Ellis Park gets back to normal with 8-race opener Sunday

Photo: Coady Photography

Normalcy returns to “The Pea Patch” on Sunday when Ellis Park opens for live racing and welcomes spectators back after the pandemic changed the look of the meet last summer.

The 2021 edition of the meet comes after the track held an altered meeting in 2020 because of COVID. Last year’s racing at Ellis featured no general admission, and the Ellis Park Derby became a prep for the rescheduled September Kentucky Derby.

Fans will be allowed back at full capacity with free general admission. The meet is scheduled to run through Aug. 2, with races scheduled for Fridays through Sundays and a special Thursday card this week.

Sunday’s card has eight races, with the action scheduled to get under way at 1:50 p.m. EDT. The card is led by two $52,000 allowance races.

Ellis Park’s trainer title for 2020 was shared by Brad Cox, who returns on opening day with four entries, and Kenny McPeek, who will run Yellow Creek Road in a maiden race. Both trainers had 10 wins each at the 2020 meet. Third in the 2020 trainer standings with nine wins, Mike Maker returns with one entry on Sunday’s card.

In the jockey colony, 2020’s leading rider Joe Talamo returns for 2021 with a single ride on opening day. Talamo won 20 races at the track last year. Rafael Bejarano and James Graham tied for second with 18 wins each. Graham returns Sunday with three mounts; Bejarano has five.

The highlight of the meet comes Aug. 15, when the track hosts four stakes races, including the Ellis Park Derby, Groupie Doll, Ellis Park Juvenile and Ellis Park Debutante. Aug. 7 and 8 will serve as preview weekend for 2021’s Kentucky Downs meet, with stakes winners earning fees-paid entries in stakes races in September.

The first stakes race of the meet will come next Sunday on the Fourth of July with the $75,000 Ellis Park Turf for older fillies and mares.

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