Ellis Park Cancels Training, Sunday Card After Overnight Barn Fire

by | 08.22.2021 | 10:04am

The receiving barn at Ellis Park is a total loss after an early Sunday morning fire.

A fire engulfed the receiving barn at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., early Sunday morning, leading to the evacuation of seven horses housed there. No injuries to any persons were reported while one horse suffered a minor injury in the fire.

Ellis Park general manager Jeff Inman and Baskett Fire Chief Brent Morrow held a press conference Sunday to share more information about the early morning barn fire.

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Lanerie Sweeps Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes With Tobacco Road, Serengeti Empress


Tobacco Road and Corey Lanerie win the Ellis Park Juvenile

Corey Lanerie swept Ellis Park’s pair of 2-year-old stakes but in completely different fashion Sunday: Serengeti Empress led all the way to an electrifying 13 1/2-length blowout over the late-running Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante. A race later, Tobacco Road wore down stablemate Whiskey Echo to take the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile by three-quarters of a length.

Lanerie won four races out of five mounts on the card to take the lead — 24-22 over Shaun Bridgmohan — in the jockey standings for the first time this meet, for which he missed the first six days following the death of his wife, Shantel.

“When I came back here, I didn’t know how well I would do after Shantel’s passing, just if people would give me back my mounts right away,” Lanerie said. “It’s been a blessing. I took off where I left, kind of kept on winning. My business didn’t seem to linger at all. Once I saw I had a little chance, I kind of made it a goal to try to do it and be leading rider for Shantel.”

Trainer Tom Amoss loved Serengeti Empress even before the 2-year-old filly won her first start by 5 1/2 lengths July 4 at Indiana Grand. He was extremely disappointed when the daughter of Alternation was fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Schuylerville, a race in which Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano dropped the whip turning for home.

“We classified her as one of the best in the barn,” Amoss said by phone from New York after Serengeti Empress’ 13 1/2-length laugher over the late-running Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante. “A big disappointment at Saratoga when Castellano dropped the stick on her and just quit riding her. I’ve never figured out what went wrong in that race. But she came back to show what she was today.”

Serengeti Empress rolled through testing fractions of 22.21 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 45.29 for the half and 1:09.66 for three-quarters of a mile before finishing the seven furlongs in 1:22.29. She paid $4.80 as the 7-5 favorite in the field of 11 two-year-old fillies.

“My filly broke really well right from the gate,” Lanerie said. “She was in hand pretty much all the way around there. When I got to the quarter pole, I kind of pushed the button and she went on and finished all the way to the wire. I had plenty left on the gallop-out. She was so far in front by herself that I think she was getting a little lost. I was keeping her busy. But she didn’t need any encouragement today. She was going to win.

“The sky’s the limit, I think. Tom has done a fantastic job with her, him and his team. I’m sure he’ll get her as far as he can go and do his best. She’s a good one.”

Vickie Foley, trainer of Alexis Harthill’s Include Edition, said she was “loving it,” seeing the fast pace. “But that filly didn’t come back at all,” she said wistfully. “She’s a runner.”

Include Edition trailed the field for half the race, having to come six-wide on the turn. She took second by 1 1/2 lengths over 107-1 shot Lucky Girasol, who won a $16,000 maiden-claiming race at Ellis Park July 29.

Said James Graham, rider Include Edition, who came from well back to win her debut July 15 at Ellis Park: “She tries. She’s just not that quick early. Like in her first race, you say, ‘Oh yeah, maybe a little green and stuff.’ Sent her away a little bit, couldn’t keep up. I tucked in, saved a little ground, made a huge run around the turn. I passed everybody and I looked up and Corey’s 15 in front!

“I think she’ll be better at two turns, and she’s in the growing stage. I like her, I like what she might be able to become. She got a little bit of an education. They were so bunched up in turn and said, ‘OK, I can’t wait and try to go on and hope to kick home.’ Because she’s not quick, she’s just steady. She ran her race, tried her butt off.”

