West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, last in the early going, made a strong move on the far turn to reach contention and then drew clear to win Saturday’s 28th running of the $660,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I) at Churchill Downs by a length over Asiatic Boy (ARG).
Einstein (BRZ), bidding to become the first horse to win three consecutive Grade I races on three surfaces, finished a nose back in third.
In giving West Point its second Stephen Foster win in three years -- Flashy Bull won in 2007 -- Macho Again gave jockey Robby Albarado his third consecutive Foster triumph. Albarado won last year on Horse of the Year Curlin.
Finallymadeit set the early fractions of :24.13, :48.13 and 1:12.71 with Researcher and Alphabet Magic in closest pursuit. Julien Leparoux had Einstein in three path about mid-pack while Macho Again lagged at the back of the eight-horse field.
Leaving the backstretch, Albarado swung Macho Again wide and kept him in the clear turning for home and avoiding a tightly bunched pack to his inside. Macho Again, now three for five at Churchill Downs, opened a clear lead in the stretch and had enough left to hold off Asiatic Boy, who was making his U.S. debut.
Trained by Dallas Stewart, Macho Again covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.75 over a fast track, carrying 117 pounds five fewer than Asiatic Boy. The victory was worth $396,924 and increased the 4-year-old Florida-bred son of Macho Uno’s earnings to $1,475,247.
Macho Again, who won the 2008 Derby Trial here, returned $17.40, $6.20 and $3.60. Asiatic Boy returned $7 and $3.80 with Einstein, carrying top weight of 124 pounds, paying $2.10 to show. Arson Squad and Bullsbay dead-heated for fourth, a neck behind Einstein, and were followed in order by Researcher, Finallymadeit and Alphabet Magic.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP
DALLAS STEWART, trainer of MACHO AGAIN (winner)
“He ran great, you know. He’s a great horse. We had a great rider. We put it all together today. You know he’s not an in and out horse like most people think. He got the money today on a dry track today at Churchill. He proved himself. I think we’ve got a lot of good things ahead of us. He’s won major races on major tracks from down in New Orleans to Saratoga to here. He’s all dirt horse is what he is.”
Q: What might be next?
“The Whitney (the Grade I, $750,000 Whitney Handicap for 3-year-olds and up over 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 8) will be our next goal.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey of MACHO AGAIN (winner)
“The race set up great for us today. We had an outside trip and got a clear run. It’s not by design that I wanted to go around that wide, but I just put him in a path where he can run around horses. That’s just where he wants to be. You just hope that you don’t have to go too wide. He just prevailed to be the best today.”
TERRY FINLEY, co-owner of MACHO AGAIN (winner)
“He’s not a big, imposing horse but he’s well balanced. He’s a sound horse, obviously. He’s danced a lot of dances. For a horse like this you’ve got to be a Grade I winner to be a Kentucky stallion. That was the reason we brought him back this year. We fully intend, if everything stays on track . . . we’re in the racing business and we love the game. We really think that in 2010, if everything stays on track, we’d love to come back and defend our title in the Stephen Foster.”
Q: What about the rest of this year?
“We’re going to try and get the money in the Whitney. We’ll talk to the partners and try to knock out the Jockey Club (Gold Cup) at Belmont and try to get to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of EINSTEIN (third as the favorite)
“I’m on the horse to beat, so of course they’re trying to beat me. I had nowhere to go; I just had to wait. I was in a pretty good spot, but I had nowhere to go. So I just waited and when he got room at the eighth pole, he finished strong. He was probably the best horse, but that’s horse racing. Sometimes you get a tough trip and that’s that.”
HELEN PITTS-BLASI, trainer of EINSTEIN (third as the favorite)
“He ran huge, it was just bad racing luck. They did all they could to get him beat, but that’s just part of racing I guess. He gallops out in front. What can you do?”