09/01/2012 11:26AM

Ellis Park: Formaggio looks strong in Guilliams Memorial

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Formaggio looks as good as any Monday in the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial – that is, if he runs at Ellis Park instead of shipping to Arlington Park for an allowance race.

“We’re leaning toward the Ellis race,” trainer David Carroll said, cautioning that the forecast for steady rain throughout the Labor Day weekend in Kentucky might lead him to change plans. “If they take everything off the turf Monday, we might go ahead and ship to Chicago.”

The Guilliams Memorial is the closing-day feature of the 29-day Ellis meet in Henderson, Ky. The 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of eight 3-year-olds and up, with Formaggio, a 5-year-old horse with Victor Lebron named to ride from post 6, perhaps the one to beat. Other logical contenders include Final Count and The Program.

Formaggio suffered a scary fall last September at Kentucky Downs, after which he was given plenty of time to heal from a major foot injury and several lacerations. In his first race back, Formaggio finished a solid third in an Aug. 12 turf allowance at Arlington.

“He not only got hurt pretty bad physically, but he was in a bad place mentally,” Carroll said. “We’ve given him all the time to come back from all of that. I was very pleased with his first run back. He got trapped down on the inside, then finished up nicely. I really think the race did him a world of good.”

Final Count, with Corey Lanerie to ride, would be a major threat if he is forgiven his poor effort in the Stars and Stripes at Arlington. The Program, who gets Brian Hernandez Jr., also has the back class to figure into the mix.

The balance of the field is Laugh It Off, Sun Bear, Forty Nine Watts, Big Town, and Tilden Lane

This is the fifth running of the Guilliams Memorial, which goes as the eighth of nine races on the meet finale. First post is 12:50 p.m. Central, with the feature set for 4:10. The card also features a closing-day tradition, the Twice Around, a 2 1/4-mile marathon that drew a field of six as race 3.

The Guilliams is named for the former chart-caller and turf writer who grew up enjoying the races at Ellis Park. He died in April 2008 at age 52.

After Monday, live action on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Turfway Park, which begins a 16-day meet Thursday, and Kentucky Downs, which starts a six-day meet Saturday.