08/13/2009 11:00PM

Back to dirt for Abby's Angel

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Four-Footed Fotos
Abby's Angel is one of the Gardenia favorites after winning her last two at Arlington.

Three Saturdays ago, trainer Mike Stidham ventured north from his summer base at Arlington Park in Chicago to Canterbury Park in Minnesota to win a $100,000 race, the Claiming Crown Emerald, with Gran Estreno.

This Saturday, Stidham is looking to win another $100,000 race when venturing south to Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., where he will have Abby's Angel as a major player in the lone graded stakes of the Ellis meet, the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes.

"We'll be there, where the action is," said Stidham.

Abby's Angel, a 4-year-old Touch Gold filly owned by Darley, is one of nine fillies and mares in the one-mile Gardenia, the ninth of 10 Saturday races at Ellis. Abby's Angel enters off back-to-back allowance victories over the Polytrack surface at Arlington, where she returned to action this summer following a layoff of nearly a year and a half. She actually brings a three-race win streak to Ellis, having won a maiden race at Fair Grounds in January 2008 before going on her lengthy hiatus.

"By the way she broke her maiden, we knew there was a ton of talent there," said Stidham. "Getting her back was a matter of getting her over a couple things - a tibia, then a little ankle problem. We gave her all the time she needed, and with those two wins off the bench, it sure looks like she came back right. Even though she's won her last two on Poly, we know from her maiden win in New Orleans that she can run on dirt, too."

Jon Court, the five-time Ellis riding champion (1998-2002) who has returned to Kentucky after several productive years in California, has the mount on Abby's Angel.

Other contenders in the 28th running of the Ellis showcase include Unforgotten, third in the Gardenia last year; Lady's Laughter, a talented 3-year-old with valuable stakes experience; and Elizabeth Park, a gray 4-year-old making her stakes debut after winning two of her last three starts.

The Gardenia, worth $200,000 at its peak, underwent a purse cut from $150,000 for this running, typical of the financial duress that Ellis and the entire Kentucky racing circuit is currently under.

Approximate post time for the Gardenia is 4:08 p.m. Central. First post is 12:10.