Amoss bought Serengeti Empress for $70,000 for Joel Politi of Columbus, Ohio, at Keeneland’s 2017 September yearling sale. He said the filly will return to his Churchill Downs base and could be pointed for that track’s Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes, whose winner gets an automatic berth and entry fees paid in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2, also at the Louisville track.

Asked what he liked about Serengeti Empress before she ran, Amoss said, “
“Super intelligent. Went through all of her drills without blinking an eye. I mean, every time we challenged her she was up to it. So when we made her first start with her, it was more because that’s where the maiden race (at Indiana Grand) appeared at that time. We wanted to go to Saratoga, which we kind of pushed that issue together because they were close together. Just happened to have a maiden race at Indiana Grand as opposed to Ellis, so that’s where we ended up.”

Rounding out the field were Shanghai Rain, Somewhere, Profound Legacy, Kristizar, Bivian B, Spice It Up, Wakeeta and La Coyota.

Corey Lanerie completed his sweep of the stakes by guiding Tobacco Road from eighth to a three-quarters of a length triumph over Whiskey Echo in the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, with Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen training both horses. Manny Wah finished another head back in third in the field of 10 two-year-old colts and geldings.

“He had a completely different trip from the filly,” Lanerie said, referring to Serengeti Empress’ front-running 13 1/2-length romp over Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante a race earlier. “He doesn’t have as much speed as she did. He broke really good, and then the speed just kind of ran away from him. I had to kind of keep him busy the first quarter of a mile. Once he found his stride around the turn, from the three-eighths to the quarter pole, I could tell I had a lot of horse. It was just trying to time it right and get him to the front at the right time.

“Actually at the quarter pole, I thought I had the two in front of me with ease. I hadn’t really asked my horse. I didn’t think the two in front, that they had that much. When I got to his (Whiskey Echo’s) hip, he proved me wrong. I got a little worried at the eighth pole. And then by the sixteenth pole I was kind of taking control and getting away from them.”

After three races, Tobacco Road has followed the identical path as Lookin At Lee, the 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up ridden by Lanerie. Both horses are trained by Asmussen and owned by Lee Levinson’s L and N Racing. Both horses finished fifth at Churchill Downs in their first start, won at Ellis in their second and took the Ellis Park Juvenile in their third. Tobacco Road just now needs to run out $1.1 million and be at least second in a Triple Crown race to keep up the comparisons.

“It was a good day,” Levinson said by phone from Tulsa. “The comparisons continue. The best part was how he finished, because he was pulling away at the end. Boy, can you imagine at a distance? You never know but, boy, he sure looks like he’s got distance, doesn’t he?

“… When he came around the turn, you could just see him coming. He was catching them with every stride. We were pretty excited. We thought we had a great chance. But you never know, watching those races. How many times have you watched and they’re coming up like gangbusters and just stop?”

Mitch Dennison, Asmussen’s assistant trainer at Ellis Park, has had Tobacco Road in his care all summer and said the winner was showing a lot in his timed workouts in company.

“He’s very competitive and he always just has his ears up, is very happy and has kept very good weight,” he said.

Though the early pace (22.47, 45.66) was similar to what Serengeti Empress set in the Debutante, the boys finished much slower, with Tobacco Road wrapping up the seven furlongs in 1:23.99. after the six furlongs slowed down to 1:11.02. But there also was more competition for the lead, with Manny Wah and Whiskey Echo right up on the pace battling long shot S S. Trooper.

Whiskey Echo, the program favorite who went off second choice behind Tobacco Road, won his first start at Belmont Park and then was third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Sanford Stakes. Asmussen said by phone that both colts will go to Churchill Downs and be considered for that track’s Grade 3, $150,000 Iroquois, whose winner receives an automatic berth and entry fees paid to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at the same track.

