Its racing under the lights on Saturday night as Churchill Downs presents Downs After Dark, the 11-race card getting underway at 6:00 ET, featuring five stakes including the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1).
The Stephen Foster drew a small field of six, but while it may be lacking in quantity, it certainly is not lacking in quality.
Ron the Greek and Pool Play, the winners of the last two runnings of the race are back, and will face Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Fort Larned as well as last year’s Travers (G1) winner Golden Ticket and Florida Derby (G1) winner Take Charge Indy.
Oh, and I almost forget Successful Dan, the 2-1 morning line favorite who comes into the race off a sharp score in the Ben Ali (G3) over polytrack at Keeneland. Wise Dan’s big brother has won eight of his 12 career starts including three victories over the Churchill Downs main track.
The stakes action starts in the sixth race where Royal Delta will defend her title in the $175,000 Fleur De Lis (G2). The two-time reigning Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner makes her first start since running 10th in the Dubai World Cup (G1).
The Bill Mott trainee won this race last year after her first unsuccessful trip to Dubai , a ninth place finish in 2012. The mare is 2-5 on the morning line and faces four overmatched foes.
The $100,000 Matt Winn (G3) drew a competitive field of 11 three-year-olds who will go 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The Bob Baffert trained Code West, coming off a win against first level allowance foes at Pimlico on Preakness Day.
The $100,000 Regret (G3) is the race following the Stephen Foster and is one of the most wide open races on the card. A field of 11 three-year-old fillies will go nine furlongs on the turf.
The Mike Maker trained Kitten’s Dumplings is the 5-2 morning line favorite coming off a win in the Edgewood over the Churchill Downs turf on May 3.
The final stake on the evening is the $100,000 President of the United Arab Emirates Cup (G1) which is four Arabian horses.
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Let’s head out to Churchill Downs’s for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Churchill Downs Race 8 The Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) Post time 9:39 ET
2 Fort Larned 3-1
4 Take Charge Indy 5-2
3 Ron the Greek 3-1
6 Successful Dan 2-1
Analysis: Fort Larned gets the call in a very competitive renewal of the Stephen Foster that includes the winners of the last two runnings of the race. Last year our top pick won five of nine starts including capping off the season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Things have not gone well so far this year, stumbling out of the gate and dumping his jockey in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in his ’13 debut as the beaten chalk. He actually looked pretty good without his jockey drawing away from the field around the far turn. He went into the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) as the heavy favorite and looked primed for a good effort and was my top pick, but he misfired and faded to finish a well beaten fifth. I do not think he liked the surface and I am looking for him to bounce back here with a much better effort. He ran eighth in this race last year, the lone time in his last seven starts last year he did not earn a triple digit Beyer.
Take Charge Indy won for the first time last out since taking the Florid Derby (G1) last March, snapping a five race losing streak with a career best effort winning the Alysheba (G2) over the main track here. Two runners have come out of the race to win next outing including fourth place finisher Laugh Track, who came back to win the Vigil (G3) at Woodbine on June 2. The well-bred colt (out of $2.4 million earner Take Charge Indy who also dropped Will Take Charge) looks as if he has matured between his three-year-old season and this year and looks as if he is going to be a major force in the handicap division this year.
Ron the Greek is the defending champ in this race, making a good late rally to get up late and pull off the upset at 9-1 over Wise Dan, who went on to win Horse of the Year honors. Last out he was bumped and pinched back coming out of the gate in the Charles Town Classic (G2) and made a good late rally over the tight turns to finish a close up third, beaten a half-length by Game On Dude and losing the photo for the place spot to Clubhouse Ride, who came back to win the Californian (G2) in his next outing. Fourth place finisher Percussion also exited the race to win next out, taking the Albert the Great and then running second in the Brooklyn (G2).
WIN: #2 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 2,4 / 2,3,4
TRI: 2 / 3,4,6 / 3,4,6