Ellis Park Press Release: Trainer Kenny McPeek has used Ellis Park’s maiden races for 2-year-olds to great effect as a launching pad to future stakes races. And his barn thinks he might have another one on his hands as Honor Thy Father led all the way under Corey Lanerie for a 9 3/4-length romp over Gemacho in Friday’s $38,000 race.
Paul Fireman’s Honor Thy Father, a dark-bay son of To Honor and Serve who cost $250,000 as a Keeneland yearling, had finished a creditable sixth in his only other start, June 11 at Churchill Downs at five-eighths of a mile. Ellis’ fifth race Friday was rained off the turf, but it was the mile distance that the barn wanted.
“We have big hopes for him, but we’re just happy that he’s done what he’s done,” said Jeff Hiles, who oversees McPeek’s Churchill Downs division, from where Honor Thy Father shipped. “He’s everything right that we’ve asked of him. Getting him out there for the first time at Churchill and getting a little experience, we’re happy he came down here and won today. We’re hopeful for the future.”
McPeek-trained major winners such as Noble’s Promise, Pure Fun and Java’s War and the accomplished Dothraki Queen all came through Ellis Park’s 2-year-old program.
Honor Thy Father finished the mile in 1:37.97 over a track rated “good” and which had been “sealed” — packed down to prevent water from penetrating the surface after a mid-morning thunderstorm swept through. He paid $5.20 to win as the 8-5 favorite in the field of six.
“I like him,” said Lanerie, fresh off winning his 11th Churchill Downs riding title. “I liked him when I worked him. He proved today that I was right. I thought he could run. Today I think was a pretty easy race for him, so it’s hard to tell his depth. But he’s bred well, has good blood and I hope he’s got a big future.”
Gemacho, ridden by defending Ellis riding champ Didiel Osorio for trainer Vickie Foley, finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Colonel Swinson and jockey Miguel Mena. Lanerie also won the feature race, a $40,000 second-level allowance race taken off the turf, as the Mike Maker-trained 5-year-old gelding King Ptolemy went wire to wire for a 4 1/4-length score over Another Lemon Drop and Let Us Be Glad in the field of five older horses.
Lanerie is 2 for 2 on King Ptolemy, winning two starts back at Churchill Downs in another race taken off the turf. But that day he wasn’t sure how King Ptolemy would handle dirt. That’s because King Ptolemy was third in yet another off-turf race April 30 that Lanerie won.
“I thought he might just be a turf horse,” Lanerie said. “I didn’t really know what to expect when I rode him the first time. He ran really well. And today, he just loved it.
“He was just lolly-gagging around there, looking around. I asked him a little bit late just to keep him busy. I think he got mad at me. He almost pulled up and turned around. It scared me.”
King Ptolemy covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.38, paying $5.40 as the favorite. He’s a son of Pioneerof the Nile, who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby in the slop and went on to sire 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. King Ptolemy now is 5-1-4 in 20 starts, earning $170,435. He was claimed 13 races ago for $30,000 by Maker for owners Rollin Fishback and Pat Logsdon of Louisville.
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