“They’re both really nice colts, obviously,” Asmussen said. “We felt good about our chances going in. Whiskey Echo off the third in the Sanford, I thought this was the perfect spot for him. And then when Tobacco Road ran so well there a couple of weeks ago, it was obvious to run him back at Ellis. But both colts ran well and handled more ground, and that’s kind of what it’s all about right now.”

Said Shaun Bridgmohan, rider of runner-up Whiskey Echo: “The horse tried really hard. He gave me what he had. The winner came on the outside and got us all. But me and Channing (Hill, on Manny Wah) were running right along. The winner just outgamed us today.”

Overanalyzer finished fourth, followed by Mine Inspector, S S Trooper, Shanghaied Roo, Pradar, Lady’s Weekend and Veritas.

Recovering Corey Lanerie Returns to Winner’s Circle

Jockey credits support of friends, family since June 22 death of his wife, Shantel.

By Jennie Rees, Ellis Park track publicist

Corey Lanerie rode at Ellis Park July 13 for the first time this summer, as the four-time meet titlist resumed riding regularly following the June 22 death of his wife, Shantel Lanerie.

With his third mount of the day, Lanerie was back in the winner’s circle for the fourth race, with track announcer Jimmy McNerney saying, “Hide the Honey with Corey Lanerie on her back, and an angel on his.”

“It feels great to be back riding, doing what I love,” Lanerie said before the first race. “Kind of get life moving forward again, because it’s hard. I think when I get back to riding, it will kind of get my mind freed and back to normal life. It’s going to be weird. I really don’t know what I’ll feel like out there. I actually rode last weekend, and it was pretty good. Once I get on the horse, I focus on the race and my job, whatever I have to do. I think I’ll go out there and do my job and just let it go as it is, and I think I’ll be fine.”

Lanerie rode in four stakes July 7 at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago and came away with a pair of fourth-place finishes. Those were his first mounts since June 17.

Shantel was undergoing treatment for stage 1 breast cancer when she underwent emergency surgery for an infected colon June 21. She died the next day.

Lanerie wears an undershirt with “Fight with Shantel” on the collar embroidered in pink, as well as a bracelet.

“Before it happened, we’d ordered these shirts to ‘Fight with Shantel,’ so I’m going to just keep wearing them in honor of her,” he said. “The bracelet is the same thing. A bunch of us are wearing them, and we won’t forget her.”

The Laneries have a 10-year-old daughter, Brittlyn. Shantel and Brittlyn were regular fixtures at the racetrack, known for their splendid attire when Lanerie received an award or reached a milestone victory.

“There will be an empty spot for sure,” Lanerie said. “Because she supported me through thick and thin. She was there when I wasn’t doing any good and at my best moments.”

The jockey said his daughter is doing well. He said Brittlyn is with family in Louisiana and will be doing some traveling with close friends. But he acknowledged that facing life as a single parent is daunting.

“I think it’s sunken in,” he said. “Now I’m just scared of whatever the future has in store and whatever I’m going to have to do. I was lucky. She did everything, so it’s going to be a learning process for me. That’s kind of where I’m at, and I’m just going to take it day by day.

“It will be hard. With my career, to be honest, I don’t think I can do it as a single parent. I’m going to have to get some help. Shantel’s parents are going to come for a couple of weeks, and after that, my parents are going to come, my mom for sure, for at least three weeks, maybe a month so we can get Brittlyn settled in. Then I’m probably going to have to end up hiring a nanny or somebody. Because she likes to dance and all that, and to get her to and from practice with the hours I work, it just wouldn’t be possible.”

Lanerie said he greatly appreciates the outpouring from the racing community.

“The support and the family love has been great. Everybody has reached out to me and offered their help, anything they can do. We’re a big family here, and it really showed. A lot of people have stepped up and just gone above and beyond, just with phone calls and stuff to do. It was amazing, so heart-warming.”

Lanerie, a 43-year-old native of Lafayette, La., who has made Louisville home since moving to the Kentucky circuit in 2005, has won the last two Ellis Park training titles, as well as in 2013 (a tie with Roberto Morales) and 2010. The winner of more than 4,400 races, Lanerie is a 15-time meet leader at Churchill Downs.

