07/05/2007 12:00AM

Liquoreux's speed fits bias


If the first Saturday of the 46-day summer meet at Ellis Park is anything like opening day, then maybe horseplayers should not tinker with their thinking. Speed dominated during most of the 10-race program that opened the meet Wednesday, with horses clinging to the rail and the lead tending to have a pronounced advantage.

Turf or dirt, speed traditionally has been good to great at Ellis, although nobody gets to place their bets after a quarter-mile has been run. Indeed, guessing which horse will have the lead can be a tricky exercise - and doesn't necessarily insure a win, anyway - and that's the kind of puzzle that will face handicappers when they sit down to pore over the richest of 10 Saturday races at Ellis, a $23,500 second-level allowance scheduled for 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

Carded as the fifth race, the Saturday feature at the Henderson, Ky., track pits several contenders whose last start came at Churchill Downs. Liquoreux, from the powerhouse stable of Tom Amoss, looks like a logical favorite, especially off a front-running victory in his latest.

Liquoreux, with Phil Teator to ride, is one of four of starters to have most recently raced at Churchill. The others all rate a decent chance for a minor upset: Saalb, turning back in distance and switching to turf after a seven-week layoff for Ron Moquett, and the Joe Woodard-trained entry of Joe Six Pack and Mysterious Legend.

The first stakes of the meet comes next Saturday with the $50,000 HBPA Handicap.

As for opening day, ontrack attendance was 7,088, an unusually high total that onlookers said taxed the facilities, creating long lines at concession stands and mutuel windows while also creating parking problems. The day marked the first at Ellis since Louisville businessman Ron Geary purchased the 85-year-old track from Churchill Downs Inc.

The Wednesday opening was something of a throwback for Ellis, which traditionally had run on the Fourth of July until Churchill bought Ellis in 1998 and took those dates for its flagship track. Wednesday began the first of five straight days with both tracks racing, a conflict normally averted in this state. All-sources handle at Ellis was $1,746,754, including $363,234 ontrack, while the Churchill figures for Wednesday were $6,704,220, with $988,300 bet ontrack.

Among the more popular wagering offerings on opening day at Ellis was the late pick four, which will be available in 50-cent dominations and will carry a takeout rate of just 4 percent throughout the meet. Handle on the late pick four on opening day was $19,795.

The overlap with Churchill continues through Sunday, when the Louisville track closes its 52-day spring meet. Ellis then runs five days a week through Sept. 3.