06/28/2017 10:26AM

Hancock hoping to ring the register again at Ellis meet

Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Amberspatriot (3) made her stakes debut in the Kentucky Juvenile finishing second to Buy Sell Hold.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer John Hancock will run two fillies Friday night in the Debutante Stakes on the final card of the Churchill Downs spring meet. Then he and the horses will make the westward trek back to their home base, Ellis Park, pulling in somewhere around 1:30 in the morning.

“Got my own rig,” said Hancock.

A few hours later, he will jump out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning. Saturday is opening day of the 31-day summer meet at Ellis, where Hancock, 57, has been reveling in his love of horse racing longer than he can remember. His maternal grandfather, Chester Loney, had horses in the same barn Hancock has used since taking out a trainer’s license in 1981.

“I’ve been running around this barn since they were changing my diapers,” Hancock said this week by phone from Ellis in Henderson, Ky.

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His Debutante fillies, Amberspatriot and Waki Patriot, are fringe contenders in an exceptionally deep race. Hancock has gone winless at the Churchill meet, but he had 5 wins and 4 seconds from 23 starters in April at Keeneland, where three of those winners were 2-year-olds.

It has become standard procedure for Hancock to get his 2-year-olds ready to run sooner than most any American trainer this side of Wesley Ward. His goal is to showcase their ability so that deep-pocketed buyers sit up and take notice.

True to plan, Hancock already has sold two of his Keeneland runners – Flat Drunk is now in California with David Hofmans, and Tigerbeach went to Larry Rivelli in Chicago – and he’s hoping a good performance from either of his Debutante starters will result in another payday via private transaction. Both are already stakes-placed, with Amberspatriot having finished second in the Kentucky Juvenile here during Derby week and Waki Patriot having finished third in the Astoria at Belmont.

“That’s the way we operate – run to sell,” said Hancock. “It’s different than a lot of folks, but we’ve made a good living doing it.”

Hancock has two starters on the Ellis opener and intends to be very active throughout the meet, which ends Sept. 4. Most of the 34 horses in his stable are 2-year-olds.

“I’ve got some on the bench that hopefully can come right in and replace the ones we’re looking to sell,” he said. “There’s always a lot happening in my business.”

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