08/18/2007 12:00AM

Lightly-raced Pleasant Hill wins Gardenia


HENDERSON, Ky. – Pleasant Hill, competing while still eligible for second-level allowance conditions, turned back top-weighted Brownie Points before finishing clear of a late surge by High Heels to capture the 26th running of the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap on Saturday at Ellis Park.

Bred and owned by Donamire Farm, led from the start of the one-mile Gardenia with Larry Melancon aboard. Carrying 113 pounds - two pounds over her assigned weight - the 4-year-old Pleasant Tap filly was challenged at the quarter pole by Leah's Secret and the 118-pound highweight, Brownie Point, before spurting clear again.

High Heels, the slight 3-1 favorite and the lone 3-year-old in the field, was gaining with every stride inside the sixteenth pole but fell a length short of catching the winner.

Greg Foley, based at Churchill Downs, is the trainer of Pleasant Hill, who was making her stakes debut after finishing first or second in all five previous starts. She returned $9.60 as third choice and earned $90,000 from the $150,000 purse. The winning time was 1:38.85 over a fast track.

Brownie Points, the 3-1 second choice, finished third, while Superb Ravi, a 63-1 shot, finished fourth. Chickadee was scratched after running off in the post parade, leaving a field of 11 fillies and mares.

The Gardenia, the annual highlight of the Ellis meet, is the track's lone graded stakes race. It anchors a "Big Four" stakes program that also includes three other $50,000 stakes. Each of those races were won by front-runners, too.

* Yonegwa ($8.20) sped to the front soon after the start in the seven-furlong James C. Ellis Juvenile and never looked back, finishing two lengths ahead of Pulaski Runner while favored Deputy Dance faded to fifth in a field of seven.

Yonegwa, a Kafwain colt owned by the E M S Stable, finished in 1:26.78. He is trained by Mike Maker and was ridden by Miguel Mena, the same team that won three Claiming Crown races at Ellis two weeks beforehand.

* Miss Red Delicious ($8.40) turned back a sustained bid from Wonderful Luck after leading from the start in winning the seven-furlong Anna M. Fisher Debutante in 1:24.78, nearly two seconds faster than what it took Yonegwa in the Ellis Juvenile. The winning margin was 1 1/2 lengths.

Based at the Thoroughbred Training Center, Miss Red Delicious, by Empire Maker, is trained by Mark Hubley. She was bred by Katierich Stables, who owns her in partnership with Christopher Connors.

* Revival Ridge ($20.40), ridden by Charlie Woods Jr., prevailed by a nose following a torrid stretch duel with Chicago shipper Voy Por Uno Mas in the Regaey Island Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race run over firm turf.

Bred and owned by Camelia Casby and based at the High Point training center with Pat Huffman, Revival Ridge, by Thunder Gulch, finished in 1:40.59 for his first stakes win. Self Made Man narrowly outfinished the 3-1 favorite, Chestermite, for third in a field of 11 3-year-olds