07/23/2010 3:59PM

Apprentice finds herself at the top at Ellis


When jockey Oriana Rossi won her first race at Ellis Park on Aug. 16 of last year aboard Dancing Sky, she was welcomed into the club of winning riders by being doused with water, eggs, talcum powder and the like by her fellow jockeys.

Now an apprentice with 50 wins to her credit, Rossi doesn’t get greeted with such enthusiasm with each trip to the Ellis Park winner’s circle – which is a good thing, considering how often she has been there during the early stages of the Ellis meet.

Entering the third week of racing at Ellis on Friday, Rossi led the standings, having ridden 8 winners from 36 mounts, giving her a two-win advantage over Ben Creed and Victor Lebron, whom had each won six races.

“I never expected to be sitting on top,” said Rossi, 27. “I mean, in front of riders like Victor Lebron, Corey Lanerie, Jamie Theriot, Jon Court . . . . Granted, its only two weeks of racing, but to for me it’s a pretty big feat, and I’m very happy about it.”

Not that there weren’t signals of a strong meet forthcoming. Bolstered by the support of trainer John Hancock, who put her on a number of talented juveniles at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, she turned heads with her success this spring. She won a race at Keeneland, and followed that by winning 8 races from 62 mounts at Churchill Downs, where she was the second leading apprentice behind Freddie Lenclud.

She also won 15 races from 139 mounts at Indiana Downs, which also conducted a meet this spring, running mostly on days in which Churchill Downs was dark.

Rossi, a British citizen of Italian descent, once again plans to balance riding in both Kentucky and Indiana when Hoosier Park opens later this month.

Not surprisingly in light of her recent success in Kentucky, her primary focus will remain Ellis Park, which runs on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule.

“I’ll be riding Hoosier on Wednesday and Thursdays, and then whenever I need to be there,” she said.

Rossi said she has her “bug,” or apprentice weight allowance, through about the second week of September, following the conclusion of the Ellis Park meet.

Morning rush hour

With the Churchill Downs closed for training for four days from Friday through Monday due to the HullabaLOU Music Festival at the track, traffic was about as thick on the Ellis track Thursday morning as along a freeway in rush hour.

During an abbreviated training session, again necessitated by the HullabaLOU Festival, track clockers caught 193 horses working Thursday morning, up significantly from the 63 that breezed the preceding Thursday at the track.

Trainer Paul McGee said he breezed 11 horses Thursday morning, although one was missed by the clockers because all the activity.

Most notable of his workers was graded stakes winner Demarcation, who breezed six furlongs in 1:15.80. Fifth last time out on the Grade 1 Stephen Foster June 12, he is being pointed toward the $125,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes on the West Virginia Derby undercard at Mountaineer Park Aug. 7.

Also working Thursday at Churchill was stakes winner Ravi’s Song, who breezed a half mile in 48.80 for trainer Carl Bowman. She is being targeted for the Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park Aug. 14, he said.

Rahystrada considered for Arlington Million

Rahystrada, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap July 17, came out of the race in good condition and remains under strong consideration for the Grade 1 Arlington Million Aug. 21, trainer Scooter Hughes said Thursday.

Hughes said the horse has eaten well and recovered well from the race, though he wants to analyze the quality of the potential field before ultimately committing him to the race.

By winning the Arlington Handicap his entry fees to the Million have been waived.

Backside Blackie heads feature

Sunday’s featured eighth race at Ellis Park is a $31,500 first-level allowance at six furlongs on dirt, a race that also carries a $25,000 claiming condition.

Backside Blackie looms the likely favorite, having just run second in a comparable allowance July 11 at Ellis, albeit on turf. A daughter of Yes It’s True, she should maintain her sharp form with the shift to the main track, having recorded her lone win on dirt at Fair Grounds over the winter.

Jamie Theriot rides for Tim Glyshaw, who led all trainers with four winners over the first two weeks of the meet.

Other prominent entries include class-dropping Big Lou, as well as Prospector Queen and Decantering, whom both won $20,000 claiming races at Churchill Downs in their last races.