Streaks at stake for Ellis, Don’t Get Mad in Travers

Aug 23, 2005 1:52 AM

Ron Ellis is batting 1,000 at Saratoga and Don’t Get Mad is batting 1,000 at Churchill Downs, losing all five starts at other tracks. Ellis hopes his streak continues and the other ends in Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

"I guess it’s a concern," Ellis said when asked if the stretch-running Don’t Get Mad’s 4-for-4 record at Churchill Downs and 0-for-5 log at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park could be extended at Saratoga, where the Grade I Travers will be decided at 11/4 miles.

"On the other hand," Ellis said, "he should appreciate the Saratoga track, I would think, but speed holds up pretty well there, too, so we’ll just have to see. But he’s back feeling real well."

The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Stephen Got Even is owned by storage magnate B. Wayne Hughes.

"The last couple weeks the horse really seems to be feeling good and springing back," Ellis said. "I think he was kind of worn out after his Kentucky race (an easy win in the Native Dancer Breeders’ Cup at Churchill in June) and I probably ran him back too quick in the Swaps (fifth by more than 10 lengths at Hollywood Park as the 13-10 favorite on July 9)."

Of course, facing the likes of the resurgent Roman Ruler, Jim Dandy winner Flower Alley, the enigmatic Chekhov and persistent Andromeda’s Hero could prove frightening, sort of like rear-ending a car with the legend "Raider Nation" on its rear window.

Despite the rich and lengthy history of Saratoga and the Travers, the 45-year-old Ellis has started only one horse at the bucolic upstate New York track, the filly Exotic Wood, who won the Grade I Go For Wand at 11/8 miles in 1996.

"That’s the only horse I’ve ever run back there," Ellis said. The first thoroughbred meet in the United States was presented at Saratoga in August of 1863. The Travers Stakes, named for William Travers, was run for the first time in 1864.

To grasp the grand tradition of Saratoga, one need only recall directions to the track as described by the late, great Red Smith: "From New York City, you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue, and go back 100 years."

Gary Stevens won’t be traveling back that far. Currently plying his trade at Saratoga, the Hall of Fame jockey rode Don’t Get Mad in his last two starts, but he’s committed to Chekhov for Patrick Biancone in the Travers, so Ellis was shopping for a rider at press time. "I’m not sure who’s going to ride him yet," Ellis said. "We’ve got a couple good options."

Don’t Get Mad has four wins, a second and a third from nine career starts, with earnings of $433,620, but he’s played second fiddle this season to stablemate Declan’s Moon, the undefeated male 2-year-old champion of 2004 who is pointing to an October comeback for Ellis and owners Mace and Samantha Siegel.

"The way I figure he’ll be ready to run in mid-October," Ellis said of the gelded son of Malibu Moon. "We’ve got a race called the Perryville at Keeneland (a Grade III worth $200,000 for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on Oct. 14) penciled in, but he’s got a long way to go before we’re ready for that. But that’s the tentative schedule."

Among the talented young horses Ellis has waiting in the wings is a Not for Love colt named Unrequited "who’s shown a little bit of ability, and a couple other ones that probably won’t run until Oak Tree."

Commit Unrequited to memory. Don’t be like the guy who was fired at the 99 Cent Store because he couldn’t remember the prices.

The homestretch

Duh! Award of the Week goes to the announcer at the Little League World Series on ESPN who referred to one of the players as "a young 11-year-old." That’s almost as bad as the guy who said a horse "just set a new track record." His ignorance prevented him from realizing that if the horse just set a record, of course it’s new.

”¡ And remember, a good quarterback and a good wide receiver go hand in hand — except in Philadelphia.