Maxfield delivered a brilliant turn of foot around the final turn to comfortably grab the lead in Saturday’s $600,000 Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs as the four-year-old colt collected his sixth career stakes win while defeating Warrior’s Charge by 3 ¼ lengths and clocking 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.53 on closing day of the Louisville, Ky. track’s 38-day Spring Meet.
Letruska validated her status as America’s top older dirt female with a front-running 5 ¾-length demolition job in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis (G2). Antoinette was second, three-quarters of a length in front of Envoutante in third.
Trained by Brendan Walsh and owned by Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Godolphin, Maxfield was rated in sixth and in the clear as Empty Tomb and Sprawl led the field of nine older horses into the first turn and down the backstretch through factions of :23.33 and :46.88. Sprawl took over midway around the turn with three furlongs to run but a menacing Maxfield commenced his rally and quickly shot past each rival one by one with utter superiority. He extended his lead down the stretch under a hand ride and then was taken in hand with a sixteenth of a mile to the finish.
Stephen Foster Replay
“It was a really good performance,” Walsh said. “It looks like he continues to improve all the time. Thankfully now he’s been good and healthy. Our goal has been to get a good string of races into him and that’s starting to happen. I’m glad to get over another obstacle today. We’ll hope he comes out of today’s race in good order and we’ll move on to the next one.”
The victory in the Stephen Foster, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Classic Division” race, earned Maxfield a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), which is scheduled for Nov. 6 at Del Mar. Also, his connections will have all Breeders’ Cup pre-entry and entry fees covered and receive a travel award up to $10,000.
Maxfield, at the compressed odds of 2-5, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. Warrior’s Charge, with Florent Geroux aboard, closed for second and returned $5 and $3.60 as the 7-1 second betting choice. Sprawl, another two lengths back in third under Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $4.20 to show at odds of 12-1.
Letruska Wins Fleur de Lis
Sent to post as the odds-on 3-5 favorite in the field of six fillies and mares, Letruska, under Jose Ortiz, dictated the terms and loped on the lead through quarter-mile splits of :24.53, :48.19 and 1:11.36 with Antoinette briefly applying pressure down the backstretch. Letruska opened up her lead on the turn and continued to widen the margin down the stretch for a comfortable triumph in 1:48.57 for 1 1/8 miles.
By winning the Fleur de Lis, Letruska secured a “Win and You’re In” berth to the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
“She’s a spectacular horse, said trainer Fausto Gutierrez. “I don’t really like to say what’s next but she was great today. We know she’s a really nice dirt horse and is supposed to win at different racetracks and different conditions for a possible Horse of the Year campaign.”
Letruska paid $3.40, $2.80 and $2.10. Antoinette, with jockey Florent Geroux aboard, paid $10.60 and $4.40 as the 22-1 longest shot in the field. Envoutante, the 2-1 second betting choice ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., returned $2.40.