Having won 11 of 29 starts and $652,020, Keith Plaisance's 6-year-old mare Pacific Pink moves into the deeper water of a graded stakes in Sunday's $100,000, Grade 3 Groupie Doll at Ellis Park.
Born in Louisiana, Pacific Pink heretofore has raced exclusively in her home state. The mare has won Delta Downs' LA Bred Premier Night Distaff Stakes, Evangeline Downs' Louisiana Legends Distaff and Louisiana Legends Soiree, the Fair Grounds' Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Stakes and Crescent City Oaks and Louisiana Downs' Elge Rasberry Stakes. All those races were restricted to Louisiana-bred horses.
However, Pacific Pink also has won against open company, including Evangeline Downs' 2017 Spotted Horse. That's a race she was second in this year to Adore, one of her new stablemates in the sprawling Steve Asmussen barn. Pacific Pink had been trained by Eddie Johnston, who stays in Louisiana year-round, being sent to Asmussen after her last race with the Groupie Doll in mind.
“She's obviously a very accomplished race mare,” Asmussen said by phone Friday. “It's just an opportunity for her in a graded stakes that Mr. Plaisance would like to take, and I'm glad to get the chance to run her.”
Pacific Pink, whose number of wins and earnings easily tops the field, is the 7-2 second choice in the field of 11 fillies and mares, with Pinch Hit the 2-1 favorite and graded stakes-placed Torrent 9-2.
The late-running Pacific Pink doesn't always win — she also has seven seconds and seven thirds — but she's always making up ground in the final eighth-mile while racing on dirt, turf or in the mud.
Pacific Pink has been ridden most of her career by Colby Hernandez, whose older brother, Brian, lands the mount for the Groupie Doll.
“She's a cool mare,” Asmussen said. “I'm sure she'll keep coming. She's just a nice, big, strong, good-looking mare. There's plenty of pace in there for her. Colby rode her last time. Brian rides her this time. I'm sure they'll communicate what's best for her.”
Asmussen also has Ellis Park allowance winner Limation in the new $75,000 Ellis Park Derby. “He's a nice 3-year-old and I think the mile suits him really well right now,” the trainer said. “The horse has trained consistently and always worked impressively, so it's a nice little chance in a stakes for him.”
The first 500 in attendance Sunday will receive a commemorative Groupie Doll Stakes glass. The mile stakes is named for the two-time champion female sprinter and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner who ran twice in the Ellis Park stakes when it was called the Gardenia, winning as a 3-year-old filly in 2011 and finishing third in 2013.
Caton Bredar, the popular racing broadcast analyst, will be analyzing the races with Li'l Rocco this Sunday and Aug. 19.
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