A dozen will line up in Saturday night’s $600,000 Stephen Foster (G2) going nine furlongs on the main track at Churchill Downs including Grade 1 winners Gift Box, Yoshida and Seeking the Soul.
The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race, the winner earning an automatic starting spot in the gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The John Sadler trained Gift Box ships in from Southern California and is the 3-1 morning line favorite. The colt ran second to the Todd Pletcher trained Vino Rosso in his last outing in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) on May 27 at 1 ¼ miles.
Joel Rosario has the return call and will break for the six post.
His biggest threats appear to be 2017 Clark Handicap (G1) winner Seeking the Soul (4-1), last year’s Woodward (G1) winner Yoshida (7-2) and Tom’s d’Etat (5-1), who ran second in the Alysheba (G2) over the Churchill Downs main track in his last outing, no match for the Bob Baffert trained McKinzie.
Seeking the Soul gets the call for trainer Dallas Stewart.
“He’s really been bouncing around perfectly over this track,” Stewart said. “He was doing so well after the Dubai World Cup that we ran him in the Alysheba as a prep for the Stephen Foster. He ran good that day but I think he can do much better in the Foster.”
The Foster is one of five graded stakes on an outstanding “Downs After Dark” program at Churchill Downs that kicks off at 6:00 ET.
The supporting features are the $150,000 Regret (G3), $250,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), $250,000 Wise Dan (G2) and the $150,000 Matt Winn (G3).
The Foster will be televised live on NBC Sports Network. The 90-minute telecast gets underway at 8:30 ET.
Let’s head out to Churchill Downs for the featured race of the day:
Churchill Downs Race 8 The Stephen Foster (G2) Post time 9:47 ET
4 Seeking the Soul 4-1
6 Gift Box 3-1
12 Yoshida 7-2
9 Tom’s d Etat 5-1
Seeking the Soul
The Dallas Stewart trainee is coming into the race with a third in the Alysheba (G2) last out over wet track here. The six-year-old saved ground early while racing next to last, angled out seven wide and made a mild late bid while unable to get to the top pair. He was eighth in the Dubai World Cup (G1) a month earlier. This guy has done some of his best running at Churchill Downs, winning the 2017 Clark Handicap (G1) and the 2018 Ack Ack (G3) last fall before running a good second to City of Light in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). He seems to jump up when you least expect it and he has worked sharply since his last outing. He looks capable of moving forward off his last outing and should get some pace in front of him here.
The six-year-old got run down by Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) last out, beaten ¾ of a length for the top spot as the beaten chalk. He was better than five lengths clear of the rest of the field. The John Sadler trainee has landed in the exacta in eight straight starts and has earned his top three Beyers since going from the Chad Brown barn to Sadler. He won the San Antonio (G2) and Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in his first two starts for the barn. The Big Cap win two back was off a 3 ½ month break and he looks ready to fire another good one in his third start of the year. The main knock is his price may drift below his 3-1 morning line.
The Bill Mott trainee makes his first start since a sixth in the Dubai World Cup. This guy is a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt, last year taking the Old Forrester Turf Classic here and winning the Woodward on the main track at Saratoga. He was our top pick in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at 14-1 and came with a good late run and it looked like he might get there but did not have quite enough punch inside the final furlong, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. He caught yielding footing in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) in his first start this year where he was sixth as the beaten favorite. He draws an outside post and needs some pace, but his best puts him in the mix here.
WIN: Seeking the Soul to win at 7-2 or better.
EXACTA: 4,6 / 4,6,9,12
TRIFECTA: 4,6 / 4,6,9,12 / 4,6,9,10,12