot Pick 6. 

    For more information about racing and gaming from Ellis Park, visit 

    Additional Stephen Foster Quotes:

    Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey, Rattle N Roll, runner-up: “Around the turn I still thought we were going to win. The stretch is shorter here than at Churchill and I think that ended up a disadvantage to us today. He ran a great race.”

    Neil Pessin, trainer, Happy American, third: “He ran a huge race. I’m super proud of him. He’s been one of the only horses I’ve seen close ground here and ran a big effort doing so.”

    Kent Desormeaux, jockey, Stilleto Boy, sixth: “I thought he ran his race and got into a good position early. He just didn’t have it when it mattered.”

STITCHED PULLS MASSIVE 46-1 UPSET IN GRADE II, $400,000 WISE DAN – Nathan McCauley, Michael Olszewski and William Minton’s Stitched nailed front-running Get Smokin at the wire to win Saturday’s 34th running of the $400,000 Wise Dan (Grade II) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

    Stitched gave trainer Greg Foley his second stakes victory on the Saturday program. Earlier in the card he won the $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) with Bango.

    The fleet-footed Get Smokin was sent to the early lead as his form suggested in the Wise Dan. With jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, he led the field in the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile turf event through a quarter-mile fraction of :24.44. Onto the backside, jockey Flavien Prat positioned Stitched in fourth, about three lengths off Get Smokin. Santana and Get Smokin continued to lead the Wise Dan field up the backside through a moderate half-mile of :48.10. Around the far turn, Stitched began to get closer to Get Smokin but it wasn’t until inside the 1/16th pole that Stitched was able to narrowly get by Get Smokin for a neck victory.

    “I’m really grateful I got the mount,” said Prat, who picked up the mount from Marcelino Pedroza Jr. “He broke well from the gate and was able to be in a good position when we needed to make a move. He gave me a chance to get into the race and he did things from there.”

    The heavy even-money favorite Set Piece (GB) charged late to close into the soft fractions but only managed a third-place effort.

    Stitched completed 1 1/16 miles 1:40.97 over the labeled “good” turf course.

    With his victory in the Wise Dan, Stitched boosted his earnings to $543,021 and improved his record to 13-6-0-0.

    “His first two races this year were good but he really threw in a clunker last out which wasn’t like him,” Foley said. “Hats off to the owners for wanting to be aggressive and put him in this race. We were very disappointed after his allowance race. We thought he’d win that day. The owners were ready to take on this race and credit to them. He looks like a million bucks and Flavien (Prat) rode a perfect race.”

    Stitched is a 4-year-old colt by Mizzen Mast out of the Into Mischief mare Walking Miracle. He was bred in Kentucky by co-owner Nathan McCauley.

Here is the complete order of finish for the Wise Dan (with $2 mutuel payouts):

    1. Stitched ($94.50, $32.16, $8.94)
    2. Get Smokin (X, $7.28, $4.22)
    3. Set Piece (GB) (X, X, $2.30)
    4. Hozier
    5. Camp Hope
    6. Harlan Estate
    7. Kittansett
    8. Play Action Pass
    9. Tut’s Revenge
    10. Cowboy Justice (GB)

    Additional quotes from the Wise Dan:

    Florent Geroux, jockey, Set Piece (GB), third: “The pace probably hurt him today over this course. It was softer here than last time when he was able to close into slower fractions. He came with his run down the stretch but couldn’t get by the leaders.”

PAULINE’S PEARL BESTS A MO REAY, BELLAMORE IN GRADE II FLEUR DE LIS – Stonestreet Stables’ Pauline’s Pearl tallied her eighth-career victory when she pressed by Bellamore and A Mo Reay in deep stretch in Saturday’s 48th running of the $400,000 Fleur de Lis (Grade II) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

    Pauline’s Pearl is under the care of Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and was ridden to victory in the Fleur de Lis by Joel Rosario.

    California-shipper Bellamore set the mild early fractions of the Fleur de Lis and was tracked every step of the way by heavy favorite A Mo Reay. Rosario positioned Pauline’s Pearl in third, about two-lengths off the early lead. Bellamore, under jockey Martin Garcia, set comfortable quarter-mile fractions of :24.49, :48.06 and 1:11.28. As the trio entered the stretch, Rosario tipped Pauline’s Pearl three-wide while Bellamore and A Mo Reay continued to battle to her inside. Pauline’s Pearl was able to get by the battling duo in deep stretch for a three-quarters of a length victory.

