Red-hot Ennis barn takes Leonatus with Epic Ride

Edited Turfway Park stakes recap; Coady photo of Epic Ride winning the Leonatus under Adam Beschizza

FLORENCE, Ky. (Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024) – Welch Racing’s Epic Ride proved Friday night he may be the best 3-year-old based at Turfway Park when he drew off to a convincing four-length victory under jockey Adam Beschizza in the 34th running of the $125,000 Leonatus Stakes.

Epic Ride, now 2 for 3, continued trainer John Ennis’ hot streak, giving the Irish-born trainer a meet-leading eighth win out of 20 starts, one more victory than Brad Cox. The stable also won the Likely Exchange Stakes earlier this meet with Icicles and was second in the Prevue Stakes with Let’s Go Mark. Ennis, who is stabled at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, last year won a career-best 33 races with $1.5 million in purses. Cox edged him 7-6 for the holiday-meet title.

          The Leonatus was Epic Ride’s first try against stakes company and he used his sharp turn of foot early in the one-mile contest to assume the lead as the field of six 3-year-olds entered the first turn. As Epic Ride easily completed a quarter-mile in :24.63, race favorite Vote No joined the early pace to his outside. The duo continued through a half-mile in a modest :48.76 before Epic Ride began to edge clear entering the far turn. At the top of the stretch, Beschizza began to ask Epic Ride for his best run and, even while drifting out in the stretch, easily opened up on the field to the wire in a final time of 1:39.24.

          Blue Eyed George was able to close ground from the back of the pack to finish second by 1 ¾ lengths over Good Bali who was followed by Salvattore Prince, Vote No and Bettering.

                 Epic Ride was sent off as the second choice in the race and returned $5.56, $4.28 and $2.68. Blue Eyed George, under jockey Luan Machado, paid $6.12 and $4.36 while Good Bali and Colby Hernandez returned $6.20.

          Epic Ride banked $76,005 for his victory in the Leonatus to improve his overall purse earnings to $130,517. A son of Blame, Epic Ride is out of the Gio Ponti mare Pick a Time. He was bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III.

          The Leonatus Stakes, which was rescheduled from Jan. 20 due to inclement weather, is the second of three local preps toward the March 23, $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII), a Championship Series event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Next up is the March 2, $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial.

          Live racing resumes Saturday at Turfway Park for a nine-race program that begins at 5:55 p.m.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.