08/19/2007 11:00PM

Turfway BC possible for Pleasant Hill's next


HENDERSON, Ky. - Trainer Greg Foley said he will soon begin looking for a next race for Pleasant Hill, the Donamire Farm filly who rolled to a front-running victory Saturday in her stakes debut, the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park.

Pleasant Hill, ridden by Larry Melancon, earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure. She held off the late-flying High Heels to win the one-mile Gardenia by a length. High Heels, the 3-1 favorite and the only 3-year-old in a field of 11, finished another 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Brownie Points, the 3-1 second choice and 118-pound highweight.

Foley, a trainer since 1981, said Pleasant Hill is quite possibly the best filly or mare he has ever trained.

"We've always thought a whole lot of her," he said. "She's a big, pretty filly, always done everything right. She's a good horse, for sure. Where we go next, I don't know, although I'd say we'll probably take a look at the race at Turfway Park," the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup on Sept. 29.

Although Pleasant Hill, a 4-year-old by Pleasant Tap, was pegged as one of the co-low-weights at 111 pounds (she actually carried two pounds overweight) and had never run in a stakes in five previous races, horseplayers loved her, making her a close 7-2 third choice behind High Heels and Brownie Points. She returned $9.60 after finishing in 1:38.85 over a fast track and earned $90,000 from the $150,000 purse.

Ellis announcer and oddsmaker Luke Kruytbosch, who pegged her at 20-1 on his morning line, said he was surprised at the wagering action she took. "With so many good horses in the race, realistically it would have been hard to make her lower than something like 8-1 or 10-1, considering she'd never even run in a stake," he said.

Meanwhile, High Heels, also based at Churchill, came out of the race in good order, said trainer Gary Hartlage. "I thought the racetrack was pretty biased myself," he said, meaning it favored speed. "But we were very pleased with her race. She'll walk a few days, and after she goes back to the racetrack we'll start thinking about what's next."

Front-runners dominate four stakes

A crowd of 4,624 attended the 26th Gardenia in weather that was considerably less hot or humid than in recent weeks. The Gardenia anchored a Big Four Stakes program that included three other $50,000 stakes. Those three were won by front-runners, too, including Revival Ridge ($20.40), who captured the Regaey Island on turf.

The most interesting aspect of the other two stakes, both run at seven furlongs for 2-year-olds, was that the filly winner, Miss Red Delicious ($8.40), ran nearly two seconds faster in taking the Anna M. Fisher Debutante than Yonegwa ($8.20) took in winning the James C. Ellis Juvenile for colts and geldings. Miss Red Delicious, ridden by Victor Lebron and trained by Mark Hubley, went in 1:24.98, while Yonegwa finished in 1:26.78.

Miss Red Delicious, based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, earned an 81 Beyer.

Yonegwa 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. Yonegwa got a 70 Beyer.

Gretchen's Star, 12, still has it

Gretchen's Star, owned and trained by Ron Isbell Jr., rallied to win a $40,000 optional-claiming race on the Saturday undercard, marking his first victory as a 12-year-old.

"He's the most amazing horse I've ever been around, and I've been working with horses for nearly 30 years now," said Isbell, 46.

Gretchen's Star, a gelding by Mr. Leader, raced six times last year and now has raced five times in 2007.

"I actually retired him once, but he wouldn't have any of it," said Isbell. "He's just a neat old horse. He loves what he does."

Isbell, based at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, Ky., said he tried to run Gretchen's Star for $20,000 "but the races didn't go."

"I was going to go down to $15,000, but I thought I'd better not, just in case somebody thought about taking him," he said. "He's been too good to me."

Out of retirement, Woods riding well

Charlie Woods Jr. rode Revival Ridge in the Regaey Island, giving the veteran jockey his first stakes victory in more than 5 1/2 years.

Woods, who turns 57 next month, returned from a retirement of about 2 1/2 years in 2005. Although business has been slow, it has picked up at Ellis, and into Wednesday his 10 wins this year are just one behind his total for all of 2006.

The last stakes win for Woods came aboard Miss Pickums in the Likely Exchange at Turfway Park on Feb. 9, 2002.

* Golden Hare, the 8-year-old gelding who has won 12 of 13 starts since the Scott Blasi Racing Stable claimed him last August, returns to action Thursday in the sixth race at Ellis. Golden Hare will start from post 4 in a 5 1/2-furlong turf race being run under starter-allowance conditions.