07/06/2011 2:53PM

Ellis Park: Ninety Schillings has several edges

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Facing in-state competition from Churchill Downs over the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend, Ellis Park was expected to struggle to fill races during its opening few days.

Yet with the Churchill Downs meet now complete, short fields are again the norm Friday at Ellis, including in the featured seventh race, in which just six were entered in a $28,000 allowance at seven furlongs for 3-year-olds who have not won two races.

Of the other seven races, all but one have either seven or eight betting interests, with the exception being the nightcap, a maiden race for 2-year-olds going a mile on the grass that drew 10 in the body of the field, plus four also-eligibles.

As for the seventh, a short-priced favorite looms in Ninety Schillings, a 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt who was third in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on June 10 after winning a maiden special weight race there in his third start May 15.

Trainer Ian Wilkes had the option of bringing him back at Churchill for richer allowance at a mile on July 4, but preferred the seven-furlong distance of the Ellis race.

“He’s a nice horse,” Wilkes said. “I think this could be a real nice stepping-stone.”

Besides his sharp Churchill form, and having already won at the distance, none of his opponents has come close to running as fast as him. Three of Ninety Schillings’ four starts have earned him Beyer Speed Figures of 83 or higher, numbers none of his opponents ever has come close to posting.

Toro Grand, coming off a fourth in the $30,000 nonwinners-of-two claiming race at Churchill Downs June 12, earned a Beyer of 77 in that race – the highest figure earned by any of Ninety Schillings’ five rivals.

Ninety Schillings also holds a class edge, with four of his rivals being former claimers.

Wilkes doesn’t mind the pressure of starting the heavy public choice in Ninety Schillings, who is 2-1 on the morning line, but more likely to be 2-5 by post time.

“I can’t worry about it,” he said. “As long my horse is doing good, that’s all I can ask.”

Calvin Borel, who will ride mostly at Ellis this summer after spending past summers at Saratoga, has the mount.

He joins a riding colony that most notably includes Corey Lanerie, the runner-up in the Churchill Downs rider standings, and veteran Jon Court.