08/11/2010 12:32PM

Midway Holiday giving Gardenia a shot


Greg Foley won the biggest race of the Ellis Park meet three years ago when he sent out Pleasant Hill to win the Gardenia, and the veteran trainer will be hoping for something very similar Saturday when he runs Midway Holiday as a major contender in the Grade 3 showcase.

Foley quickly acknowledges that Midway Holiday will be switching things up a bit in the Gardenia, a one-mile race on dirt, but believes the 3-year-old filly is talented enough to prevail. She most recently was a decent fourth behind the surging Check the Label in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks on the Colonial Downs turf.

Midway Holiday “is a nice filly who’s really come along for us,” he said earlier this week. “I thought she had a little traffic trouble last out, and I don’t think there’ll be any Check the Labels in against us this time. She is running against older stakes mares for the first time, but it’s getting later in the year, and she really is fine on the dirt. I’m not too worried about any of that. We ought to be pretty good in there.”

Midway Holiday is one of at least six fillies and mares, with maybe a few more, that Ellis racing officials were expecting when entries were drawn Thursday, with the other likely favorites being Ravi’s Song, Lady’s Laughter, and Tap Tap Tapping. An overnight handicap and four allowances also are in the condition book for what is traditionally the richest day of the Ellis meet.

The $100,000 Gardenia is the lone graded race every year at Ellis in Henderson, Ky.

Court out after injury is discovered

Veteran jockey Jon Court has been sidelined for several weeks by a small vertebra fracture. The scenario that led to the injury being diagnosed is remarkably the same as what happened this spring, when Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux missed much of the Churchill Downs meet.

Riding a maiden filly named Oh Sure in the third race July 31 at Ellis, Court was thrown to the ground just a couple of strides out of the gate. “She body-slammed me like the Terminator,” said Court.

After being taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary observation, Court thought he was healthy enough to ride the next day at Ellis. He accepted five mounts, winning with one, although his back was bothering him badly.

“If I so much as sneezed, it’d drop me to my knees,” he said.

Still, “because of stupidity or bravery or whatever you want to call it,” Court said he even exercised horses at Churchill the next two days before friends began detailing what Leparoux went through in mid-May. Leparoux was injured in a May 14 spill at Pimlico yet also persisted by riding the next two racing days. He finally saw a specialist who diagnosed vertebrae fractures, leading to about six weeks off.

Court, 49, said he will begin physical therapy Monday in Louisville and intends to be back in action by the end of August. He is a six-time leading rider at Ellis, including last year. He also has won five riding titles at Hoosier Park and been the leading rider at several other Midwest tracks.

Kenneally runners hot in his absence

While Eddie Kenneally is at Saratoga with his best horses, the runners he left behind at Churchill are maxing out at Ellis. Kenneally won with 6 of his first 7 starters at Ellis, landing him in a tie for the lead with Tim Glyshaw atop the trainer standings after 14 of 27 programs.

Meanwhile, into Friday action, Corey Lanerie had assumed the lead atop the jockey standings by a 20-17 margin over Victor Lebron. Apprentices Oriana Rossi and Ben Creed were next in line with 13 wins each.

◗ A turf route for starter-allowance horses (race 4) and two maiden special weight events (races 5 and 8) are the highlights of a nine-race Friday card at Ellis. First post daily is 12:50 p.m. Central.