08/08/2001 11:00PM

Court, Miss Seffens have an understanding


HENDERSON, Ky. - If all his mounts were as reliable as Miss Seffens, Jon Court's life would be even more pleasurable than it already is.

"She and I have had a lot of success together," said Court, the three-time defending champion rider at Ellis Park. "We seem to have an understanding of each other."

Miss Seffens, who won her maiden at Churchill Downs in November 1999 at 91-1, has developed into one of the Midwest's top filly-mare sprinters. On Saturday, the 4-year-old Miss Seffens will attempt to enhance her stature when she faces five rivals in the $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Stakes, the co-feature on the Gardenia Stakes undercard.

Owned by Kaaren and Hayes Biggs and trained by Steve Wren, Miss Seffens has won nine of 18 starts and $361,578. Court has been aboard her in most of her starts.

"She's not one that you want to rush, and she's not one that you want to grapple back, either," he said. "She just wants you to let her run her race. Usually, if the speed shoots out ahead of her, she'll counter by settling in and going along at a good pace. That's how she usually turns in her best effort."

Clearly the most formidable challenger for Miss Seffens is Hidden Assets, who drew the outside post under Calvin Borel. Although winless in her last four starts, Hidden Assets owns a high turn of speed that may allow her to kick clear during the middle stages of the six-furlong Ellis BC.

Completing the field are Itsa- princess, Hattiesburg, Chumsie, and Seeyouinseptember. Hattiesburg, a sharp recent winner at Arlington, is the lone 3-year-old in the field.

It's a bug's life

This is the summer for bugs at Ellis Park. Not the insect variety; the apprentice variety.

Apprentice riders Axel DaSilva and Orlando Mojica have made a major impact in the jockey colony, having registered 21 and 19 victories, respectively, through Wednesday. Since Wednesday was the midway point of the 41-day meet, both could record the most productive meet at Ellis for an apprentice since James Parsley won 57 races in 1991.

Besides Mojica and DaSilva, other notable apprentices are Chris Rosier and Vernon "Chip" Scantling, who has returned to Kentucky after riding the last two months at Colonial Downs in Virginia.

A Gardenia by any other name . . .

The name "Gardenia" for the signature race at Ellis comes with some peculiar history. Inaugurated in 1982 as the Stroh's Handicap when it was sponsored by the Michigan brewery, the race soon became known as the Gardenia because Lila Kumar, wife of then-owner Roger Kumar, had an affinity for gardenias, the beautiful flowered shrub that grows predominantly in tropical climates.

Some locals have suggested that the race should undergo another name change, since there does not seem to be a particularly strong local tradition inherent in the current name.

* Dean Kutz, whose two mounts finished well beaten when the veteran jockey returned from an 18-month absence Wednesday, nearly got his first victory since the layoff on Thursday. World Champion, the favorite in the second race, forged to the lead in midstretch under Kutz, but Thunder on Land fought back to post a hard-earned victory.

* Don't look for a very large field here next weekend when Buster's Daydream runs in the $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile.

Buster's Daydream, trained by Tim Tullock, will be a huge favorite when he ships in from the East Coast for the seven-furlong Juvenile. Mark Johnston is scheduled to ride.

* After some confusion, the date for the eighth running of the Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park is set: Sept. 15. At various points, the date was changed, but with Winner Communications set to broadcast the Kentucky Cup again, the date is firm. Meanwhile, at Turfway's sister track, turf-only Kentucky Downs, the turf version of the Kentucky Cup will be run Sept. 22. Turfway runs Sept. 5 through Oct. 4.