03/11/2005 12:00AM

Gardenia anchors big day of stakes, but purse is cut


Ellis Park has reconfigured its stakes schedule so that four stakes, including the $150,000 Gardenia, will be run on the biggest day of the 2005 meet, track officials announced Friday.

The Grade 3 Gardenia, the lone graded race at Ellis, now will be joined by two races for 2-year-olds and a new turf race for fillies and mares. Those races are the $75,000 James C. Ellis Juvenile, the $75,000 Anna M. Fisher Debutante, and the $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf. The packaging of the four races will give Ellis the richest day in its 83-year history.

The new date for what Ellis is calling "Big Four Stakes Saturday" is Aug. 20, two Saturdays later than when Ellis traditionally had staged Gardenia Day. The Gardenia, for fillies and mares, also is undergoing two notable changes: a purse decrease from $200,000, and a turn back from 1 1/8 miles to one mile.

Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Ellis, cited the success of multi-stakes days at the company's other tracks as a primary reason for the shakeup, alluding to Stephen Foster Day at Churchill, Arlington Million Day at Arlington, the Summit of Speed at Calder, and the Hollywood Park Turf Festival.

In all, 10 stakes worth $850,000 have been scheduled at Ellis, located in Henderson, Ky. The Ellis Park BC, a dirt sprint for fillies and mares, and the Dade Turf Classic, another filly-mare race, have been dropped. The meet runs July 13 to Sept. 5.

2005 Ellis Park stakes schedule

Sat.,July. 16H.B.P.A. HandicapF&M, 3YO & Up1 mile (T)$75,000
Sat.,July. 23Regaey Island3YO1 1/16 miles (T)75,000
Sat.,July. 30Don Bernhardt Handicap3YO & Up6 1/2 furlongs75,000
Sat.,Aug. 6Audubon Oaks3YO F1 1/16 miles (T)75,000
Sat.,Aug. 20Anna M. Fisher Debutante2YO F7 furlongs75,000
Sat.,Aug. 20James C. Ellis Juvenile2YO7 furlongs75,000
Sat.,Aug. 20Ellis Park Breeders' Cup TurfF&M, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)100,000
Sat.,Aug. 20Gardenia Handicap (G3)F&M, 3YO & Up1mile150,000
Sat.,Aug. 27Governor's Handicap3YO & Up1mile75,000
Mon.,Sept. 5Tri-State Handicap3YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)75,000