Shots Fired! Ellis Park Hosts Independence Day Charity Handicapping Contest

by | 07.01.2016 | 6:32pm
Ellis Park

It started out with a tweet announcing that Joe Kristufek will make daily selections for Ellis Park on “To play @EllisParkRacing without @JoeyDaKRacing picks is a handicap, not handicapping.”

“Unless you've got my picks,” came the quick response from Megan Devine (@MissMeganDevine), new paddock analyst for the Ellis meet that runs July 2 through Sept. 5.

“Shots fired!” chipped in C.J. Johnsen (@CeeJayJohnsen), racing manager for Kentucky Downs, which markets Ellis' simulcasting product.

Thus was the inspiration for Coady Photography to sponsor the Ellis Park Independence Day Smackdown, a charity competition whose first three recruits were Kristufek, Devine and Johnsen. They'll be joined by Ellis Park president Ron Geary, Ellis announcer Jimmy McNerney (@JimmyMcNerney) and Horse Racing Radio Network's Jude Feld (RaceHorseReport).

The six handicappers will make selections for a $2 win and place bet on one horse in each race on Monday's special July 4 card at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. Their selections will be posted early Monday morning at and @CoadyPhoto on Twitter, with standings updated throughout the day.

Coady Photography, America's leading track photographer whose 29 client tracks include Ellis Park, will pay $500 to the charity of choice for the handicapper ending the day with the largest mythical money, not to mention getting bragging rights.

“C.J. is the one who started it by saying 'shots fired,'” said Kurtis Coady, the third-generation track photographer who has been president of the family-owned Coady Photography since 2007. “And if there's one thing Coady Photography knows something about, it's taking shots.

“We just decided to create a light-hearted smack day, like a battle royale of handicappers going into Ellis Park, making a fun event for a good cause.”

The charities potentially benefitting are: Aubrey Rose Foundation (Jimmy McNerney), Ellis Park chapter of Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy (Ron Geary), Kosair Children's Hospital (Joe Kristufek), Old Friends (Megan Devine), Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (C.J. Johnsen), and Race for Education (Jude Feld).

About the Smackdown contestants:

Megan Devine, who is providing pre-race selections and post-race interviews during the Ellis meet, is a 2014 honors graduate of the Equine Industry Program in the University of Louisville's College of Business. Devine also works for NBC Sports assisting the field producers for the network's racing broadcasts and for TVG racing network during Keeneland. An accomplished equestrian, Devine exercised racehorses last fall in order to learn first hand what is involved in their development and race preparation.

Jude Feld has been an analyst for Horse Racing Radio Network since 2007. A lifelong racing fan, he began his career in the the sport in 1978 making the Daily Racing Form charts for Ellis Park. After working as an assistant trainer, Feld started a 20-year training career in 1980, conditioning 23 stakes winners. Retiring from training in 2000, he became a racing publicist, public handicapper and bloodstock consultant. Feld is a two-time media Eclipse Award winner.

Ron Geary is majority owner and president of Ellis Park. A member of the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, Geary took the once-struggling ResCare Inc. and built it into a nationally-prominent corporation. A CPA and attorney who has held high positions in state government, Geary also is an accomplished competitor on the handicapping-contest circuit, including creation of “The BIG One” mega-contest and co-founding He finished second in the 2011 National Handicapping Championships.

C.J. Johnsen is racing operations manager at Kentucky Downs and heads, which promotes and celebrates horse racing by showcasing jockeys from across the nation and around the world. JockeyTalk360 also is publisher of the highly-acclaimed book Ride to Win: An Inside Look at the Jockey's Craft.

Joe Kristufek, in his second year as Churchill Downs' paddock host, is a major force in the creation and staging of fan-education programs at premier events across the country. The Chicago native is the odds-maker for Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs, racing writer and handicapper for the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, IL, the face of “Racing 101” for America's Best Racing and a fan-development expert for Horse Racing Nation.

Jimmy McNerney is in his second year as Ellis Park's track announcer and in March took over calling the races at Turfway Park from the iconic Mike Battaglia. On his days off from the booth, McNerney is jockey agent for Leandro Goncalves and Albin Jimenez, two of the leading jockeys at Indiana Grand.

Founded in 1962 by Jack Coady Sr., Coady Photography has become the gold standard among track photographers, representing 29 racetracks across the country and Canada and this year becoming the official photographer for Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Known for its innovation, Coady Photography offers unparalleled media service for its clients, with its providing stock photography, stakes races, events and head shots of owners, trainers and jockeys from around the country. For more information, call (844) 893-8110 or email [email protected]

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