Ellis Park Press Release: Saratoga was Plan B. Ellis Park was Plan A for keeping talented 2-year-olds on course for this fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar and, hopefully, the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
And Jason Loutsch isn’t kidding.
Loutsch, partner and racing manager for Albaugh Family Stables, did not anticipate that their first three in a promising group of 2-year-olds would win first time out at Churchill Downs. He figured they’d run well but get beat by a horse more cranked up or with a race under its belt, then win a maiden race at Ellis Park to that would set one or more of the colts up for Sunday’s $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile or graded stakes at Churchill Downs (Iroquois) or Keeneland (Breeders’ Futurity).
But Free Drop Billy and Dak Attack both won June 15; then Hollywood Star won June 28, with all three trained by Dale Romans. So Free Drop Billy and Hollywood Star took a detour to Saratoga, where Free Drop Billy was second in the July 22 Grade 3 Sanford and Hollywood Star runner-up in this past Sunday’s Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Dak Attack was chosen to stick with the original game plan of the Ellis Park Juvenile, for which entries will be taken Thursday. Ellis also will have the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante return after a nine-year hiatus.
“The Ellis stakes was always on our radar after we won these races. But Dale is not historically a first-time starter winner,” said Loutsch, who is married to the daughter of Albaugh patriarch Dennis Albaugh, a prominent Iowa businessman and philanthropist. “So we thought we’d break our maiden at Ellis Park and go to the Iroquois or Futurity from there. But we were fortunate enough to win three 2-year-old races, and we had to come up with Plan B and start separating them.”
“He’s a horse we think is going to get better and better. … He’ll hopefully be at his best at a pretty exciting time of his 3-year-old year.” — Bret Jones
“We have basically two-turn colts and they’re not ready to sprint 5 1/2 furlongs. We’ve never encountered this where you’re going in a stakes in your second race and running in a Grade 2 at Saratoga. It says a lot about the horses that we’ve bought. Our team has done a great job finding great horses.”
Ellis Park has proven very good to the Albaugh and Romans 2-year-olds. Brody’s Cause got whupped at the track but wound up winning Keeneland’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity two starts later and the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass the next spring. Last year, Not This Time in his second start won an Ellis maiden race by 10 lengths then took the Grade 3 Iroquois by 8 3/4 to earn a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he narrowly lost to champion Classic Empire.
Dak Attack was selected for the Ellis stakes in discussion with Bret Jones, whose family bred Dak Attack and stayed in for a piece when the colt sold at Keeneland’s yearling sale for $625,000. The Ellis Park Juvenile will be plenty challenging with the presence of the Kenny McPeek-trained Ten City, who in winning Churchill’s Grade 3 Bashford Manor defeated Copper Bullet, last Sunday’s impressive winner of Saratoga’s Grade 2 Sanford over Hollywood Story.
Robby Albarado, who had been the rider of both Dak Attack and Ten City, had committed to Romans before the Bashford Manor winner was definite for the seven-furlong race. Instead, Jack Gilligan, who has been riding for McPeek at Ellis, gets a potential career boost in riding Ten City.
“It’s coming up tough with Kenny’s colt,” said Jones, who heads the bloodstock operation at the farm founded by his parents, Brereton and Libby. “But the Albaugh group and Dale obviously have had a lot of success at Ellis Park and setting those horses up for some bigger races down the line.
“No one involved with this horse ever thought the best race of his life was going to be August of his 2-year-old year. The way he’s made, the way he’s bred, he’s a horse we think is going to get better and better. And that’s exactly what Dale has been telling us from the start…. He’ll hopefully be at his best at a pretty exciting time of his 3-year-old year.”
Dak Attack, named for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, is a son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and the Indian Charlie mare Indian Spell, herself a daughter of the Joneses’ Kentucky Oaks winner and 3-year-old filly champion Proud Spell.
“He was a superstar from the moment he came onto this earth,” Jones said. “He grew into this big strapping, beautiful yearling that we took to the September sales with very high expectations. We really believed in the colt and wanted to have a role in his racing, and the pipe dream of course is to have interest in his stallion career. We think this is a very talented colt and are grateful to the Albaughs for letting us take a small piece and have some fun with him.”
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