ROYAL DELTA, RON THE GREEK TO RETURN TO CHURCHILL DOWNS
Two of the brightest stars of last year’s Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (Grade I) night at Churchill Downs are set to return to the Louisville track Sunday afternoon in search of successful encores to their 2013 heroics.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has shipped defending Foster winner Ron the Greek back to Churchill Downs in search of back-to-back wins in the evening’s main event, and Besilu Stable LLC of Benjamin Leon Jr.’s two-time champion Royal Delta will seek a repeat in the $175,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII).
Mott’s stars are scheduled to arrive in Louisville at 2:30 p.m. (all times EDT).
“They’ve run well over the racetrack and the timing of it (Foster night) is right,” said Mott, the all-time leader in victories (673) and stakes wins (87) at Churchill Downs, by telephone from his base at New York’s Belmont Park.
Royal Delta will bid to win a stakes race at Churchill Downs in a third consecutive year. She earned the first of her back-to-back wins in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) in 2011 and then scored an eight-length victory in the 2012 Fleur De Lis. She was named champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 following her Breeders’ Cup success and earned the Eclipse Award for the top older female after winning the 2012 Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita.
Like last year, the Fleur De Lis will be Royal Delta’s return to racing following a March journey to Dubai. She finished off-the-board against males for the second consecutive year in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (GI) over the synthetic Tapeta course at Meydan Race Course.
“Royal Delta’s timing is the same as it was last year and I think we’ve got a similar amount of work in her,” Mott said. “She’s doing well and it’s just time to go back to the races with her.”
The 5-year-old champion finished 10th to 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in this year’s Dubai World Cup. Her only other start of the year was a victory in the Sabin (GIII) at Gulfstream Park that preceded her journey to Dubai. She returns to Churchill Downs for the Fleur De Lis with a career record of 10-3-1 in 17 races and earnings of $3,763,851.
“She looks good, she’s doing well and I’m very happy with her,” Mott said. “I think she’s perhaps a little bigger and stronger than last year, appearance-wise. She’s a year older and I think she’s becoming a fully-mature horse.”
Royal Delta is in the midst of a fourth year of competition, which is unusual in this era for a horse of her level of accomplishment.
“Good for her and good for Mr. Leon,” Mott said. “We all, of course, hope that it turns out to be a good scenario in the end. I think everybody gives him a lot of credit for keeping her going rather than retiring her after a short career.”
Prior to shipping to Louisville, Royal Delta breezed a half-mile in :48.23 at Belmont Park. It was the ninth fastest work of 46 at the distance.
Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer’s Ron the Greek upset eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan in last year’s Foster and, in the process, also downed Fort Larned, who ran a disappointing last of eight in the Foster but rebounded to win Saratoga’s Whitney (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Santa Anita.
Ron the Greek ran second and fourth, respectively, in his subsequent meetings with Fort Larned.
“I guess after we beat him in the Foster, I thought we were at least as good as he was,” Mott said. “But he wound up beating us in both the Whitney and the Breeders’ Cup. So our hats are off to him and we’ve got to try to turn the tables.”
An easy victory in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park earlier this year is the only victory for Ron the Greek in six races since last year’s Foster triumph. The 6-year-old son of Full Mandate has raced 25 times and has a record of 8-5-2 with earnings of $1,976,597.
DERBY WINNING JOCKEY TO RETURN FOR STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP NIGHT
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winning jockey Joel Rosario will return to Churchill Downs on Saturday to ride the Stephen Foster Handicap Night card, including four of the graded stakes scheduled for an exciting night of racing beneath the Twin Spires on June 15.
Rosario’s agent, Ron Anderson, said the 28-year-old native of the Dominican Republic will ride Golden Ticket in the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI), Funny Proposition in the $175,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII), Sunbean in the $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) and Kitten’s Dumplings in the $100,000-added Regret (GIII).
Rosario, who won aboard 14 of his 40 mounts during Kentucky Derby week, guided Golden Ticket to a 2 ½-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional-claiming race on May 2 and was aboard Kitten’s Dumplings for her 3 ¾-length win in the Edgewood on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard. He will ride Funny Proposition and Sunbean for the first time Saturday.
EASY DAY FOR STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP CONTENDERS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) contenders Take Charge Indy, Golden Ticket and Pool Play all exited their Saturday works at Churchill Downs in good order and walked the shedrows of their respective barns Sunday morning.
Take Charge Indy, winner of the Alysheba (GII) in his last start, breezed a “bullet” half-mile in :47 for trainer Pat Byrne on Saturday.
“He came out of the work perfect,” Byrne said. “He’ll go back to the track tomorrow (Monday).”
Golden Ticket, coming off an impressive allowance victory at Churchill Downs on May 2, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Saturday while working in-company with Matt Winn (GIII) hopeful Bellarmine.
“He ate up and seems to be in good shape,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek.
Bauer said Golden Ticket will return to the racetrack Monday morning.
Pool Play, winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Saturday while working with Troubadour Tango.
“He came out of it really well and is doing great today,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, Mark Casse. “He’ll go back to the track tomorrow to jog.”
STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP: “WIN AND YOU’RE IN” BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC
The winner of the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 15 is entitled to an automatic entry into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. The nominated winner will have pre-entry and entry fees waived for the 1 ¼-mile Classic and will receive a travel stipend of $10,000 if traveling from a location in North America or $20,000 if traveling internationally.
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).
DOWN THE STRETCH
Trainer Ian Wilkes said Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) hopeful Fort Larned, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), will breeze five furlongs at Churchill Downs under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. on Monday at approximately 6:30 a.m. EDT. Fort Larned is likely to be the co-starting high weight in the Stephen Foster Handicap with Successful Dan at 121 pounds. ...
Trainer Steve Margolis said Miz Ida came out of her victory in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) in good order. Margolis mentioned the $100,000 De La Rose at Saratoga on Aug. 3 as a possible return spot for Miz Ida.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Monday, June 10
Tuesday, June 11
Wednesday, June 12
Thursday, June 13
Friday, June 14
Saturday, June 15
Sunday, June 16 – Father’s Day
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