    “She broke away well from the gate and I got her into a good spot early,” Rosario said. “She was relaxed watching the two horses in front of her so I didn’t want to change anything too early. In the stretch she kept on coming forward and was able to get by late. She tried very hard to get by them.”

    Following the race, the stewards disqualified Bellamore from second to third for stretch interference against A Mo Reay. 

    Pauline’s Pearl is a 5-year-old daughter of Tapit out of the Dixie Union mare Hot Dixie Chick. She was bred in Kentucky by her owner. Her overall record now stands at 19-8-3-3 with purse earnings of $2,127,400.

    “Joel and I talked about thins in the paddock and thought if she broke well to keep her a little closer today,” Asmussen’s assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “It proved to be very effective. This horse is a credit to (owner) Barbara (Banke) for keeping her in training and letting her and (stablemate) Clairiere continue develop.”

    Here is the complete order of finish for the Fleur de Lis (with $2 mutuel payouts):
    1. Pauline’s Pearl ($6.52, X, X)
    2. A Mo Reay
    3. Bellamore

    Additional quotes from the Fleur de Lis:

    Brad Cox, trainer, A Mo Reay, runner-up: “There was really no excuse today. She tried hard but ended up being second best after the inquiry.”

BANGO GOES WIRE-TO-WIRE IN KELLY’S LANDING – Tamaroak Farm’s Bango added to his already impressive resume by taking a field of six sprinters wire-to-wire in Saturday’s $225,000 Kelly’s Landing (Listed) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

    Bango, a 6-year-old homebred son of Congrats, boosted his resume to 32-13-4-2 with earnings of $1,275,811.

    With the early scratch of Fortin Hill from the rail, Bango and jockey Tyler Gaffalione broke from the inside post. Gaffalione sent Bango to the lead, a position he hasn’t been in since July 24, 2022 when he finished sixth after setting the early fractions of the Jeff Hall Memorial. Up the backside, Bango clipped off an opening quarter-mile fraction of :22.29 with Marsalis and jockey Joel Rosario applying mild pressure to his outside. As Bango entered the stretch, Marsalis began heavily pressuring Bango on his outside while Miles ahead started to close to his inside. Bango was determined on the lead and never let any of his rivals by to score a half-length victory. 

    “The credit goes to Greg (Foley) and his entire team for having this horse ready to go all the time,” Gaffalione said. “We broke from the inside but he broke on top today. I just let him settle since he broke on top and let him do his thing. Up the backside he had his ears up like he was waiting for horses. He hasn’t really been in that position before. In the stretch when the field started closing ground he kept digging in and wasn’t going to let anyone by.”

    “The money spends the same at Ellis as it does at Churchill,” Foley said. “We’ll just have to get that all-time winning victory at Churchill next time. He’s still one away, don’t think I’m not thinking about it every day. This horse is very special to us. He’s part of a great breeding program by Fred and Debbie Schwartz. I trained his mom (Josaka) and have a 2-year-old brother of his in the barn that I love. I hope he can be half as good as his older brother. It was great to win this race today. Bango showed a slightly new dimension being on the lead but it didn’t seem to bother him any.”

    Bango completed the 6 ½-furlong distance of the Kelly’s Landing in 1:15.02 over the “fast” dirt course.

    Here are the full results for the Kelly’s Landing (with $2 mutuel payouts):

    1. Bango ($4.30, $3.14, $2.30)
    2. Marsalis (X, $4.98, $4.28)
    3. Miles Ahead (X, X, $3.44)
    4. Tejano Twist
    5. Happy Jack
    6. Surveillance

    Additional quotes from the Kelly’s Landing:
Joel Rosario, jockey, Marsalis, runner-up: “He ran a good race today and was up close. He was trying hard down the stretch but the winner never gave way and we were second best.”

