07/18/2013 1:31PM

Ellis Park: Good Morning Diva seeks repeat of last in Don Bernhardt Stakes


Rick Hiles is hoping the new standout in his barn will run back to a huge last race, and why wouldn’t he hope as much? Good Morning Diva earned a career-high 101 Beyer Speed Figure in winning a Churchill Downs allowance race last month, and now the colt returns Saturday as a major threat in the 36th running of the $50,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes at Ellis Park in western Kentucky.

“I do expect him to run the same race back,” said Hiles, a training veteran who is down to four horses at his base at Churchill. “He’s a pretty nice horse and looks like he’s on the improve.”

Good Morning Diva, with Miguel Mena to ride, is one of six older horses in the Bernhardt. The 6 1/2-furlong race appears very well-matched, with Right to Vote a lukewarm morning-line favorite in a lineup that has none of the others pegged higher than 6-1.

Good Morning Diva, a 4-year-old colt by Lion Heart, was sent to Hiles this spring by Maine businessman George Kerr. He has run twice for Hiles, both times in third-level allowance races, finishing second May 17 before breaking loose with a 4 3/4-length triumph and that triple-digit Beyer on June 14.

Right to Vote, trained by Ron Moquett, was a mild surprise in winning the Kelly’s Landing overnight stakes on the June 29 evening card at Churchill. The 4-year-old gelding was cross-entered in the opening-day James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga, where Moquett has sent a small string of runners, but was expected to scratch from that race in favor of the Bernhardt, the trainer said.

Also in the Bernhardt is the defending race winner, Good Lord, who most recently finished fourth behind Right to Vote in the Kelly’s Landing. The cast is rounded out by Point Finish, Moe Man, and Viramundo.

The Bernhardt, named for the late sports editor of the Evansville Courier-Press, is the second of four stakes at the Ellis summer meet. The annual highlight, the $100,000 Gardenia, is set for Aug. 10.

First post Saturday is 12:50 p.m. Central, with the Bernhardt, the eighth of nine races, set for 4:24. One allowance (race 4) also is on the card.

This will be the second straight Saturday with weiner dog races between Thoroughbred events. Camel and ostrich races are set for next Saturday, July 27.