SUCCESSFUL DAN, TAKE CHARGE INDY TOP STEPHEN FOSTER WORKS
Four contenders for the June 15 $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I), including Successful Dan and Take Charge Indy, worked Saturday in preparation for the 1 1/8-mile race at Churchill Downs.
Successful Dan, winner of the Ben Ali (GIII) in his lone start of the year, breezed a half-mile on the Polytrack at Keeneland in :48.40. The worked ranked 20th of 66 at the distance.
“He worked well and galloped out really strong,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He was hard to pull up after the work because he wanted to do more and we wouldn’t let him do more than that. We didn’t want to go fast today. We just wanted :12s at every pole and he couldn’t have done it any better.
“He cooled out really well and now it’s just a matter of keeping him happy till the race.”
LoPresti added that Successful Dan, who will be ridden in the Stephen Foster Handicap by Julien Leparoux, will van to Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon to school with horses in the paddock for Race 5. Post time for the fifth race is 2:51 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The Stephen Foster Handicap works at Churchill Downs were highlighted by Alysheba (GII) winner Take Charge Indy’s “bullet” half-mile breeze in :47 under regular exercise rider Johnny Byrne.
Take Charge Indy began his four-furlong work at the three-eighths pole and crossed the wire in :34.40 before completing the work in :47 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.40.
“Johnny did a great job of putting a little speed back into the big fella,” trainer Pat Byrne said. “I wanted to put a little air into him today and we’ve got him ready for next Saturday. He’s training as good, if not better, for this race as he did for the Alysheba.”
In his previous work on May 31, Take Charge Indy breezed five furlongs in 1:03.80 under Rosie Napravnik at Churchill Downs.
“He went slow because he’s smart,” Pat Byrne said. “The track was empty and he likes to chase a horse because he’s competitive."
“I’ve worked a lot of good horses and a lot of bad ones, but he’s probably the trickiest horse I’ve worked,” Johnny Byrne said. “If you don’t ask him to work, he’ll just diddle-daddle around there. He’s competitive and he’s clever. If he sees something to run at, he’ll do it easy.”
Also working at Churchill Downs for the Stephen Foster Handicap were 2011 Stephen Foster winner Pool Play and Golden Ticket, who finished in a dead-heat for the win with Alpha in last year’s Travers (GI). Pool Play breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 and Golden Ticket went the same distance in 1:00.80.
Pool Play, under Miguel Mena, started his work two-lengths behind stablemate Troubadour Tango and finished two lengths in front before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80.
“When we won the race in 2011, even though we were longshots, we were confident,” assistant trainer Norman Casse said. “This is a much tougher rendition of the Stephen Foster. I hope the real Pool Play shows up and he can be competitive against some of the best horses in the country.”
Golden Ticket, under Marvin Abrego, worked in-company with Matt Winn (GIII) contender Bellarmine and recorded fractions of :12.40 and :36.60 and galloped out in 1:14. Golden Ticket finished about four lengths ahead of Bellarmine, who was credited with a five-furlong time of 1:01.60.
“I think both horses got what they needed out of the work and they both came out of it well,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek.
Golden Ticket will enter the Stephen Foster off a 2 ½-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 2.
“I think Golden Ticket is coming into the race in good shape,” Bauer said. “He seemed to like the surface here in his last race and so if he can stretch it out to two turns against some better competition then he should be good.”
Other horses working toward Stephen Foster Night stakes were Funny Proposition, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 to prep for the Fleur de Lis Handicap, Matt Winn hopeful Uncaptured, who went five furlongs in 1:00.60 and Regret (GIII) contenders Beverage Queen and Praia, who both breezed a half-mile in :50.80, and Intelyhente, who breezed four furlongs in :47.80.
ROYAL DELTA, RON THE GREEK TO ARRIVE AT CHURCHILL DOWNS SUNDAY
Royal Delta and Ron the Greek are scheduled to arrive at Bill Mott’s barn at Churchill Downs on Sunday to defend their titles in the Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII) and the Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) on June 15.
Champion Royal Delta won the Fleur de Lis Handicap last year by eight lengths and Ron the Greek defeated Horse of the Year Wise Dan by a head in the Stephen Foster.
The plane from New York carrying Royal Delta and Ron the Greek, as well as Mr. Besilu, who sold at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $4.2 million and is expected to make his career debut on the Stephen Foster Handicap undercard, is scheduled to land in Louisville at approximately 2:30 p.m.
