‘NO EXCUSES’ FOR TAKE CHARGE INDY IN SATURDAY’S STEPHEN FOSTER
Trainer Pat Byrne will saddle Alysheba (Grade II) winner Take Charge Indy for the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (GI) and he said he has no excuses going into Saturday’s race.
“He’s been doing fantastic since the Alysheba,” Byrne said. “He’s been training great and put on some weight. I have no concerns and no excuses going in. If we get beat, we get beat by a really, really good horse.”
In preparation for the Stephen Foster, Take Charge Indy worked a “bullet” half-mile at Churchill Downs on June 8 in :47 under regular exercise rider Johnny Byrne (no relation), who also was aboard the 4-year-old colt when he breezed a “bullet” three furlongs in :35.60 in advance of the Alysheba.
“He came out of the Alysheba better than he went in, which is pretty unbelievable,” Johnny Byrne said. “He went in like a million bucks, but came out like two million.”
The Stephen Foster will be the fourth race of the year for WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Take Charge Indy, who was under consideration for retirement following his runner-up effort to Shackleford in last year’s Clark Handicap (GI).
“Elliott Walden and WinStar deserve the credit because they could have taken him to the breeding shed on December 1,” Pat Byrne said. “After some careful consideration and input from Mr. Sandford, they decided to let the horse stay in training as long as he was running well. Hats off to WinStar for giving us the opportunity to let this horse be all he can be.”
Again this week, Pat Byrne commented on how highly he thinks of Take Charge Indy.
“Only time will tell, but all indicators are that he’s moving in the right directions and he very well could be the best I’ve ever trained,” Pat Byrne said.
Two of the most notable horses trained by Byrne are 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick and Awesome Again, who won the 1998 Stephen Foster prior to winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).
Should Take Charge Indy win the Stephen Foster, it would be a record third win in the race for Pat Byrne, who won back-to-back runnings in 1997-98 with City by Night and Awesome Again.
The Stephen Foster Handicap, one of five graded stakes races on the Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka racing program, is scheduled to go as Race 8 of 11 at 9:39 p.m. (all times Eastern).
FUNNY PROPOSITION COULD BE ON THE LEAD IN SATURDAY’S FLEUR DE LIS
John Oxley’s Funny Proposition will break from the rail in Saturday’s $175,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (GII) and may go right to the front under Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Joel Rosario.
“I had a hard time thinking we weren’t going to be on the lead before drawing the rail,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, Mark. “Now I really can’t imagine we won’t be on the lead.”
Funny Proposition, who is a perfect 3-for-3 on the main track at Churchill Downs, enters the Fleur de Lis off a three-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional-claiming race beneath the Twin Spires on May 17.
“When they come out of a race like that, you hope they come out of it well and show they have the same level of energy,” Casse said. “She came back well and had a really nice half-mile work and then her five-eighths work last week (1:00.40 on June 8) was tremendous. It looks like she’s ready to run another big race.”
Funny Proposition, a 4-year-old dark bay or brown daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, will be making her ninth career start in the Fleur de Lis.
“She’s never been able to run consistently like you would need a stakes horse to do,” Casse said. “She’s had some little hiccups along the way. This will be the first time we’ll have her race fit and we’re hopefully going to see her very best Saturday.”
The Fleur de Lis kicks off an all-stakes Pick 4 and will go as Race 6 at 8:30 p.m.
WESTS ENTER TWO IN SATURDAY’S MATT WINN
Code West and Treasury Bill, both owned by Gary and Mary West, were two of 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturday’s $100,000-added Matt Winn (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Code West, who finished a nose behind Ive Struck a Nerve in the Risen Star (GII) in February at Fair Grounds, ran a neck behind Bellarmine in an allowance/optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day and returned to win an allowance at Pimlico by 6 ¾ lengths on Preakness Day.
A dark bay or brown ridgling by Lemon Drop Kid, Code West was guided in his most recent victory by Rosie Napravnik, who has the call Saturday.
“He was ultra-impressive,” Napravnik said. “He was the class of the race.”
Treasury Bill, previously in the barn of Ron Ellis, will start for trainer Wayne Catalano for the first time Saturday. Runner-up to Shakin It Up in the San Vicente (GII) at Santa Anita in February, Treasury Bill most recently finished third in the Came Home at Betfair Hollywood Park on May 11.
“I’ve had him about a month or so, and he’s trained very well,” Catalano said. “Everything is good.”
In prep for the Matt Winn, which will go as Race 7 at 9:05 p.m., Treasury Bill breezed a “bullet” five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Churchill Downs on June 7.
RESERVED SEATS DEADLINE LOOMS
Reserved seats for the return of “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” are limited and online sales for Saturday’s debut will cut off Friday at 12 p.m. EDT.
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).
CITY’S BEST HAPPY HOUR! EVERY FRIDAY
Churchill Downs will host the City’s Best Happy Hour! in The Plaza every Friday from 4-7 p.m. throughout the 38-day Spring Meet. Drink specials include $2 Budweiser/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois and $4 14 Hands Blackberry Sangria. There also will be a variety of food trucks from the Louisville Food Truck Association and live music on the Plaza Stage by the Juice Box Heroes.
FAMILY FUN DAY ON SUNDAY
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 kiddos age 12 and under will enjoy games, a visit from Churchill Charlie and will have the chance to make Father’s Day cards.
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.
Nominations for the 112th running of the $100,000-added Bashford Manor (GIII), 23rd running of the $150,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) and the $65,000-added Roxelana close Saturday.
The Roxelana, an overnight stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs, will be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 22.
The Bashford Manor for 2-year-olds at six furlongs and the Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds & up at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will be run Saturday, June 29.
THIS WEEK AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Thursday, June 13
Friday, June 14
Saturday, June 15 – Downs After Dark
Sunday, June 16 – Father’s Day