Lanerie and Brittlyn were part of the award presentation when the jockey’s good friend Brian Hernandez Jr. was honored as leading rider for Churchill Downs’ spring meet. Hernandez held a one-win margin over Lanerie when Shantel was hospitalized on June 21.

“That was pretty special because Brian worked really hard and is a really good jockey,” Lanerie said. “He deserved to be leading rider. He came down (to Louisiana) for the wake. He was going to stay if I wanted him to, but I said, ‘If anybody is going to get it, Shantel would want you to have it. So go there and do what you do.'”

Lanerie said he made the decision to return to riding because “It’s not going to get any better. Life has to go on, and I figure the sooner we go and start doing things and trying to get normalcy back in our life, things will be better.”

Hernandez: Lanerie’s Presentation Of Churchill Leading Rider Trophy ‘Really Special’

by | 07.01.2018 | 7:26pm

Corey Lanerie presents the leading rider trophy to his friend, Brian Hernandez

Brian Hernandez Jr., winner of the 2012 Ellis Park riding crown, didn’t waste any time taking the first steps toward potentially another riding title, winning Sunday’s second race aboard Menacing on opening day of Ellis’ 2018 meet.

The Louisiana native was at Ellis the day after wrapping up his first riding title at Churchill Downs in his adopted hometown of Louisville, 43 wins to 38 for runner-up Florent Geroux. But the sheer joy that the accomplishment should have brought was countered by the anguish when the tight title tilt with his close friend and 15-time Churchill riding champ Corey Lanerie ended with the sudden death of Lanerie’s wife, Shantel.

Lanerie, who won the last two Ellis Park jockey titles, hasn’t ridden since June 21, when Shantel, who was undergoing treatment for Stage 1 breast cancer, had emergency surgery after an infected colon led to sepsis and cardiac arrest. She died the next day.

“It was a bittersweet moment,” Hernandez, who held a 36-35 lead over Lanerie on June 21, said of winning the title. “As everyone knows, Corey Lanerie and I were close in the standings, and his wife fell ill the last nine days of the meet and she succumbed to it. Our heart goes out to their family. It’s bittersweet to be able to win the title. But I wish we’d had Shantel here with us.”

Lanerie and their 10-year-old daughter, Brittlyn, came to Churchill’s closing day Saturday to be part of the presentation for the meet’s leading jockey.

“That was really special,” said the 32-year-old Hernandez, who in 2004 won the Eclipse Award as America’s outstanding apprentice jockey and in 2012 captured the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Fort Larned. “That was one of the requests Corey asked of me, to go ahead and try to win the title in Shantel’s memory. Like he said, if he couldn’t do it, she’d have loved for me to go ahead and do it. It was really special for him and Brittlyn to come down and get in the winner’s circle presentation and photo. It was just a special family moment.”

Hernandez spent one summer riding at Saratoga’s elite in upstate New York before deciding it made more business sense to stay at home in Kentucky with wife Jamie and their two young kids, riding at Ellis and shipping out for stakes for his clientele as needed.

“Especially the last couple of years, the 2-year-old program at Ellis has really gotten strong,” Hernandez said. “This is a great place to get young horses going in the summertime, and the track is always in great shape.”

Hernandez won 13 races at the 2017 Ellis meet, good for sixth place, while missing a lot of days to ride in stakes out of state.

“That will kind of be the same deal this summer,” he said. “We do emphasize the stakes program, then try to go around the country to ride the better horses. That’s really what it’s all about. You want to be able to pick up better horses and keep moving forward with them.

“And that’s one reason we do come to Ellis, because we pick up some nice 2-year-olds to go with the rest of the year and beyond. It makes it nice because you can come here and ride and then go home at night and spend quality time with the family. And with racing here only three days a week, it’s almost like a little summer vacation.”