WISE DAN ASSIGNED TOP WEIGHT OF 125 FOR STEPHEN FOSTER; ROYAL DELTA ASSIGNED 125 FOR FLEUR DE LIS
Horse of the Year Wise Dan was assigned the top weight of 125 pounds by Racing Secretary Ben Huffman for the Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) and champion Royal Delta also was assigned 125 pounds for her defense of her title in the Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII) at Churchill Downs on June 15.
With Wise Dan being pointed to the Firecracker Handicap (GII) rather than the Stephen Foster Handicap, the likely co-starting high weights are Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Fort Larned and multiple graded stakes winner Successful Dan who are weighted at 121 pounds.
Weighted one pound below at 120 is last year’s Stephen Foster winner Ron the Greek, who was most recently third in the Charles Town Classic (GII). At 119 pounds is Alysheba (GII) winner Take Charge Indy.
Other probable starters in the Stephen Foster Handicap are Golden Ticket, dead-heat winner with Alpha in last year’s Travers (GI), and 2011 Stephen Foster winner Pool Play. Golden Ticket was assigned 117 pounds and Pool Play was assigned 115.
Champion Royal Delta, who cruised to an eighth-length victory in last year’s Fleur de Lis, will give no fewer than six pounds to her competition in this year’s race with the next high weight being On Fire Baby, winner of the Apple Blossom Handicap (GI), at 119 pounds.
The two other probable starters for the Fleur de Lis are Wine Princess, winner of the 2012 Monmouth Oaks (GIII) and a recent allowance winner at Churchill Downs, and recent allowance winner Funny Proposition. Wine Princess was assigned 115 pounds and Funny Proposition was assigned 114.
She’s All In, sixth in the Apple Blossom in her last start, is a possible starter and is weighted at 114 pounds.
FAMILY FUN DAY ON SUNDAY; CHURCHILL CHARLIE BIRTHDAY BASH!
Churchill Downs will host Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger on the Plaza Balcony every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the 38-day Spring Meet.
This week it’s a special birthday celebration for Churchill Downs’ popular mascot Churchill Charlie with special appearances from his area mascot friends.
“The Churchill Charlie Birthday Bash Dash Presented by Kroger” – a race on the Matt Winn Turf Course for the mascots – will be run between races (time TBD). Also, there will be games, crafts and entertainment for kiddos age 12 and younger.
The first of 10 races on Sunday is 12:45 p.m. Admission gates open at 11:30 a.m. Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club, located inside the Gate 10 entrance, also entertains children age 12 and under on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed when Downs After Dark occurs on June 15, June 22 and June 29). The “Kids Zone” is dedicated to providing fun for the youngsters at Churchill Downs, but all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
SECRETS OF LOUISVILLE CHEFS TO TAPE EPISODE IN THE PLAZA ON SUNDAY AT 2 P.M.
“SECRETS of Louisville Chefs,” the popular local culinary television program that airs on ION-21 and WAVE-3, will tape a special episode at Churchill Downs on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Plaza in conjunction with Family Fun Day Presented by Kroger.
Hosts Tim Laird and Kevin Harned will kick off grilling season with Churchill Downs’ chef Dave Danielson scheduled to reveal grilling secrets that you can use at home. Meanwhile, Laird will show off the latest grilling gadgets.
The episode will air on the weekend of July 4.
RESERVED SEATS GOING FAST FOR RETURN OF ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ SATURDAY, JUNE 15
The return of “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” is right around the corner and reserved seats are going fast.
Downs After Dark will be staged on the final three Saturdays this month: June 15 (The White Party), June 22 (Boots, Brew and BBQ) and June 29 (Star-Spangled Night).
Indoor dining packages for the delectable Chef’s Table on Millionaires Row or Skye Terrace are $59.90 per person. Meanwhile, outdoor reserved box seats on the 3rd Floor of the Clubhouse are $20 per person. Those prices include admission, a reserved seat and racing program.
The Downs After Dark general admission, or cover charge, is $10. Holders of shareholders passes or horsemen licenses and children age 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) will be admitted free. No one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
Reserved seating can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets or the on-track box office located at the Gate 1 entrance off Central Avenue (open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on ‘Downs After Dark’ Saturdays).
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Saturday, June 8
Sunday, June 9