WADSWORTH STORMS HOME TO WIN $225,000 AMERICAN DERBY (LISTED) – Godolphin’s homebred Wadsworth stormed down the center of the turf course to secure his first stakes victory in Saturday’s 108th running of the $225,000 American Derby (Listed) at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

    Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, Wadsworth covered 1 1/16 miles over the “good” turf course in 1:40.96.

    The speedy Mo Stash was hustled hard from the gate by jockey Luis Saez in the American Derby and set moderate early quarter-mile fractions of :24.20 and :48.49. Up the backside, Wadsworth was positioned third, about one-length off Mo Stash and pace-pressing Gigante. Around the far turn, Geroux tipped Wadsworth to the four-path around a tiring Gigante and improving Desert Duke to set his sights on Mo Stash. In mid-stretch Wadsworth collared Mo Stash and kicked clear for a one-length victory.

    “We sat a pretty good trip just off the pace,” Geroux said. “The pace wasn’t too fast but we were able to keep him closer today than last time. He’s really started to improve with each start and I think really likes the turf.”

    “I think the plan was to lay off the pace and be closer than he was in Indiana,” Godolphin Chief Operating Officer Dan Pride said. “We’re lucky to be here in the winner’s circle this afternoon. I think he’s really found a home on the turf.”

    Here is the official running order of the American Derby with $2 mutuel payouts:

    1. Wadsworth ($4.50, $2.64, $2.24)
    2. Mo Stash (X, $2.76, $2.42)
    3. Desert Duke (X, X, $4.28)
    4. Sharar
    5. Hidden Path
    6. Gigante

    Wadsworth is a 3-year-old gelded son of Quality Road out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Dickinson. He was bred in Kentucky.

    With his victory in the American Derby, Wadsworth improved his overall mark to 8-3-1-0 with purse earnings of $295,536.

XIGERA GETS BY HEAVENLY SUNDAY IN THE LATE STAGES TO WIN TEPIN STAKES – Rigney Racing’s Xigera grinded past Heavenly Sunday in deep stretch to win Saturday’s 4th running of the $225,000 Tepin Stakes at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming.

    Xigera, named after a safari in Africa, covered the one-mile distance in 1:35.37 over the labeled “good” turf course. The now three-time winner is trained by Phil Bauer and was ridden to victory by Julien Leparoux.

    Heavenly Sunday was sent to the early lead of the Tepin Stakes under jockey Florent Geroux and completed a poky opening quarter-mile of :24.01. Leparoux positioned Xigera in third early, to the inside of Santa Fe Gold. Up the backside, Leparoux and Xigera began to get closer to Heavenly Sunday, who completed a half-mile in :47.79. Leparoux tipped Xigera in the two-path as the field turned for home while third-place Safeen attempted to get into the mix to the inside of Heavenly Sunday. In deep stretch Xigera stuck her nose in front of Heavenly Sunday and kicked clear for a half-length win.

    “We loved this filly since she came back to the track this year,” Leparoux said. “She’s been training super and has been more mentally focused this year. Today, she put me into the race while being relaxed and I think that goes into her improved maturity this year.”

    “In last year’s Breeders’ Cup (when she ran 14th in the Juvenile Fillies), it was one of the most disappointing days for our outfit. We had to take a step back and regroup. That meant turning her out and giving her time to grow up. She filled out but also improved mentally. As soon as she got back to the barn she kept doing everything right. Hopefully she’ll continue this march forward.

    Xigera is a 3-year-old daughter of Nyquist out of the Black Tie Affair (IRE) mare Argent Affair. She was bred in Kentucky by Cedar Hill LLC.

    Here is the complete order of finish for the Tepin Stakes (with $2 mutuel payouts):
    1. Xigera ($4.16, $2.76, $2.52)
    2. Heavenly Sunday (X, $3.26, $2.50)
    3. Safeen (X, X, $3.40)
    4. Metaphysical
    5. Wonderfull Lady
    6. Girl Named Charlie
    7. Santa Fe Gold
    8. Klassy Bridgette
Ellis Park, Racking and Gaming (“Ellis Park”) located north of the Ohio River and just south of Evansville, Indiana, has been the home of summer Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky for over 100 years. Ellis Park also features a gaming entertainment venue with approximately 300 historical racing machines.