Plenty of excitement surrounding Ellis Park

Photo by Travis David/Daily Clarion

Henderson (KY) resident and horse owner Chester Thomas (second from left) addresses the media during the Ellis Park Media Day on Wednesday. Also pictured are Ellis Park public relations director Jennie Rees (left), jockey Corey Lanerie), jockey Chantal Sutherland and trainer Larry Jones.

HENDERSON, Ky. -- On Tuesday, news of Ellis Park being sold to Ellis Entertainment -- a subsidiary of Laguna Development Corporation (LDC) -- was confirmed in the amount of $11 million.

On Wednesday, Ellis Park held its Media Dady and Call to Post Luncheon in advance of the 97th season of racing at the Kentucky track.

Ellis Park general manager Jeff Hall stated the sale, which is expected to be closed by the end of the month, will not affect the summer program.

"They are fully behind our summer program," Hall said.

Opening Day for live racing at Ellis Park will kick off on Sunday, June 30.

"We have record purses for our summer

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program," Hall stated. "We have the very best jockey colony and the horse population is the best we have ever seen at Ellis Park."

Ellis Park secretary Dan Bork echoed the same thoughts as Hall.

"It seems like every year when I come up here and tell you all how great the racing is going to be and every year we have kept our promise," Bork said. "It just keeps getting better and better ... this year there is no question it is going to be our best year.

"There is a great buzz going around already. You can hear from the horsemen and it feels good."

Last season the average purse at the race track went for $250,00. This season the average purse will be $330,00 including 11 stake races.

"It has grown to over $1 million offered in the stake races which will be the strongest in Ellis Park history," Bork stated.

The biggest day, according to the secretary, will take place on Sunday, August 4 for the Ellis Preview Day.

The date will hold five stake races "with over $500,000 in purses offered."

Corey Lanerie, who is one of the most successful jockeys the track has hosted, mentioned Ellis Park is quickly becoming a top destination.

"In the past I always wanted to be at Saratoga but now the good horses seem to be coming out of Ellis Park," the three-time defending Ellis Park leading rider and five-time champion at the track overall said. "It just feels like home here. It's laid back and you can make some money and you can find a derby horse here. This is where I want to be in the summertime. The track just gets better and better and the purses get better and better."

Longtime trainer Larry Jones also mentioned how great the track is. Jones cut his teeth on the track back in 1982 when he called Ellis Park home for 27 straight years.

"We are in the right spot here and it's an easy sell to the owners," Jones said of the track. "I really think the track is better now than it has been in 20 years. It is phenomenal."

Credit of the track condition goes to Glenn Thompson.

The 83-year old track superintendent has been working at the track since he was 15 years old and has been the superintendent for longer than he can remember, according to Ellis Park public relations manager Jennie Rees.

Thompson and Jones have been friends for the last 40 years.

"A lot of people think sand and red clay are the only things to make race tracks out of," Jones explained. "Thank goodness Glenn knows the difference. He knows the best place to get it out of the river. There's been millions of gallons of water washed over the track to remove all the rough edges so the horses do not get cut if they get dirt on them.

"I can't say it enough about the track, it's the best track, as a whole, I have been on in my life."

Chantal Sutherland is a jockey who is making the transition from the California circuit to the New Orleans and Kentucky circuit. She worked out on the track at Ellis for the first time on Wednesday morning.

"It's very wide and open which is great for the horses," she said. "The surface is really nice ... I am impressed."

In addition to the improvements at the track which include upgrades to the facilities, the marketing and sales team has put together an impressive list of promotional giveaways this summer.

A total of 3,000 Ellis Park hats will be given away on Opening Day.

The "All-American Celebration" will take place July 4-6 in which each day a prize package of a patio set and gas grill will be given away (value of $1,500) in addition to other prizes after each race.

Starting July 12, Friday racing will be "Dash for Cash' as fans will have the chance to win $200-$500 in cash.

Sunday's will be designated as "Family Day" where a 55-inch Samsung TV or Xbox gaming console with a 28-inch LG TV in addition to other prizes and discounted food and drinks.

From July 13-Aug. 17 (excluding Aug. 10), Saturday's will be "Outdoor Adventure Giveaway" as the prize package will include a kayak, tent and Yetti cooler.

And on July 13 the Indianapolis Colts in Motion traveling museum will be on site.

For the first time in over a decade, there will be Twilight Racing.

Post-times for races on July 19, Aug. 9 and Aug. 23 will commence at 2:50 p.m. CST.

Following racing on those twilight dates, fans can be entertained with live music from the band Tailgate Revival. The band will play from 7-10 p.m.

September 1 will be kids day and Labor Day racing will serve as fan appreciation day.

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