08/08/2013 3:36PM

Ellis Park notes: Groupie Doll may be vulnerable in Gardenia off long layoff

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Barbara D. Livingston
Groupie Doll, the top female sprinter of 2012, will make her first start of the year in Saturday's Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – This might be their one opportunity to beat her. Of course, Groupie Doll deserves to be a heavy favorite Saturday in the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park in western Kentucky, but the fact that the champion mare has not raced in more than eight months and is using the race as a foundation for future events would seem to provide a ray of hope for her opposition.

“If there’s a time to take her on, it’d be in her first race back from a layoff like this,” said Mike Maker, who will send out Awesome Flower for Ken and Sarah Ramsey as perhaps the top upset threat.

Awesome Flower, with Victor Lebron to ride, will break from the inside post in the one-mile race, with Groupie Doll alongside her. A 4-year-old Maryland-bred claimed for $30,000 in December at Gulfstream Park, Awesome Flower has won 4 of her 6 starts for her powerhouse connections, most recently capturing the $100,000 Lady Canterbury over the main track at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

“Obviously, she’s going to have to continue to improve if we’re going to stand a chance against a mare as good as Groupie Doll,” Maker said this week from Saratoga. “But it’s not impossible, given these circumstances.”

Lebron has won two of the last five runnings of the Gardenia, in 2008 with Swift Temper and last year aboard Salty Strike, who pulled off a mild upset over eventual Grade 1 winner Joyful Victory.

The filly breaking to the other side of Groupie Doll is Ice Cream Silence, who will have Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard in post 3.

“We weren’t really looking to face her there at Ellis,” trainer Rusty Arnold said from Saratoga. “We can only hope this is the day to try her.”

Ice Cream Silence, bred and owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., is a two-time stakes winner from 10 career starts, with the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland her most notable score.

Maybe So nears return to races

Adele Dilschneider was among a sizable and happy group at Mountaineer last Saturday when Departing was a romping winner of the West Virginia Derby for her and Claiborne Farm.

Last August, however, Dilschneider traveled solo to Mountaineer when Maybe So, a promising colt she bred and races on her own, ran his record to 2 for 2 by winning the Mountaineer Juvenile.

Maybe So still has not raced since then after suffering a back injury in a training mishap subsequent to the Juvenile, but the son of More Than Ready is nearing a race after breezing at Keeneland every Saturday since June 29 for trainer Al Stall Jr. The colt is eligible for second-level allowances.

Stall said he hopes to run Maybe So at the 12-day September meet at Churchill.

Dickey’s wife gets liver transplant

Dana Dickey, the wife of Churchill-based trainer Scooter Dickey, will be in a Louisville rehabilitation facility for the next week or so after undergoing a liver transplant July 26.

“She’s doing just great,” Scooter Dickey, best known for his work with the standout horse Flat Out, said this week. “There’ve been no signs of rejection. The doctors are all very pleased.”

Dana Dickey, 66, has suffered for years from liver disease and had been on a waiting list for months.

Margolis warmly remembers Klein

Steve Margolis fondly remembers sending out the 11-1 winner of the Gardenia four years ago, Whirlie Bertie, who gave the since-retired jockey Larry Melancon a record third winner in the Ellis showcase. The filly was owned by Bert and Elaine Klein and their son, Richard.

Elaine Klein, who died last week at age 80 from cancer, was in attendance that day and shared an emotional post-race celebration with Margolis’s wife, Sue. The women had a certain kinship not only because of their common interest in racing but because both were breast-cancer survivors. Sue Margolis currently is in good health.

“Elaine and Sue always really hit it off,” Steve Margolis said. “You couldn’t say enough good things about Elaine. She really had an eye for the horses and was around a lot, watching everything carefully. She was a special woman.”

Broussard looks for first win

Apprentice rider Ashley Broussard just might remember Saturday at Ellis for something other than Groupie Doll racing there.

Broussard, winless with the first 14 mounts of her career, has two mounts Saturday, including one on a morning-line favorite, Awesome Story in the sixth race. As with anyone winning her first race, Broussard, who turned 21 this week, can expect to be met with a messy concoction of water, eggs, powder, shoe polish, and other materials on that occasion.

◗ Attendance for the Gardenia last year was 4,557, and with Groupie Doll running, Ellis officials expect to surpass that figure Saturday. Robyn Oglesby, marketing manager at Ellis, said the highest attendance at this meet was on one of its “Dollar Day” Sundays, July 28, when 5,859 turned out. Attendance is slightly ahead of 2012, with a daily average of about 3,900 spectators, she added. All-sources handle for Gardenia Day last year was more than $2.2 million.

◗ With the 29-day Ellis meet past its midway point, the usual suspects were atop the jockey standings, with one surprise in the mix. Into Friday, Roberto Morales was third with 12 wins, trailing only Brian Hernandez Jr. (15) and Corey Lanerie (13).

“I’m feeling good and hoping to use this to do well also at Churchill and Keeneland,” said Morales, who turns 23 on Wednesday.

◗ Taptowne, winner of the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s last Saturday at Mountaineer, will run next in the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap on the Sept. 7 evening card at Churchill, trainer Tim Glyshaw said.

◗ After Saturday, the only remaining stakes at the Ellis meet is the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial on closing day, Sept. 2.